Are you stuck in a rut? Or maybe you just don’t feel motivated by your everyday life? It’s an all too common feeling with a simple explanation; you’re just going through the motions without paying attention to what’s important. Without being oriented to your true values and passions, things just seem flat.
What does it mean to be values-oriented in a consumerist, productivity-driven world? You don’t have to drop out and join a monastery or give all your money to the poor. Rather, your primary goal should be to make room for introspection and to ask, “What’s important to me?” When you live by your own values rather than those manufactured by society or imposed by others, the world opens and your life returns to alignment.
Identifying Your Values
The first step towards living with meaning is identifying your values, and you might choose to do that in several ways. One thing we hear about a lot in today’s professional settings, though, is how we can align our personal values with our organizational mission. This can revitalize your relationship with your work and make you enthusiastic about heading to the office each day.
Consider, for example, someone who values community or teamwork. Finding ways to implement collaborative workplace practices, then, might help you find greater fulfillment or enjoyment in your professional life. Alternatively, you might seek a more social role in your organization, such as donor relations or outreach. It’s all about finding a role where your responsibilities correspond with your priorities.
Make Room For Beauty
Though we don’t make much time for it, nearly everyone values beauty. Not necessarily physical beauty, but certainly art or natural beauty, like mountains or the ocean. Of course, especially for those who live in urban environments, art is often pushed to the sidelines.
There are lots of simple ways to make room for beauty in your everyday life. Some strategies emphasize physical beauty, such as making time to get your hair styled or creating a new beauty routine each season or before a night out. Your own beauty, even if superficial, matters – especially if it helps you to project confidence and joy in other interactions.
Attending programs like MoMA’s quiet morning meditation in New York City is another great way to bring together art and introspection, both living in your values and taking time to reflect on them. LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art is also introducing a similar program, with the aim of helping hurried professionals take some time for self-care.
Spending For Good
One of the easiest ways to tell that something in your life is out of alignment with your purpose of values is that it feels stressful or burdensome. When you find yourself avoiding an activity or feeling drained by attending a meeting or group that used to be fun, it’s time to reevaluate. Sometimes our even purchases feel draining because they don’t represent the products, businesses, or spaces we want to support.
Learning to spend in alignment with your values isn’t always convenient, but it’s affirming and empowering. Tired of shelling out for Starbucks but enjoy the convenience? Consider spending your money at a community café instead, or making your coffee at home and spending your coffee money on something that matters more. There’s also been a real growth in the non-consumer movement in recent years as people realize the harm excess spending and accumulation does in the world at large.
Values As Self-Care
Ultimately, living in your values is vital to the popularized notion of “self-care.” Self-care means different things to different people, but ultimately, it’s about honoring your feelings in healthy, responsible, and growth-oriented ways. Sometimes that means making a big commitment and changing course dramatically by finding a new job or choosing a volunteer role. Or maybe it’s about building closer relationships by sharing lunch with a colleague or having a neighbor over for tea.
Some aspects of living your values are easy,
impulsive even, but many others will take time to achieve. Identify what’s
missing, block out time for growth activities , and be patient with yourself. We’re not
encouraged to live this way, but without taking time for ourselves, we’ll spend
our lives running on empty.