What are "values" and why are they so important anyway?

There's been a lot of talk about living a values-based life lately, and making values-based decisions, etc. But wtf are values really anyway? Let me break it down. Values are the core, most central elements or characteristics you need in your life to be happy. They're your why. The things that seem intrinsically important. And it can really be anything! Doesn't matter. Some classic ones are family, security, adventure, romance, or self-expression.

Cool. So where do values come from?

Well, some values are typically picked up from your culture, your parents, and your community. Others are probably uniquely you. There's nothing wrong with picking up values from other people. It's part of what helps us bond and connect with those around us, and also often contributes to our own happiness. All very important.

The only time it gets tricky is when values start to feel like a "should" or a "have to." When you hear those words come out of your mouth (or brain), that's your red flag that you're making a decision based on someone else's values and not your own.

Let me clarify something important here. Not all values are equal. You rank them. Some of them are important to you because they're important to those around you. Maybe those are just a little less central to your happiness than you might have initially thought. For example, if having a clean house was really important to your mom, but doesn't actually make you inherently, deeply happy even though you feel like you "have to" keep your house clean, cleanliness and order are what I'll call "secondary" values to you. The primary value might be family or respect or validation.

And then there are "fear-based" values. Those are things that are important to you because they're attached to an "or else." So, going back to the example, if you keep your house clean because somewhere in the back of your head it means you're a bad mother if you don't...that's a fear-based value. If you think you might not be worthy if you don't do a thing, it's probably (first of all, not true) but also not a core value to you.

Why is this important?It's important because most people are living lives based on fulfilling someone else's values and then wondering why they're not feeling fulfilled and happy. There's nothing wrong with doing something for someone else, but if having a bunch of crazy adventures is a core life value to you, and you spend all your time building a safe, stable life because your parents or culture made you think it was important, you're not going to be happy. And I'm assuming your happiness is one of your core values.

Take some time today to think about the things in your life (or in your dream life) that do actually make you really happy. Then ask why? Keep asking why until you get to something where the next answer to "why" is "because that's what makes it all worth it to me!"

Extra credit: go find a way to do more things that reflect those core values to you. And maybe drop some things that only fulfill your secondary values, the things you do because they're important to someone else. Definitely look at those fear-based values, babe. Nothing makes you unworthy of what you want. Especially not someone else's definition of a good life.



© 2019 by Libby Meis

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