What Matters Most? An Exercise to Determine Your Values.

I’ve been taking some time to read (memoirs like Home Grown. Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt. and Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan, cookbooks like Gwyneth Paltrow’s, It’s All Good, and Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner the Playbook. And another book, which defies easy description, entitled, A Hidden Wholeness. The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer, which I hope to write more about soon. I wholeheartedly recommend all of these (fyi: I don’t have an affiliate link with amazon, I just think these books are good reads :))

I’m also taking a course through the online university known as edx.org, which you can learn more about here. It is an open source platform available to everyone and there are courses in any subject you can think of.  The course I’m taking is titled, Becoming a Resilient Person: The Science of Stress Management and Promoting Well-Being. This brings me to the real subject matter of this post:  exploring our values in order to determine whether we’re on track with what matters most to us.  And for clarity, our values are principles that we hold dear in life, or what we consider to be important in life. For example, some people really value strong family ties, or telling the truth, or creativity, or learning about other cultures, or being a life-long learner, or being connected to the natural world, etc.

Here’s what I learned in Lesson 2.  Firstly, that we need to accept stress as being a part of life and that it’s never going to go away.  We need to acknowledge it and let it be there, all the while staying focused on what matters most to us.  Secondly, we keep ourselves focused on what matters most by understanding our values and living our lives from those values.  If we do this, we will know that we are on track and living the life we are hoping for.  Sounds simple enough! 😉

I also want to share the exercise we are doing called, The Bull’s Eye Exercise.  The first part of this exercise is to Identify Your Values in the following four domains of your life:  Work/Education, Leisure/Recreation (Your Time), Relationships (Family and Friends) and Personal Growth/Health. Get out a sheet of paper and for each of these areas answer the following questions:

What would you value if there were nothing in your way, nothing stopping you? What’s important to you? What do you care about? What would you like to work towards? Reflect on the way you would like your life to go over time, not on a specific goal.

The exercise then has you plot on a bull’s eye drawing, which has been divided into four quadrants, each representing an area of your life (as noted above), an X where you think you are in each of these areas.  In other words, how close to the centre or bull’s eye are you in each area of your life?

So, in each of the four areas of your life you can determine, by where you place the X, whether you are living fully by your values in that particular domain or whether you’ve lost touch with your values in that domain.

The next steps are exploring the obstacles to living the life you would like, based on the values you expressed, and then coming up with an action plan for what you can do in your daily life that will let you know that you are making progress in each area of your life. The exercise states, “these actions could be small steps toward a particular goal, or they could just be actions that reflect what you want to be about as a person. Usually taking a valued step includes being willing to encounter the obstacle(s) you identified and taking action anyway.  Try to identify at least one value based action you are willing to take during this coming week, in each of the four domains.”

I haven’t completed the exercise yet, but exploring my values is a very helpful process because it helps me figure out how I should be spending my time.  Lately, I’ve felt somewhat aimless and unproductive (even though I’m still doing all the stuff required to care for two kids, a husband, a dog and a house!).  This exercise is helping me to pick up the thread of my life and to shine a light in the direction I need to go, in order to live my life on purpose.  I hope it helps you too.

 

 

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