To address this, I think it is important to find time to examine the impressions that you make throughout the day. That is to suggest that you review your values and ensure that they form the foundation of your life. They should dictate the choices you make and determine the direction that your life takes. You should allow your values to influence your decisions related to your relationships, career, and other activities you engage in.
Despite the importance of our value systems in providing guidance, not enough people choose their values. Instead, they simply adopt the values of their parents and the dominant values of society. In all likelihood, the values that you internalized as a child remain with you through adulthood. We act the way that we believe others want us to act. These values may also have created a life that is carrying you down a path that is not the direction you want to go at this point in your life.
One possible solution is to regularly review and problematize your assumptions. To help you in this capacity, take time to reflect by journaling or free-writing.
First, use these questions to clarify your core values:
- What’s ultimately the most important thing in life to you?
- What do you want your life to ‘stand for’ or ‘be about’?
- What would you most like your life to be remembered for after you’ve died?
- What sort of thing do you most want to spend your time doing?
- What sort of person do you most want to be in your various relationships and roles in life?
In examining the fourth bullet point, you might consider your role as a parent, friend, at work or in life generally. You could also ask how far your own core values match what the ancient Stoics meant by ‘virtue’, especially character traits such as wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.
Second, look at all your answers to the first set of questions and ask how far your real actions on a day-to-day basis match these core values. If they do not match completely, think about ways in which you could bring the two closer together. Keep in mind that you’re not assessing or evaluating how much these two match or disagree. You’re just trying to understand yourself.
Think of one specific activity you could be doing that would help you develop towards expressing your core values or which would enable you to express them fully.
Finally, this exercise could be part of a daily journaling process as you start your day.
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