So often we resolve to begin anew in the New Year. But I'm going to propose something a little different. How about we examine what we already have. In fact, let's examine our values. What are your values? You know, those principles you believe in deeply, teach your children, live by, choose friends according to, jobs, communities...Right? That's what guides your life, isn't it? Wait, isn't it? Oh. Well, what is guiding your life? That's a big question. I'd want an answer to that first. Perhaps then, if you don't like the answer, maybe you might want to think about your values. They are yours and yours alone.
Do you all say you value family time, yet no one will get off their mobile devices long enough to make eye contact?
Below is a values inventory. Take it yourself; rank your values. Then you might find it interesting to take it on behalf of your partner, child(ren), to guess how you think they would rank what is important to them and how they would guess what is important to you (so you will need many copies to do it this way). You could have them do the same. You may find they perceive your focus to be different from where you wish them to perceive it. Perhaps you'd like to be perceived as valuing meaningful endeavors like learning or trying new things, but the children perceive you as valuing having nice things or focusing on your physique a bit too much. This can be a very eye-opening exercise. Nonetheless, the fun part is to ask yourself, do you live in line with YOUR values? Does your family? Do you all say you value family time, yet no one will get off their mobile devices long enough to make eye contact? Do you say you value honesty and personal integrity, yet you sneak new clothes home in the dry cleaning each month? Is there a disconnect between what is said and what is DONE in your marriage, your family?
_____1. A secure and comfortable retirement.
_____2. A sense of equality in relationships.
_____3. Emotional and sexual intimacy.
_____4. A sense of accomplishment in life.
_____5. A sense of independence and self-reliance.
_____6. A meaningful love relationship.
_____7. Financial security for the family.
_____8. Happiness (contentedness).
_____9. A meaningful relationship with God.
_____10. Achieving feelings of self-confidence.
_____11. Achieving social recognition and community status.
_____12. A fulfilling marriage.
_____13. A life with meaningful purpose.
_____14. Helping the poor, sick, and disadvantaged.
_____15. A sense of family togetherness and happy children.
_____16. Learning, gaining knowledge continually.
_____17. Honesty and personal integrity.
_____18. Being in good health and physically fit.
_____19. Having a close relationships with extended family.
_____20. Traveling and quality vacations.
_____21. Companionship, spending time together as a couple.
_____22. Success in a job or career.
_____23. Freedom to live life as you choose.
_____24. New experiences and adventures.
_____25. Being outdoors, away from city life.
_____26. Satisfying friendships, liking and being liked.
_____27. Living in the city, access to restaurants and entertainment.
_____28. Having alone time, being by yourself.
_____29. Having nice things, for example: cars, boats, furniture.
_____30. Emotional security, freedom from excessive stress.
The truth is, it is easy not to live by our own values in our culture of conspicuous consumption, endless competition, disengagement, and me-me-me. We all get so busy, and I know I get sidetracked. It seems that everyone is living these fabulous lives. Trust me, they aren’t.
In order to live in line with your values, you often need to wear blinders, and you very much have to run my own race. What is important is that you are consciously awake and living in line with YOUR VALUES.
We all know examples of people living visually fabulous lives, but they are miserable, lives of quiet desperation
I take it a step further and think about life purpose. What's my objective? For me, life's meaning is most simply: service and love. So you can see, my job aligns with my values. My off time aligns with my values. And from both, I derive great fulfillment. Don't get me wrong, I am a work in progress like the rest of us, which is the beauty and the struggle. And, because I am human, and transition is a constant, I drift off course. Times like right now are great to re-evaluate.
Sometimes when I hear a person say, "Oh he/she's very successful," I'll ask, "How so?" My definition of success, too, aligns with my values, which has to do with relationships, meaningful purpose, knowledge, service, kindness, and love rather than what is often marketed to us as success: stuff, show, pomp, credentials. We all know examples of people living visually fabulous lives, but they are miserable, lives of quiet desperation. The good stuff might not look so great on the outside or fit with what Madison Avenue is marketing now. And oh, let's not kid ourselves, that marketing machine is powerful and running 24 hours a day; be vigilant, it does not care about you. Henry David Thoreau often said it best, "Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify. Simplify."
So not out with the old; you have the beststuff within you already! What are YOUR VALUES and are you living in line with them? If not, start taking small steps in that direction. That's likely where YOUR contentment lies waiting for you. Happy New Year!
About the author: Dr. Melissa Hudson has been a Plano couples therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist since 2012. She recently moved to her new office near the Shops of Legacy in West Plano conveniently located to serve the communities of The Colony, McKinney, Allen, and Frisco. She also specializes in working with depression and anxiety counseling as well as a wide spectrum of other concerns you can learn about here.
Source: Poduska, Bernard E. 1993. For Love & Money: A Guide to Finances & Relationships. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.