5. How do I live a life that matters?
Let's start by discussing what a value is. You may well have noticed that certain things you’ve done in your life have felt very meaningful and important to you, that certain things you’ve done make you feel more alive, more vital. These are essentially the things you value. For example, you might value treating your partner or children in certain ways—being caring, supportive, patient, or understanding. Or, you might value certain things in your career—creating, working as part of a team, finding solutions to important problems. Here are some other possible values:
- Enjoying music, art, and/or drama
- Having relationships involving love and affection
- Being creative
- Connecting with nature
- Being at one with god or the universe
- Having a sense of accomplishment and making a lasting contribution
- Creating beauty (in any domain, including arts, dancing, gardening)
- Having genuine and close friends
- Having a life filled with adventure
It’s important to be clear about what your values are, because when life gets rough, it’s very easy to lose sight of them.
Think of your values as a lighthouse, and you as the captain of a ship. The lighthouse helps you to guide your journey, even when it's dark and a storm is raging.
There are some important features of values:
- A value is something you strive for but never permanently achieve. It guides you in the same way that the lighthouse guides the sailor.
- A value helps you to stay on course and get the most of the journey we call life. The key thing is to enjoy the process of living, to enjoy what you have in the present moment
- A value can never be cancelled out by a failure. For example, you may value having a loving relationship. One day you may fight with a loved one, and the relationship may not seem loving. This does not cancel out the value. You can still choose to recommit to your values.
- Values refer to what you find meaningful and vital, to what gives you a real sense of purpose in your life. It doesn’t matter what others value or what you are “supposed” to value. It only matters what you value
We would now like you to try an exercise that helps you to explore your values.
Identifying my values