Living by Your Values

Do you know what your top values are? Do you know why you make decisions to do, or not do certain things? Do you have any idea what it is you’re really reaching for?

Recently I found out that I really didn’t know what values I lived by.

I had been talking with my psych about some unhelpful ways of thinking (that I am learning not to use) and she said, ‘Yes, that’s unhelpful, but that’s ok. You notice, you tell yourself that you understand why you’re thinking that way, and then you go back to your values and live from them.’ Which is very helpful information. Unless you have no idea what your top values are. 

So I asked her about that, about how to find out your top values. She gave me the following exercise, which I did on my holidays.

The first thing I did was google ‘list of values’. I copied off two lists and ended up with about 150 different words or phrases that described things that we can value. Some of them doubled up, that’s ok.

I printed off the lists and cut up the pieces of paper so that a different word or phrase was on each piece.

The first thing to do was go through the pile of values and divide them into three piles:

  1. Definitely me
  2. Maybe me
  3. Not me at all

After that, I got rid of piles two and three and concentrated on pile one.

It became much harder now.

I needed to take that pile and divide it again into:

  1. Definitely me
  2. Not quite so much me

It was important to me to note that all the statements in this pile are things that I value. Getting rid of one out of the pile didn’t mean that I no longer valued that thing, it just meant that it wasn’t part of the group of absolute top values.

I repeated this step until I was left with a list of five values.

It was simple, but not easy.

I had three nights away. It took me two and a half days to cut my list down to five. 

When I journaled about those five values I found something interesting. There were two in that five that could be incorporated into the other three. Which brings us to another important point. Words, like Humpty Dumpty says in Alice Through the Looking Glass, can mean whatever you want them to mean. This list of values, it is supposed to clarify things for you. Not to lock you into a box. Not even to broadcast to others (like I’m doing now) so that they can lock you into a box. They are to help you live your life with clarity and purpose.

What the words mean to you, might be very different from what they mean to another person.

My top five values were:

Peace

Family 

Security

Wellness

Excellence

But as I journaled about them I realised that Wellness to me means peace in my body. So that comes under the value of Peace. And I value excellence in my work because it enables me to keep my job. So that comes under Security. (Also, my year theme, the Year of Order, comes under the value of Peace. As I bring order to my life, I get more peace.)

So I ended up, after three days, with three top values:

Peace

Family

Security

These values can be lived out in two ways. They can be selfishly grasped, or they can be lived for yourself and others according to God’s will. They are not morally good or bad in themselves, it all depends on how we live it out.

For example, I can approach the value of Security in two ways. I can save up all my money, work harder and harder, trust in my money, my investments, my work to give me the security I long for. If I do that, the Bible calls me a fool. I could be as ‘secure’ as I could possibly be and the stock market might crash, or even worse, I could die (like the rich fool in Luke 12). What would my security gain me then? Nothing.

But if I place my security in God then I will be ‘like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither’ (Psalm 1). 

Your values are your great strengths and your great weaknesses. It depends how you live them. 

I think this is an excellent exercise to prayerfully undertake. I don’t think you need a week’s retreat to do it, but I suggest you do it over a few days. I did not find this an easy undertaking. But I have found it super helpful.

And if you would like to share your top values with me, I’d love to hear them. Leave me a comment, or head to http://ruthamos.com.au and use the Contact Me box, or find me on Facebook or on Twitter @amos_rj.

What’s your sincere desire?

Advent 1

Happy New Year! No, I’m not losing track, not that badly anyway. It’s Advent. The start of the new year in the church calendar. The preparation period. Active waiting. All that stuff.

And just by coincidence I have been thinking New Years thoughts. And I thought you might like to hear them, because if you think them too, you might be prepared to make New Years resolutions, or intentions, or ‘word for the year’, or whatever you do to mark that arbitrary date of January 1 in the calendar when it rolls around.

You, and I, might be prepared to start 2019 in an intentional fashion, knowing what direction we would like to push out our boat.

My mother recently gave me a book to read on prayer. It’s called I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes by Glenn Clark. It was first published in 1953, though Mum’s edition was published in 1978. And would you believe, a quick search has found it on Amazon? I’m pretty blown away by that. So you can buy it and read it too if you wish.

I’m only a quarter of the way through the book so far, it’s one of those that you read slowly, and at this point Clark is talking about something he calls ‘your soul’s sincere desire’. He says that God wants us to pray for our sincere desire. And that he will answer our prayer.

But this is where it gets interesting whether you are a praying person or not, because how do you know what you really want? Deep down, what you want in the depths of your soul. Not what you want to keep up with the Joneses, not what you want because someone else thinks it’s good for you, not what you want because you’ve been going that way all your life and to stop now is unthinkable because of all the time spent building up to this one thing.

What do you really want?

Clark suggests writing a list, brainstorming, writing out everything you want. People, things, activities, jobs, everything. Just write it all out. And be specific.

Take time to write the list. I took two or three days.

And then test everything on the list.

The first test is: Are the things on your list true to your nature?

‘A robin could not possibly desire to swim, and a herring could not possibly desire to fly.’ he says. But we, us humans, we can think we desire something that we actually don’t want. Check with yourself. Will you be happy doing or having the things on your list? Is that thing truly right for your nature?

Here’s an example. I spent a lot of my life wanting big parties for my birthday. Then when the birthday came around I wanted to run away and hide. A big party is not something true to my introverted nature. It is not a sincere desire of my soul. Now I realise that what I really want for my birthday is a birthday card from as many people as possible (a Facebook wish works just as well) and maybe a few good friends over for a piece of cake and a glass of something. That is a sincere desire.

At the same time Clark says that it is good to ask for things that are true to your nature. He says that ‘the apple tree that refuses to bear apples because the poor elm tree cannot have them, is not helping others, but obviously robbing mankind.’

I have truly desired to write books. If I stopped myself from writing because other people do not have the time and space that I’ve been granted at this moment, then I really would be doing a disservice to others. It is good to fulfil your soul’s sincere desire.

So look at your list and cross off things that aren’t true to your nature. I took a day or two to do this too.

Next test: Are these things just? Will you be ripping someone else off if you get what you desire? Are you asking for that job, or house, or whatever, just because you selfishly want it? Or will you use it to help others?

Next test: Are you willing to work towards these things? I love this one.

He says let’s say your desire is a trip abroad. Have you prepared for that? Have you studied the country, its history, its culture, its language, its famous sights? If you haven’t then even if you got given the chance to travel, you wouldn’t get much out of the trip. You need to put the work in first.

Or if you want to be a famous speaker, have you practiced? Studied?

If you want to be thin and fit, have you exercised? Looked at your diet? Or are you just praying in the hope that thin and fit will magically happen?

If you are praying for new friends are you willing to be friendly to others?

Are you willing to work towards the thing you desire? It’s an interesting thought.

That’s as far as I’ve got in the book. I might share more thoughts as I keep working through it. I am spending a fair bit of time at the moment looking at my businesses and thinking about where I want to take them in the new year. I’m thinking about what success looks like for each of the businesses, what I’m heading towards. I’m finding these thoughts, these tests, very useful as I contemplate the businesses. Is this honestly what I want? Or am I building an idea on what someone else found was good for them?

I hope that by January I will have found my soul’s sincere desires and will be willing to work towards them in a way that is congruent with who I am, and that will bless the most people possible.

Oh, and I want to finish with a word of non-condemnation. I am not judging anyone here. I know that circumstances out of our control – chronic illness, poor mental health, difficult financial or family issues – can take our dreams and make them seem completely unachievable. I’m not trying to tell you to work harder or just figure it out correctly and that if you do you’ll be sitting on a bed of roses by the end of next year.

I guess all I’m saying is that I’m finding it helpful to have a bit of structure around figuring out where I want to go, and by the end of the process I hope I have a prize to keep my eyes on while I navigate the difficulties that 2019 throws at me.

I hope that these thoughts are helpful for you too.

As we look towards the new year you might find that a little book I wrote called ‘My Year of Saying No‘ might also be helpful to you or maybe to someone you know. It might make a good Christmas present for someone who needs some peace and space in their lives. Just a thought 🙂

As always you can sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. And you can help me with the expenses of this blog and my podcast by heading over to Patreon.com/quietlife and supporting me there. Thanks!

New Life

 

It’s a wintery day here in Tasmania, and as I write this the rain is pouring down and it’s snowing at every so slightly higher altitudes. The people moving into the unit just above our house have picked a great day for it. They’re going to have to move furniture in between rain squalls and I’m guessing they don’t even have a kettle unpacked for coffees while they are waiting.

The rain is falling but the birds are singing their hearts out. I can hear them just outside my window, their little voices so loud that I can’t even hear the rain.

It’s a reminder that spring, and with it new life, is just around the corner. The cherry trees are blossoming, and the bulbs are up and flowering. The sun is rising earlier and earlier. We’ve made it through the dark winter and into the snow season and there are some lovely warm days happening too.

I have been moving into my new season of life for about two months now. I thought I’d give you an update as to how it’s all going.

I’m still finding my feet. Sometimes I feel like I may never find them. The ground changes every week, every day, and at times it even changes during the day. Editing jobs come in with urgency and must be completed immediately, or they don’t come at all and I need to figure out which of the other things on my list is of the greatest importance. I am still working out how much time to spend on marketing, and how best to do that; how much time to spend on investing in the future by writing novels and other books; how much time to spend investing in people by having coffee with them.

However, I am loving this life.

On the weekend I had a coffee and chat time I’m calling a Writer’s Salon. This is a time that I’m putting aside for people to get together over a cuppa at my place and just chat about writing. I’ve held two of these sessions now, and I will keep holding them at about six-week intervals. They are great fun and I’m learning from those who come, and I hope they are learning from me too, or at least, feeling encouraged to keep going with their writing.

The Writers Salon was Saturday afternoon, and Saturday evening there was a showcase of songwriters called Word in Song that was held just down the road at our church. This was the seventh such showcase, and each year I have been tempted to go, but too tired, or too busy. But this year I went. I sat and listened to these creative people share their talents and it was great.

Two months ago I would not have been able to cope with two such people-intensive activities on the same day. Two months ago I’m not sure that I could have done either of them. Saturdays were for recovery, for hiding away from the world and getting myself some energy back.

Now I can join the world again. I have enough energy from spending time alone through the week to allow me to spend time with people on the weekend. To be with people Saturday afternoon and evening, and then to go to church on Sunday and still enjoy it.

I probably will never go to every event that is on. I still need more alone time than most people (at least I think I do). But this weekend, as I sat in the pew and listened to the lovely music, I felt like I was rejoining the world and it was wonderful.

I really had wondered as I wrote ‘My Year of Saying No’ and as I planned this new venture, whether it would ‘work’. Whether I would get energy from working like this, whether I would be able to do more reaching out to people, more sharing with others. Or whether I was doomed to always be stretched beyond my emotional resources. I am pleased to say that two months in I am filled with hope that the dreams I have had are achievable. With the time I have alone, I am energised to reach out to others. The Writers Salon, and work I am doing on starting a podcast (more on this later), and the talk I gave at Calvin earlier this week, and the fact that I could go to the Word in Song showcase and support my friends there, these things have been desires of my heart that have been waiting for some energy to allow them to happen. Now they are happening. I am blessed.

Sometimes when I think about my businesses my stomach contracts as I wonder if I’ll be able to keep landing jobs and keep this lifestyle going. But for now, I’m enjoying what has been provided for me. I’m giving grateful thanks. And I’m putting the work in (by myself, in the comfort of my little home office) to keep this state of affairs going for as long as possible.

I was listening to a podcast called Simple by Tsh Oxenrider (yes, that’s Tsh without an I) and was really encouraged by something she said in conversation with Emily P Freeman. I thought I’d share it with you.

They said that if there is something within you that you really want to do, something that won’t go away, then name it. Define it. Don’t just let it sit inside you, worrying at you, making you sick. Figure out what it is, name it.

Then, when you name it, you can either let go of it and work through the grief, if it’s not going to happen. Or you can take steps towards making it happen, and towards blessing others with this thing that you’re heading towards.

You’re not having a tantrum, telling the universe that you ‘have to have’ this thing. You are simply being honest about what you want.

So I guess that’s what I’m doing now. Working through, and towards, what I really want. And hopefully blessing people on the way.

I thank you all for your support and for the prayers of the praying people who receive this blog.

To never miss a blog post from me you can either sign up to follow the blog on WordPress, or you can sign up on www.ruthamos.com.au to my newsletter and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You can also find my book ‘My Year of Saying No’ on that website, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.