How to Make the Big Decisions Easier
Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.”- Elvis Presley
It took me a while to realize that values are the guardrails of life. If we pay attention to them they can prevent us from causing damage to ourselves or others. We all know on some level that what we value is important information, but how do we actually apply it to making decisions?
What the heck are values?
Simply putyour values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.
Often our values are that small voice or whisper to us during times of big decisions. They can lerk in the background of the easy day to day decisions too. Values are always there with us, whether we decide to listen or not. The problem is, without being intentional and giving them a louder voice, we can’t hear the wisdome they try to share.
Why should we pay attention to values?
Our personal values reflect our sense of right and wrong. They help us to have better self awareness so that we can grow and change. They guide us toward a future we want.
The first rule in value picking is.. don’t be self critical or judgmental about your core values. Values are not “good”, “bad” or “right” or “wrong”… they just are. One person might value kindness and another might value financial stability. One is not better than the other- just different. I have heard it compared to pizza toppings. Someone in your family might like pepperoni and anohter like pineapple and ham. Just preference.
A problem occurs when there is a gap between what we are actually doing and what we say we value. This can cause stress or inner turmoil. It ultimately leads us to places we don’t want our life to go.
How do we find them?
There are about as many ways to find your values as there are values themselves. There are online tools, card decks, meditations, journals, career counselors, faith based words of intention, resolution words etc. A simple google search can provide you with a list of typical values and you can just ask yourself, “what matters most to me at this time in my life?”. You can start by crossing off the ones that do not matter to you, and start from there.
The hard part comes when we decide to apply our values to decision making. First we have to look back. Are you living according to these chosen values in your life right now? Does your family, work, social life reflect these values? What are you spending time doing? Does that match up with these values?
Lots of times the answer is a hard “no”. That’s because it is difficult to stay on track. Again, the first step is a non judgmental stance. It’s ok. You can get back on track. Remember a time when you were living within those core values. What was different about then? What behaviors or people help to support you r living within these values. Sometimes the best way to start, using values as an internal compass is to notice throughout the day when you are thinking and doing within those core values. How does it feel? What is it like for you when you drift outside these values?
This can be both exhilarating and exhausting. If you have trouble with this type of self reflections and would benefit from assistance in self awareness around values and decisions, psychotherapy can support you through that process. A therapist can listen without judgment and help you to tease out what is important to you in your life. They can create a safe place for you to look at that gap between where you are and where you would like to be.