One of the keys to making health and authentic living simple and sustainable is to get crystal clear on your values — the baseline needs that drive who you are as a person. Ideally, our values inform and direct our actions which determine our habits and priorities — how we allocate our time and resources. Where some of us get hung up is not understanding our values and letting life dictate our priorities. When this happens, we lose control of our time, feel discontent, overwhelmed, and often unable to make changes we want to make.
One of the most valuable exercises I’ve done over the past few years is thinking about, writing down, and discussing my values. Although I’ve discussed my values with others, my partner, Josh and I each did this exercise and then talked through the results. We spent time thinking about what is truly important and necessary for each of us to live the lives we want to lead and then compared notes. Although our lists resemble each others, especially when it comes to foundational and many core values, they’re not identical. Putting our values on paper helped both of us better understand and appreciate the other’s perspective and rationale for actions that might otherwise have been confusing. It also helps us better support and encourage the other to attend to the values they might be neglecting. Looking back at past relationships I’ve had, this exercise feels priceless as it can provide clarity to issues so many couples knowingly or unknowingly avoid. (N.B. another excellent activity for couples is reading Colin Wright’s book, Some Thoughts About Relationships.)
Values can be sorted into groups — foundational values, core values, tertiary values, and imaginary values. The foundational values are those needs that are critical to your identity, they’re non-negotiable. Core values are also important, but can be met more sporadically or in a variety of ways. Tertiary values are things that add value to your life, but that don’t carry the same weight of core or foundational values. Imaginary values are the things we often pacify ourselves with, but that serve little good and often cause harm. When you identify a value, consider defining it for yourself as this will help increase clarity and illuminate ways to take action and address that value if needed. Feel free to use this worksheet to lay out and assess your values. After you work through what your values are, reflect on them, look for values you’re good at fulfilling and those you neglect. Assess how you spend your time and consider how you might reallocate your resources to better align with your values.
Congruence between values and priorities is the foundation for a good life.