Once more, with feeling: On intention & living your values.

I recently completed Brene Brown’s Dare To Lead (read it; it’s wonderful and you will be better for it). Within the book’s beautiful contents are a few pages dedicated to Values from which we choose to intentionally conduct ourselves. The reader is asked to select two Values that resonate with them, and challenged to curate a life that is in harmony with those chosen Values. If a relationship or a business decision does not align, it might be changed, or cut out entirely. The exercise brings up the importance of having a plan – an intention– for who and how we want to be in our limited time on this planet.

Seize the day.

It’s hard to incorporate intentionality into our day-to-day lives, because there’s a billion things to accomplish in order to get to the next day, and if we don’t get them done, we have anxiety, or feel crappy about ourselves, or become overwhelmed and depressed. These are compelling reasons to keep on keeping on, and so we keep running on the hamster wheel for another long day to keep the stress at bay. We might work a mediocre job or stay in a so-so relationship in the name of being “realistic,” only to find ourselves 20 years later wondering what we did with all our time!

Many of us operate on the “as soon as” principal – we will pursue meaning “as soon as” we’ve made a certain amount, or been promoted to a certain position; we will invest in our friendships “as soon as” our kids are in daycare, or we have retired. “As soon as” is a time frame that we can push out forever. Get off the hamster wheel and seize the day.

Be on purpose.

We make a gazillion choices in a day, and I think it’s safe to say that many of them are unintentional. I can personally attest to the fact that I sometimes find myself sitting in front of the television, or at a social event, or pacing in circles, or doing busy work, without having intentionally chosen to do so.  We get caught up in the Doing of daily life, and lose sight of the why behind the Doing. Have you ever cultivated an entire social relationship before asking yourself, “Wait, do I actually even like this person”? Right. It’s like that.

Examining every little thing we do can be exhausting, but we can start in small ways. Rather than committing ourselves to every little thing, we can ask if we truly want to be doing those activities, with those people, at those times. Rather than distracting ourselves from every negative or uncomfortable emotion, we can sit with the emotions, even momentarily, and try to connect with them and see what they can teach us or what they want from us. Even the little choices matter – make them on purpose.

Values will change. Change with them.

Values and priorities change over the years, and it’s important to notice when these shifts occur and what they mean for us. As Joan Didion said, “I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” I can confidently attest that the person I was at 18 bears little resemblance to the person I am today. I expect that this is generally true for all of us.

Given that, why should we feel compelled to operate from the Values that we held 20 years ago, when we’ve had so much time to learn and experience new things, and integrate that information into our developing selves? When our Values shift as we grow, can we take the time to hear from them, and consider making changes to honor the selves we are becoming? Sometimes we struggle mightily to enact Value systems that we no longer relate to. I gently and respectfully posit that it’s normal for Values to change, and so it is okay to modify our lives over time to accommodate our new Values. Otherwise, we stop growing.

Living with intention requires harkening back, again and again, to the why behind our actions, behaviors, and decisions. How and where and with whom we spend our time and attention matters. To think otherwise is to diminish the magic and significance of being alive.

What are the Values from which you live your life?

Originally posted on my blog, Common Humanity, at Psych Central.com. To read more, visit https://blogs.psychcentral.com/common-humanity/

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