Do you remember, perhaps from childhood, someone or maybe a pet that you loved dearly with all the passion and unconditionalness that a child can feel? Sometimes it was a grandparent or a favorite aunt or uncle. For others it was their dog, their best friend and constant companion. Or a “bestest” friend or first sweetheart. Someone somewhere that you gave all your love to. Perhaps even a place in nature, the woods, the ocean, your own private retreat spot. Maybe it was music or a passion for a sport. Something you could immerse yourself in totally, love yourself, forget time.
Those things that touched us deeply in our early years became gems of light that helped form us, gave us role models for more mature experiences of love, lit our way, sustained, molded and nurtured our soul. Like the tiny kite string is essential for the beautiful kite to fly, they enabled us to live with love and passion later in life. They helped shape our values.
What we value actually determines how we spend our time, energy and resources. If we don’t value it, there is no motivation to do it. Have you ever procrastinated cleaning up a messy home, with nooooo motivation to do it? It’s only when something you value comes into play, like the opinion of visiting friends that prompts the motivation to clean. No one likes to do their taxes, but eventually we value something else more, like a clean record or not having our bank account and wages garnished. At the deepest unconscious level our values affect our behavior and our decisions, and after-the-fact our evaluation of how well we did. Values are the kinesthetic, the feeling, the love and the passion behind our behavior.
It is a fairly simple process to find your values. First, choose a context, an area of your life, such as relationship, family, career or health/fitness. Next, ask yourself (or have a friend ask), “What’s important to you in (relationship)? Ask that same question about the area you chose again and again, listing your responses, using your exact word(s). Do this quickly, so you don’t have time to think. Your answers should be short, usually one word, like “trust, compatibility, communication, freedom, respect, chemistry”. Ask the question until you have run out of words. You will probably pause several times to think, which will activate the deeper, more unconscious values. Continue through several pauses as a gauge for how long to do the process.
Continue until you have a list that sounds right, that feels good, that looks complete, usually around 10 items. Next, rank order them, putting #1 by the most important value to you, #2 by the second most important, and so on. Then rewrite the list in the order you chose. Now you can see by looking at the top three to five values what motivates you. If you chose career, and income wasn’t even on the list, for example, you can see why you may be financially struggling. It is no wonder, since at the unconscious level money doesn’t motivate you. You may see values that conflict, such as spending time with your family or friend versus needing freedom and alone-time.
Looking at your values can give you key insights into why you do what you do and how you make decisions. If you do not like your values, then it is an opportunity to do some personal change work. Perhaps you made a decision early in life that you can’t have both money and love. Maybe your need for freedom from family is really a protection against “needy people”. Our values are what fuel our passion, what we love and what motivate us. Eliciting your own values is an excellent way to take stock and see what is really driving your behavior, as you begin this new year.