For as long as the topic of happiness has been studied, there has been a corresponding theory that states one can only truly be satisfied with life if they are inwardly happy with themselves. To be happy with yourself individually without reliance on anything or anyone else, is a complex topic (and much of the inspo behind my career path!) Today, I am talking about one specific solution to leading a life of greater happiness.
This is known as living a ‘values-based life.’ Values are things that you believe are important in your life and work. The thoughts you think, the emotions you feel and the actions you take can all be more purposefully channeled to enhance your overall level of happiness. As simple as this sounds, this kind of life model takes focused effort to consciously and actively operate in a mode where each choice you make is fully aligned with your top priorities. I'm talking small, medium and large choices - even things as simple as accepting an invitation for drinks with a co-worker because every action we take has an impact on our wellbeing.
“Having a strong sense of what matters to you, and letting your values guide your actions can lead to greater happiness,” says psychologist Susan David. Values are things like fairness, accountability, faith, generosity, honesty, creativity, humility or being family-oriented. They are attributes or traits that lead to a sense of fulfillment, pride, happiness and satisfaction.
When we don’t live in a way that connects to our values, we behave in a way that will eventually lead to stress, conflict and dissatisfaction. An example: I’ve decided one of my top values is creativity. The act of being creative fulfills my soul, is a source of positive energy and makes me feel good. Accepting a co-workers invitation for drinks on the Wednesday night that I usually reserve for writing (the only night I have free for this activity), would most likely create inner conflict and contribute to some discontent later in the week.
Another example, if I value family, but I’m working 60-hour weeks, chances are I’ll feel stress and internal conflict for not having the autonomy to spend more time with my loved ones.
Again, this heightened sense of living is a commitment and can be a mindset that takes willingness, time and practice to cultivate. There will definitely be those times when we are tempted to stray from our values – which is OK on occasion and treated with self-compassion.
So how do we define and prioritize our values? Stay tuned for my next post, which will further explore the ‘how to’ of deciding your values.