Living your best life means living a life that is congruent with your values. I'm going to show you how to identify your values so you can live a life that feels right for YOU. Congruence means that the actions you take are in alignment with the things in life you value most. When you are incongruent, things just don't feel right, and you feel that something is wrong with your life, even though it looks good on the surface.
An essential part of determining your top values is to take an inventory of your current life and assess to what extent you are or aren’t living the life that you would like to live. As much as it is important to know what your values are, sometimes it is easiest to start from a place of identifying in what areas you do not feel happy and satisfied. It is okay if you find yourself in the place where you don’t yet know what is needed for a happy and content life. To go straight there might lead to moving too fast and missing some important opportunities for reflection that will set you up for more self-awareness in the future. At this point, the goal is merely to tap into your intuition and to recognize the areas that need attention and consideration.
This can be done in a cognitive way through journaling, talking to close friends, self reflection, etc. However, although a lot can be gained through merely thinking about your life (this is a lot more than most people do!), it is also important to recognise the emotions that show up and the way that your body feels when you know that something is ‘off’.
I work a lot with my clients to tap into areas of knowing that are beyond the mental and cognitive. Those who have been raised in high control settings are often socialized to only rely on one area and to cut off, stifle, or push down the others. Although at first the process of accessing the intuition and becoming more aware of your emotions might feel foreign and uncomfortable, I guarantee that you will benefit greatly from expanding your awareness.
Below I will lead you through an exercise that will help you to connect to your thoughts, emotions, and body in the process of becoming clear on the areas of your life where values work is relevant.
Most areas of your life fit into one of these four categories. If you can think of any others that are relevant to you, feel free to add it to the ‘other’ category.
- Personal Growth/Health
Take each of the following categories and rate between 1-10 (1 low and 10 being high) how content you are with this area of your life:
Next, in each category, come up with 2 words that describe how you feel about that area of your life. For example, in your work/education you might identify that you feel stagnant and bored, or motivated and satisfied.
For each category that you rated as being a 7 or lower, ask yourself: What would make my rating higher in this category? What are the contributing factors to this category being rated low?
For each category that you rated as 8 or higher, ask yourself: What are the characteristics present that make this category high? What is different between this area and lower rated categories?
Take a moment to connect to your body. What are you experiencing in your body as you explore each area (tension, dread, anxiety, light-headedness, sadness, excitement, etc.)? Does anything surprising show up in your body (unexpected excitement, panic, sense of helplessness, etc.)? Allow yourself to sit with the emotions and sensations that you identify in your body. Don’t try to change or analyze them; just let them be present.
Next, reflect on what you have learned through this exercise. You can write about this in your journal, or just think through the different parts.
Now that you understand which areas of your life you are happy with, and which ones you would like to improve, you can use this insight as a guide for where creating positive change is required to align with your values.
Set aside some time to look further into this area of your life and use the prompts and exercises in Part 3 to explore these areas specifically.
Kelsey Hoff is a Canadian Certified Counsellor who specialises in supporting folks who are working through the longterm affects of religious trauma and spiritual abuse, navigating religious deconstruction, and/or in the process of leaving high control settings. To find out more about her services and to book a free 20-minute consultation, visit her website here.
Posted March 25, 2022Blog
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