How knowing your values can increase your happiness
As you may recall, last time I talked about wanting to share my New Year reflection process with you, in hopes that it could help you make 2017 your best year yet.
In case you missed that blog, you can check it out here. In it, I share 5 powerful questions that can help you dig deep into what it is you want and what you need to do to get there.
Today, moving right along, I want to share another exercise with you.
This is something I came across while reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and it’s without a doubt one of the most life-changing reflections I’ve ever done.
Basically, the exercise is to think about your own funeral. I know, I know – it sounds morbid, but stay with me. Basically, what you’re focusing on is what people are saying about you.
Imagine that there are 4 speakers set to deliver a speech at the funeral. One is a family member, one is a friend, one is a colleague, and one is someone from a community organization like a church or a place where you volunteer.
Take a few minutes and write down the type of things each person would say about you. What difference did you make in their lives? What personality traits, and kind acts, and achievements would you want them to remember? What kind of parent/child/sibling/friend/neighbor would you want their words to reflect?
I spent a great deal of time on this exercise, and my responses filled up over 3 pages. And from speaker to speaker, I started to observe some trends.
For one, I noticed that I often wrote “she cared about people”. It became increasingly evident that it was important to me that people experience my compassion. Another common theme: “she was so encouraging” – an indicator that I wanted people to feel like they were inspired/uplifted/encouraged as a result of interacting with me.
Some other trends: that I was kind, that I was warm and friendly, a peacekeeper, a light, a calming presence, an inspiration…and as far as my writing, someone whose stories could make you feel something deeply, someone who gave hope.
It was such an eye-opening exercise because it allowed me to see with unmistakable clarity what is important to me, what my values are.
It was clear, for instance, that I wanted to feel a connection with others in 2017. I want my interactions with other human beings to be full of meaning and significance. I want to see other people as luminous souls, and make eye contact with them, and be a conduit of divine love in hopes that I can bring a little sunshine into their day in that moment. Essentially, I want to go deeper with people.
Another value of mine emerged and that was personal development. After all, in order to be of service to others, I have to first feed myself. Learning as much as I can about spiritually evolving on life’s journey is a must for me, therefore, because I want to be able to show up in the world in more powerful ways – and I want to be able to also share my insights with others in hopes of helping them on their own paths.
My third value was creativity. As already mentioned, I want to write stories that make people feel things deeply, that captivate them, that maybe even heal them in some way. So creativity has to be a priority for me in 2017 because in order to write those stories, I need to nurture my creativity and make sure its fire is always fed.
So what do you do when you figure out what your values are?
What I’m currently doing is selecting one value on Sunday that I will then focus on for the rest of the week.
For every day that week, I refer to a piece of paper taped to my fridge that lists all the ways I can cultivate that value in my life. So for instance, connection has things like: compliment one person today, do a kind act for someone, make eye contact and have a conversation with someone, volunteer somewhere for a few hours, etc.
This allows me to stay focused on my value every day in a practical, hands-on way, and so far, I’ve really enjoyed the experience. It’s nice to know that I’m doing things that are in alignment with my values – the very things I want to be remembered for when this journey of mine has reached its end. 🙂