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.

Preparing for Success

This is the blog post I was thinking of writing when the fires got intense here in Tasmania and I chose to write about that instead. I’m glad I’m finally getting it out now. It’s a bit late because I completely exhausted myself on the weekend helping to cut down the trees that were overhanging our house and I took a day to recover. I’m all recovered now, so here it is!

A couple of weeks ago I was the guest on a podcast. It’s a writing podcast called The Prolific Writer and I was interviewed about my writing life, my methods, my influences and so on. You can hear it here if you’re interested.

The host, Ryan J Pelton, lives in the centre of the USA and it was fun to line up times and dates and find something that suited both of us. I got up a bit early; he was interviewing me from mid-afternoon the day before.

I listen to Ryan’s podcast all the time. It’s one of the podcasts on my list for inspiration and advice for my writing life. I was incredibly excited, as you can imagine, to be a part of it. And I was a bit hopeful that I would find a new audience for my writing as well. An audience in the USA. I was hopeful that maybe I’d make some sales through it. That maybe I’d become ‘successful’.

Now, this brings up a whole swag of ideas. What is success? What does that word mean? What does it mean to me? What does it mean in different circumstances?

In one way I am already successful. I’ve written and published two novels and a self-help/memoir, and I have another three books on the way. If finishing a book equals success (and in my mind it does) then I’m successful. I have also successfully published a blog for four years and I have successfully produced a podcast. This counts. It really does.

But I’m afraid I want more than that. I actually want a large audience. I want to make a living from my writing. That has been my goal since 2010 and it is still my overarching goal. And I am not near that yet, folks. Not nearly there.

So I went on the podcast with Ryan, I answered his questions (some I answered well, some poorly) and at the end he told me that the interview would be live on the Saturday and I suddenly got butterflies in my stomach.

I suddenly realised what my idea of ‘success’ would mean in my life.

When we look at successful people, whether they be authors, sportspeople, movie stars, politicians, or celebrities of any kind, I think that most of us feel we have the right to judge them. We have the right to criticise their words, their clothing choices, their mistakes from 30 years ago, their life choices now.

I realised that if I get the viral audience that I think I want, it will give people the right to discuss (with me or with each other) what I should have said, what I should have written, what I should have done. People will feel a certain ownership of me and will see my flaws so clearly and wonder why I am not dealing with them myself when they are so obvious.

Now people will hopefully see good things as well, and be blessed and uplifted by my words. But I know that I can easily find myself being more critical of famous people than I am of ‘normal’ people and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that to happen to me.

Because I am still me. And no matter how many people follow my blog, and how many buy my books, I will still be me. Still stuck in the fog of figuring out who I am. Still unable to clearly see my own path. Still unable to see the splinter for the plank, the wood for the trees. Sure, I have some bright rays of insight, but each day I just go through the day like any other person, and selling more books or having more followers will not make my life any easier to live.

I thought through this for a while, then I had a chat with Moz and things became a bit clearer for me. Firstly, I realised that in a way I am already there. I already live parts of my life in public on Facebook, Twitter, and on this blog. I like to do that. I like interacting by text. I like writing deeply about my life here, and in my books. People read my work and feel like they know me. And to an extent they really do. And so far, people have been very kind.

So in one way I can’t ask, ‘Do I want to live in public?’ because I already live in public. I’m already there.

Secondly, the people who read my books now are mostly people who live near me. My friends and family and church family are reading my stuff and talking with me about it. If they feel like they know me better, then that’s good. If someone over in the USA feels like they know me better, it’s not going to lead to more awkward conversations in the supermarket. I already have those 🙂 I don’t think it’s going to get worse with a larger audience.

And finally, I can choose to inflate or to mitigate the problem. I can choose to write something controversial that will attract a viral audience, but will also attract strong criticism, and attract the trolls. Or I can choose to quietly write whatever small wisdom has been given me, and slowly grow an audience that is kind and gentle, my tribe. And that is the path I choose. I want to be friendly, comforting, a big sister to talk with. I don’t need success at the cost of losing what I believe in.

It’s two weeks now since the podcast interview went up, and unfortunately massive success has not yet come my way. So all these thoughts, in one way, look a bit foolish now. But I keep hearing from my mentors that being prepared for success is just as important as being prepared for failure, and I’m glad I went through the thought exercise.

We’ll see what comes my way in the future.

If you’re undertaking a project, or starting a business, or even just in your life, have you thought about what success is? Have you defined what it is that will make you feel successful? Have you prepared yourself for what you’d do if that actually happened? I’d love to hear about it.

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