The vast majority of people who come and see me in my therapy centre in Wilmslow want me to get rid of something for them. They want me to get rid of their anger, anxiety, sadness, grief, depression, jealousy or other unwanted feeling.
This makes complete sense. Humans don’t like pain. We want to get rid of it. I will invite each one of them, and you reading this blog post, to connect with the other side of that coin.
What’s important in your life?
What many of us forget is that whilst we are furiously trying to get rid of those feelings and thoughts that we don’t like, life is passing us by. You might not notice that you are losing touch with the things that you hold dear in your life.
In fact I would go so far as to say that you probably haven’t stopped to think about what those things that you value dearly are.
Getting trapped in script
Sometimes we pick up messages from our parents about how life should be. This was certainly the case for me. I grew up in a working class family. I can remember my Dad telling me that “nobody liked their job” and that you had to just “get on with it”. And that’s exactly what he did.
Unsurprisingly I hunkered down in a job that increasingly left me feeling frustrated and anxious. I had to live by the family moto of “plodding on”.
It took me a long time to break the spell of that message and gradually devote more and more of my time to a job that I enjoyed. Being a therapist.
What accelerated that process exponentially for me was working with an ACT therapist who challenged me to connect with my values. What did I want to do? Why? If I died tomorrow what did I want people to say about me?
This is values based living.
Where values based living wins
There are two ways you might be living your life.Goal based living and values based living.
If you live you life by goals then you will work your butt off until you achieve a goal, have a dose of satisfaction that you have got there and then get back on the treadmill and work your butt off to get to the next goal. Sound fulfilling?
In values based living once you identify what your values are then you can live them right now. Say one of your values is generosity (one of mine is). Cool. How can you live your life right now to be more generous? You value friendship? Excellent! What can you do right now to be a better friend?
These things don’t have to be big. It could be that you text your friend “hi” or you arrange to meet them for coffee. As you do this your life becomes richer.
How values based living helps
What you will notice about connecting with what’s important and living toward those values is that as you do this more and more all of that other stuff you wanted to get rid of kind of sorts itself out. You can feel anxious and go for a coffee with a friend. You can feel fed up but still give to others. It’s what you do that counts.
The more you do this the more you will notice your life becoming richer and thoughts and feelings that used to cause big dramas in your life are still there but just don’t seem so important.
How to find your values
Most of us don’t really think about what we hold dear. Here’s a dead easy way to find out what’s important to you:
- Go to this website by clicking here and download the values cards.
- Cut them out and shuffle through them putting them into “Very Important” and “Not important” piles.
- Do this until you have been through all of the cards. Shove the not important pile to the side.
- Spread out the cards you have left and pick 10. Yep, not many but gives you a real clear idea of what’s important to you.
- From the 10 cards pick each one up and think of one thing that you can do to take you towards that value. Remember it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just a thing.
Follow the beacon
Values can be like beacons shining through the fog when things just aren’t going the way you want. They give direction and purpose to your life.
Why not give the values exercise a go and see what comes up for you? Come back to this blog post and let me know how it went, I’m really interested to hear.
Read the book
Vicktor Frankl wrote a great book about how humans need purpose in their lives called Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust*. It’s a moving and fascinating story of the people who suffered in the concentration camps and how meaning in their lives kept some of them alive.