I don’t know whether it is age, a result of experiencing major losses, or a combination of both, but over the last couple of years (and especially this last few months) I have gotten really clear about my core values. I definitely feel this is something that evolves and changes as our lives do, and if we don’t continue to ‘do the work’ to be clear and grounded about what is most important to us and why… things get out of alignment, dissonance occurs, decisions get difficult, and we make choices that don’t feel good.
I have never been much of a dabbler. When I get ‘into’ something, I go all in. There are both positive and negative aspects of this characteristic. On the positive side, it typically yields pretty impressive results over a fairly short period of time. On the negative side, I tend to let every other aspect of my life slide while I am deep diving into whatever has my heart and mind’s attention. Like anything, there is a cost associated with the results. It stands to reason that if I am going to go all in on something, it needs to be aligned with my core values. And if my core values are being sacrified by ‘going all in’ then I need to pump the brakes and find a way to pursue ‘the thing’ without being consumed by it.
This has been an evolution, and possibly a maturation on my part. Going down the rabbit hole is fun. It is a dopamine fest! And the results are like confetti that amplifies the entire experience and keeps you grinding for that buzz. But when the results of the thing are consuming more energy and focus than the thing itself, the party can go sideways, and it can lead to some pretty big costs in other life areas. Ignoring your relationships, your health, your outside obligations- in the name of ‘following your bliss’ or ‘chasing your dream’ or ‘pursuing your passion’, doesn’t make it any less destructive. And when the day comes that you need to come out of the rabbit hole for air, you may find yourself broke, unhealthy, and alone. It might sound dramatic but I see it happen all around me, and I’ve had enough of my own ‘down the rabbit hole’ experiences to know how easy it is to justify the behavior.
So what does this have to do with core values? Good question, thanks for asking.
When you get super clear about your core values, making decisions gets to be very simple. You don’t get sucked in to the hype or the buzz or the latest ‘thing’. You learn to temper your passion with the reality of the scope of your life. You can easily say ‘no thanks’ to opportunities that don’t align (even when they appeal soooo much to your inner dopamine addict). You don’t ‘fall off the wagon’ because you aren’t on one. You are simply making choices that reflect your core values. It gets really, really simple. You will do less and feel more satisfied. You will sleep better (bye guilt). You will consume less (because you are no longer trying to fill a void). You will stop over commuting and over scheduling and trying to do ‘all the things’. FOMO is NOMO.
So how do you get this clarity? You need to spend time thinking about what is truly important. When everything else is stripped away what is left? What matters to you? What are the things that you will care about at the end of your life? What allows you to truly enjoy your life? What are your non-negotiables?
For me, my top 3 core values are:
- My Health
- My Family/ Relationships
- My Work
When I make my to do list, this is how I prioritize. When I am presented with an opportunity, this is what I measure against to decide if it is a fit. When I have a decision to make, this is what I consider first. This goes for everything from what I do with my time to what I put into my body, to what I pursue for work. I can tell you that I have said no a lot this year. I am doing less than I have in the past, but I feel much more at peace and internally satisfied. My world may not always feel perfectly balanced, but it feels aligned. Which to me, is even better.