I’m have been thinking lately about being in alignment with my values and living a wholehearted life. I recently re-read, Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfections” and took the Wholehearted Inventory, at https://brenebrown.com/wholeheartedinventory/. It is a book I would recommend, and it is one that should be re-read every few years. But do the inventory quiz before you read or re-read the “The Gifts.” And whether or not you read the book it can just be helpful doing the inventory and see where you fall on the scale. It can measure areas of strength or areas for growth. It looks at 10 guideposts on what we should let go of versus what we should cultivate. You can see where you fall on the spectrum.
Looking at whether you are living your values is an exercise that you can do on your own. You need to write down what your core values are. Values are the things that are important to us, and our core values are what we hold as most important. List all the things that are important to you and that you value.
When making your value list. I do think another important piece to keep in mind is the importance of meeting our basic needs. Our mind, body and spirit are important and the different areas that really represent our overall wellness. It is hard to be able to move to a balanced, joyful place if we are not taking care of our basic human needs. Maybe it should be on everyone’s value list.
You may need to be shifting time to be able to meet some of these needs. This is because time is needed to meet most of these needs and letting go of those activities that prevent you from meeting your basic needs probably needs to be evaluated. We all have certain responsibilities that need to stay as a priority when it comes to our time. But if we really look at what we spend our time doing we may find we can shift something we are using to numb or avoid with something that is nourishing our mind, body, and spirit.
Breakdown of Mind, Body and Spirit
Here is a little break down. Physical wellbeing is caring of the brain and body. It should include exercise, sleep, and eating a balanced diet. It should also include management of any health issues you have and regular check-ups.
Spiritual is a broad category and can mean many things for many people. Maybe it is going to church and participating in certain church activities. Maybe it is meditation, yoga, or Tai Chi. Or maybe it is when you are gardening, or being outside in nature? This is a very personal thing, and you need to ask yourself just what it means to you before you can decide if you are meeting these needs.
When it comes to our brain (mind), I do have it in the physical category and in the mental category. I feel the brain has elements of both. Mental is a combination of both cognitive stimulation and mental health, which would include doing cognitive challenging or stimulating activities. It can be reading, doing puzzles, learning a language, new subjects or learning a musical instrument or learning a new song.
The other piece is our mental health. Managing our mental health is extremely important for overall well-being. If you have depression, anxiety, trauma or whatever it may need to be dealt with. We should be getting regular check-ups here too. After a loss, a stressful situation and major life changes, it is good to get counseling, participate in support groups and/or spend time with friends and family. Since COVID, there has been a lot of stress, lifestyle changes and isolation. It is a good time to do an evaluation on how well you are coping and if you need to reach out for support.
Let us return back to our values list exercise. You can also set this up as a side-by-side list too. Once you complete this list of what you value then you need to do another list of what you are spending your time doing. You will be comparing just what you spend your time doing with the list of what you value. You do not have to do a side-by-side list but for those of us who are visual it is helpful.
One side should list everything that you are spending your time doing which may be associated with your goals while the other side should be everything that you feel is most important and really represents who you are. Once both your lists are completed than compare the two lists. If your life is more in alignment with your values, your lists should have common themes. But if the list on the 1st side, is different from the other side it may indicate you may not be in balance or in alignment with your values.
If you are finding that your lists are very different from each other there should be some questions to ask. What things on this list are about pleasing other people? What on this list makes you feel resentful? Of course, we all have things that we do that may not bring us joy. Laundry is something I do every week because I like clean clothes, so it is not something that I am going to be able to take off my list. However, it may be something you can afford to pay someone else to do. But if you are doing something that you hate and resent that you are taking time to do, maybe it is time to reassess. Is it something I can remove from my list or can someone else take care of it?
You could also add everyone in your family unit with lists for individual values and family values. So, if you have a family you are trying to figure this out for, there will be multiple columns.
If your lists are similar there should be more of feeling of being in balance and in alignment. When I did this exercise, overall, I did feel in alignment with my core values with how I spend my time. There were areas that I value that I was not setting aside enough time to honor those things and I had to make some adjustments. I would not say my life is in perfect alignment but that may be unreachable. I do think the more we are able to honor our values the more in balance we will feel. Let’s talk more about intentions and goals.
The next thing to do after seeing your values would be setting an intention. This is going to be just how you plan to show up in your life. For example, I value being self-compassionate and being authentic so my intention could be, I choose to be present and accepting of myself. Another example may be that you value connection, and your intention would be something like I choose to stay connected to family and friends. It is an important part of the process is setting your intentions. I like to put it out there in the universal and my consciousness. But that may be to esoterica. Do what works for you whether saying it out loud or writing it down. I think our brains need something beyond thinking about it to really experience it.
The goals would be more tangible items. It is going to be more of check off list that helps move you closer to living your values. This could be I’m going to take a self-compassion class, I going to read 3 books on self-compassion or on living an authentic life, practicing daily mindfulness, and journaling several times a week. For connection, the goals could be, that we will have family dinner 4 times a week, will see friends twice a month, will spend 30 minutes after work with my kids playing a game.
Goals are more of check off list, so we do not want to get overly attached to our goals. There should be flexibility and fluency here and this should not be a burden list. It is something to help guide you, not take over your life. It is important sometimes to really look at what our values are and what your goals are. If your goals just aren’t in alignment with your values, it is the goals that need to change. If your number one goal is to buy a big house and you have been working 2 jobs to do that, but your values include spending time with your family which you haven’t been able to do, there is probably a problem here.
Going back to Wholehearted Inventory is also another way to look at areas in which you need to cultivate to better live your values. The first guidepost looks at what we should let go of “what people think about us” versus “authenticity” and what we should cultivate to live a wholehearted life. So, if I value being true to myself or authenticity, my intention and goals should help move me closer to that place.
We can at times get disconnected from our core values. The great thing about life is that it is a journey that always can be altered and changed at any time we choose. Little steps and changes can be incredibly powerful and can make a change in feeling more in tune with ourselves and bring peace, joy, and balance into our everyday life. But everything in our life journey will start with awareness before we can make actual changes that will impact our life. It might start with making a list. As the quote, many of you may have seen (not sure who said it), “Re-Set, Re-Adjust, Re-Start, Re-Focus…As Many Times As You Need To.”
photo by Ben Tofan
Original Post November 20, 2021 on Karen Gentilman’s website Illumination Counseling Service.
Karen Gentilman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) practicing in the State of Idaho, working for 30 years with many different medical conditions both acute and chronic conditions, the last 20 years in neurological rehabilitation including brain injury, strokes and spinal cord injuries. She takes a trauma-informed, integrated and holistic approach with utilizing multiple modalities which is individually based while striving to provide compassionate therapeutic environment. Call (208) 266-4642 or email KarenGentilman@IlluminationCounselingService.com to set up a FREE 15-minute consultation. Visit Karen Gentilman’s profile page.