Know your Values
“Those who know others, are learned. Those who know themselves, are wise.”
~ Lao-Tzo, Tao te Ching
- What is important to you in life?
- When do you feel you are at your “best self”? “Worst Self”?
- What is awesome about you?
- What are you willing to give up in order to accomplish something greater?
- What are you not willing to give up, no matter what the consequence – good or bad?
Knowing what you truly and honestly value in life is crucial in understanding how to reach your best physical, mental, and spiritual self. When we really know what we value, then we can consciously use our values to make decisions. We can make deliberate and purposeful choices to focus on what is important to us.
Leadership expert Warren Bennis wrote that “until you know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word.”
For example, if I value “being there for my family” then I will make time for them in my schedule, make sure I stay mentally and physically healthy so I can support them for as long as possible, and I will be more focused on doing the tasks and chores that I don’t necessarily want to do because I know it is for the benefit of my family.
However, knowing your values isn’t as easy as you think. When Thales of Miletus, one of the sages of ancient Greece, was asked, “What is difficult?” he is said to have replied, “To know yourself.”
The difficulty lies in the discrepancy between what you think and what you do. If you are not aware of both and then attempt to reconcile them, they will always stay different. As a result, you will likely experience mental stress, both conscious or subconscious, from the conflict between the two, and struggle to decide which actions in life to take because you lack a guiding compass.
Fortunately, you can reconcile this disparity and determine what you value using three methods. No one method alone cannot answer these questions, you need all three – Subjective, Objective, Repetitive.
Method 1 – Subjective
What do you think or believe are your values?
The best way to start to determine your values is to just sit down and think about what they might be.
- What do you value in life?
- Why do you value that?
- Why are those your reasons?
- What do you do, or not do, that supports your presumed values and reasons for them?
- Why are those your reasons?
- Why do you value that?
The best way to do this is to journal, specifically, expressive journaling. Expressive journaling is writing without regard for form, flow, spelling, punctuation, and sometimes even logical progression. Using the questions above as prompts, begin to just write, without overthinking it, and you will then see what starts to flow out of your head.
John F Evans wrote in Psychology Today that “[e]xpressive writing pays more attention to feelings than the events, memories, objects, or people in the contents of a narrative [and is] not so much what … as it is about how you feel…”
As an added benefit, journaling has been shown to improve physical health and wellness. Journaling can reduce stress and pent-up emotions, which can lead to increased immune function, lower blood pressure, better organ function, and more.
At the end of this method, you will have determined what you believe your values are or should be, whether right or wrong.
The next method will show if your actions support your beliefs.
Method 2 – Objective
Using data regarding your actions and habits to determine if you are living your believed values or not.
As is perfectly normal and expected, you subjective views will likely be skewed because they are overly optimistic or pessimistic or idealized, etc. You may think your values are “A” but in real life they are played out as “B.” This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means you may not have an accurate picture of what is believed and was is actual.
Therefore, you need an objective method to show you what is actual. This can only be done by gathering data!
How can you gather data regarding your actions?
I. Keep a Schedule:
Keep a detailed schedule of each day. Include not only what you did, but what you didn’t do. What did you spend time on? What did you make time for? What did you not make time for? What did you blow off? When you were double booked, which one did you choose? When you had a better opportunity arise after a prior commitment, what did you do? Etc.
After a couple of weeks, review this schedule and analyse it for trends. Did you blow off happy hours for the gym, or vice versa? Did you fill your free time with active activities, reading, chores, exploring, socializing, or something else?
By doing this you will be able to see what things you tend to value with regard to how you fill your time. You can then compare these to the values from the Subjective Method and note the differences.
II. Track your Habits:
This is the tracking of items you cannot necessarily see from your “schedule.” Things like the food you eat, how much you sleep, if you cooked or went out to eat, if you floss at night, if you read before bed, etc.
For this there are countless habits you can list. So instead of having an obnoxiously long list of habits, either track the habits you want to be doing or track the habits you are doing.
This is essentially working backwards. To track the habits you want to be doing, you need to take the values from the Subjective Method and break them down into actual habits that can be observed and objectively tracked. This means, you need to be able to say, with full confidence, whether you did or didn’t do the habit. Typically, these habits will be daily accomplishments but they can be more or less frequent as needed.
After you have tracked for a couple of weeks, review how often you did the things you should/wanted to do because they reflected your Subjective values. From here you can determine if your actions meet your Subjective values or not.
This is essentially working forwards. To track the habits you are doing simply start a list. Each time you do a daily or weekly task that you determine is a “habit,” make a note of it. At the end of a couple of weeks, collate the list and see what actions you repeat and at what frequency. Then compare that to your values and see if what you do actually supports your Subjective values.
This is a bit of a harder method to do because early on you don’t always know what habits to record. However, as you will see in the third method below – Repetitive – you will be able to hone in your data over time.
Method 3: Repetitive
After doing the Subjective and Objective methods you will likely find that your believed values do not match up with your actions. This is perfectly OK, but you do have a decision to make…
…Do you adjust your believed values to be more in-line with your actions or do you adjust your actions to be more in-line with your believed values?
Most likely it will be a bit of both.
Just because your actions reflect a tendency towards values other than the ones you wrote down does not mean that those actions are inherently wrong or terrible. You may find that you actually do value something different than what you thought, and you need to change your beliefs. However, you may also find that your actions do not reflect your believed values but still hold true that your believed values are accurate. As such, you need to find a way to change your actions and habits to better reflect your values.
Repeat Subjective – Do another journal entry with the new knowledge of what you have found. Make note of how you want to adjust your actions to better reflect the values you still truly believe are your values, even if your actions don’t currently reflect them.
Repeat Objective – pre-plan your schedule to reflect your new adjusted subjective values and see how well you hold true to the pre-planned schedule. Adjust your list of habits to reflect the adjusted subjective values and track how often you perform those.
Keep in mind, you never have to be perfect. If your actions are reflecting a value most of the time (approximately 80%) then you are living your values well.
After a few weeks or more, review, adjust, and repeat. Continue this indefinitely. Your life will change and so will your values as a result. By continuing this process periodically throughout your life you can adjust to the changes in your life with the confidence that your actions reflect what you hold to be truly valuable.
In Flex Fitness OT’s Nomadic Physical Wellness System, you are taken through all three methods – Subjective, Objective, and Repetitive. You are given structure on which actions/habits reflect typical physical wellness values but also given opportunities to incorporate custom actions/habits that reflect the values that make you…you. Moreover, I will be there to help, guide, and motivate you along the way.
CLICK HERE to sign-up today and begin your path towards true physical wellness!
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