Do you know the saying “If you want to know what you are committed to, look at what you’ve got?” There’s veracity in this statement, and because of the extended disruption of COVID, many of us are challenged and living our lives in a bit of a bubble – a reactionary state. It’s a perfect time to take stock of the values of your everyday life, and how they are being expressed in reality. Especially in times of such uncertainty, one way to impact our lives is to bring more agency to them by taking a look at how we express them.
The Pathway to Joy in Difficult Circumstances
I started writing a story about “finding values in everyday life” back in March 2020 – just prior to our world turning upside down with the pandemic. It was at the tail end of a working holiday in Bali, and I began writing a travelogue with insight destined for this blog. I was eager to re-create a vivid experience, one where I had seen with such clarity my values coming to life on a visit to a local jewellery-making museum in Seminyak. I wanted to highlight the importance of values in life, sharing how incredibly alive I was during a 2.5 hour visit to the boutique, gallery and experiential workshop of the famed artist John Hardy.
Every aspect of this excursion was a delight. From the sensory nature of examining the intricate and wide ranging collections of the handmade silver pieces to learning about the techniques and craftsmanship of the specialised form of jewelry to learning about the origins and history of the founder and expansion of the craft. This was all beautifully recounted by my guide and then I finally got to take my hand to the craft itself. Everywhere I turned was something beautiful — constant awe-inspiring design and sensory fulfilment.
Nourishing Everyday Core Values
I was blown away by the piercing simplicity and abundance of pure joy while examining, making and delighting in the stories told during this experience. Several of my core values were being deeply nourished at the time – beauty, quality, learning and appreciation. It was THE highlight of my vacation, and a useful example of the importance of the presence of values in everyday life.
When radical changes unfolded over the next 6 weeks, I tucked the story away — it seemed a bit indulgent. Nearly six months later, I resurrected it along with the idea of the impact our values have on our everyday lives. It seems even more relevant than ever. If our happiness is directly connected to how alive our values are from day to day, irrespective of circumstances, then reflection on this topic could be a critical part of rising to this time of challenge.
“What values are alive in my current circumstances of life? Which ones are missing, that I can bring to life to serve my experience now?”
Why Talk About Core Values?
In coaching, we work with the principle that a values-driven life offers deep fulfillment and success. Understanding your core values is about awareness. They are at the heart of who we truly are, and express what matters most. If you aren’t clear about your core values, you can access them in multiple ways. But it is clear that when we live consistent with our values, we experience more fulfillment, happiness and joy. Likewise, in areas where life isn’t working, or where there is discord present, you could say a value is being betrayed, or ignored, and the result is pain, suffering or unhappiness. When this is a common phenomenon, your life may really be out of whack.
The good news is you can begin to shift areas of your life quite easily by first understanding your values and then by taking steps to restore them to areas of life that are incongruent. Do this simply through making new choices and taking course correcting actions. Realigning or getting a values ‘tune up’ can really shift your experience of life.
Discovering Values in Everyday Life
There are a number of very simple ways to discover the values of your everyday life. Some are very straightforward — through doing a bit of reflective work — the deeper you go into this work the more valuable, no pun intended. You can do this work with personal coach or independently through reflecting and journaling on some basic questions about your life and your desires. Some people start with a detailed list of values and sift through it to see what traits or qualities most resonate with them. Alternatively, a bit more confronting or challenging for some, it’s possible to access your values by taking an inventory of areas of your life where things seem out of sync, or where things are not working to determine what is really missing for you at the core.
At the end of the day, a rich understanding of our values allows you to have a framework on which to create your life, to incorporate a healthy reflection-action cycle to allow you to refine areas of your life that you would like to change. It can take time to reflect on what truly matters to you. As coaches, we like to say that operating from your core values offers a life of resonance, where we find fulfillment and happiness. Values provide a lens to look through to ensure you are living true to yourself.
What Values are Driving Your Life?
For the most part, the adjustment to the early restrictions of the pandemic were both healthy and inspired — my approach was to treat the time much like the gift of a forced holiday. I started out preoccupied with activities I love, that were otherwise only sporadic in my ‘normal’ life — planning and cooking unusual and elaborate meals, lots of reading, dedicated writing time, puzzles and games with my family, and many solitary hours of walking and yoga. I also had many more conversations than usual with the people I care about, with friends and family far and wide. By design, they were all honouring my core values.
Here’s how these activities connect to my values:
- Anything food related — cooking, shopping, planning meals, dining with family — fulfil on my values of creativity, well-being, and connection. (Food also equates to love in my family.)
- Walking and yoga hit a combination of values — well-being, healthy living, beauty and nature.
- Appreciating the houses and gardens on my long walks, strolls along Port Phillip Bay enjoying the water, parkland, the breeze — I feel connected to nature when I’m moving my body. Every ‘walk and talk’ with a friend also honours my value of connection, learning, exploration.
I gave myself unusual permission early on to spend many hours reading and writing and listening to topics of interest, all an expression of my deep value of learning. Any informative podcast — on big world issues like climate change, human development, science or philosophy — I could feel my brain was alive, and I was intrinsically happy. Puzzles are a a solid way to get my fill of problem solving.
“Your level of happiness or ease is directly related to the amount of time you spend doing things that really matter to you.”
Interrupting the ‘New Normal’
One thing I hear repeatedly during the pandemic is that the slower pace of life is a blessing. What I experience quite often in this ‘new normal’ is how refreshing it is to have sufficient time to attend to the basics. I discovered my natural rhythms, distinctly void of interruptions or expectations from the outside world. It’s been relaxing to operate daily life at this pace, and sometimes surreal.
Six months into the Covid-19 era, many of the benefits I experienced early on became stale or tapered off in their richness. So, I took inventory of my life again, to see how I am currently spending my time. What am I doing to cope with the uncertainty and do I need to realign my life with my values?
Questions to Examine Values in Everyday Life:
- What have I been most pre-occupied with over the past month or two?
- What have I celebrated lately? (core value of mine)
- Are my current concerns or worries being used productively?
- Have I spent any time planning my life — finances, goals, travel, or am I ignoring them?
- How actively engaged am I in my wellbeing — my eating, fitness and mental health?
- Am I exercising sufficiently to manage my stress, or has the newness of early routines worn off?
- Does my entertainment include movies, performances or documentaries that spark value, or just binge-watching?
- What am I learning — how much time am I talking about or reading about politics, current events, science, etc?
- How am I getting on with my business — am I being generative or reactive?
- What am I doing for fun and recreation, and is it serving any long-term goal?
The pandemic era lasted longer than most of us had envisioned. While we’ve managed to settle into this ‘new normal’ in some respects, we are still experiencing the stressors of an ongoing concern for people’s health and the state of the economy.
However, we can take steps to effectively energize ourselves, perhaps vital for the long haul, by pausing to examine how we are spending our time, and whether our day-to-day lifestyles are lead by our values. Start by taking stock of where your life aligns with your values, then follow it with a ‘tune-up’ to course correct on things you want to change. Where necessary, restart or invent for the benefit of enlivening your life as a whole.