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Energizing your Life with your Values

by Michelle Maxwell(more info)

listed in healing, originally published in issue 51 - April 2000

Think for a moment and consider the things you most enjoy doing: a walk in the forest or a day at the beach, watching a beautiful sunset or re-potting your plants, painting a picture, helping someone, completing a project on time or skiing down a mountain. When was the last time you had that experience and what was it like for you? Was it wonderful, full of fun and laughter, exhilarating? Did you feel alive, energised, at peace, connected, happy?

Those special moments you remember and enjoy are the first clues to discovering what is important to you in your life – what your true values are. In this sense, values are not about moral standards but much more about what motivates, fulfils and nurtures your wellbeing. Your values are qualities, standards or principles which you consider to be worthwhile or desirable. They are a shopping list of essential ingredients necessary for you to lead a wonderful and satisfying life. When you live in tune with your values you are more likely to have balance in your life. You are likely to become energised and excited and very much more delighted with your life and your decisions. Knowing what is really important helps you to create a bright and enticing future to live into rather than a past to live from.

For many people, there is a spiritual element to their values – a spiritual link between their values and some sort of higher purpose. When they live life according to their values they are following a spiritual direction finder which is helping them to fulfil their life purpose. For others, values give a sense of what is right for them, and are very much part of the everyday choices they make, even the little ones.

Your values can influence:

* where and how you live;
* how you behave;
* the skills and abilities you learn;
* the relationships you have;
* the charities you donate to;
* the career you choose;
* the priorities you place on relationships and activities;
* how you spend your money;
* how you divide your time;
* how you relate to the rest of the world;
* how you think and feel about yourself;
* what you hope to achieve.

Choose the five mostimportant values from each area. Are they compatible with each other or do they
conflict in any way?

Relationships Values

CareerValues

Life Values
Closeness
Sharing
Identity
Love 
SharedConsciousness

Companionship
Appreciation   
Freedom   
Fun   
Acceptance

Friendship   
Comfort   
Support   
Security   
Warmth   
Validation   
Contribution 
Stability   
Laughter  
Tender Loving Care

Flexibility   
Pleasure   
Passion   
Adventure
Trust   
Self-expression
Sensuality   
Honesty   
Integrity   
Duty   
Respectability 
Drama   
Status   
Being Connected
Health   
Growth 
Sexuality
Making a difference
Ambition   
Fun   
Fulfilment   
Excitement   
Growth
Success   
Contribution   
Social interaction
Pride
Challenge   
Security   
Pleasure   
Self-esteem   
Confidence   
Achievement   
Identity 
Freedom   
Independence   
Power   
Love   
Passion   
Self-expression   
Making a difference
Responsibility   
Integrity   
Status   
Duty   
Respectability   
Health   
Validation 
 
Expression of Beauty
Belonging   
Loyalty   
Laughter   
Personal Development 
Drama   
Commitment
Self-Acceptance
Give Love
Self Love
Excitement
Personal Development
Freedom
Harmony
Self-esteem
Confidence
Health
Balance
Challenge
Change
Wisdom
Creativity
Nurturing
Understanding
Security
Fun
Peace
Honesty
Fulfilment
Integrity
Choice
Compassion
Awareness
Passion
Trust
Safety
Adventure
Orgasms
Family
Self-expression
Beauty
Sensuality
Exploration
Duty
Respectability


Often, people have not taken the time to look deep inside and discover what is truly important to them. Yet when you are living to someone else's values, usually inherited from family or friends, you are living to how you should live and that can be pressurised and joyless. Living how you could live is much more light-hearted and fun. When we talk of values, we often think we have a shared understanding and are talking about the same thing, but each person has their own way of fulfilling a value. We all want to be happy, but what makes one person happy may make another completely dissatisfied. Many of us still want the same things – a good job, a good relationship, a good life – but it is our own individual values which guide us in knowing what good is. Our values are completely subjective and can mean different things to different people. Furthermore, the things that are important to you can change over time as you grow and learn and your circumstances change.

Sharon and Cathy

When I first met Sharon at a workshop she was suffering from anxiety, stress and slight depression. She felt that there were times when she could feel her heart pounding so hard with worry and stress that she thought it would explode. Her relatively new, handsome and exciting husband was drinking heavily, running through their money and she suspected, conning other people out of theirs. She lived in fear of the bailiffs appearing at her door. She knew that she was desperately unhappy, but did not know what to do or even what she wanted instead. When we spoke about values she acknowledged that what had attracted her to her husband initially had been the excitement, passion and drama of their relationship and a life built around that. However, after three years those old values no longer appealed. As she began to look at the moments she was happy and what she would like ideally in her future she realised that she had come to value peace, love, friendship and support as her perfect relationship. She no longer wanted a life full of drama but instead wanted love, friendship, contentment and security in her future. Getting her to look at her values and imagine what her life would be like living them every day gave her the courage to talk to her husband and she soon realised that they wanted very different things. With a clear picture of the kind of life she wanted she took difficult action and separated from her husband and her previous lifestyle. Six months later she is well on her way to creating an ideal life for herself. She is happier and healthier and is convinced that the stress and anxiety of her previous lifestyle would have killed her early in her 50s instead of the long and healthy future to which she is now looking forward.

Like Sharon, your values can help to give you direction. Knowing your values can be the best compass and time management tool you will ever need. Instead of filling your time with the urgent but unimportant stuff right there in front of you, you can start to prioritise, make decisions and do what will bring you the best in happiness in the now and in the future. That doesn't mean that you can do away with the mundane, it just means that the mundane does not become your life.

Cathy was a young mum who was very happy with her life and her family. She and her husband had planned a second child but it had not happened as planned. After tests, Cathy discovered that there was a medical problem which may prevent her from conceiving. Needless to say she was very upset about the situation and was taking stock of her life. She decided that she had neglected her physical health and would start visiting the gym to get healthy and fit. To make the time and money to make it possible she would give up her creative writing course. However, when she started to examine what was really important to her she realised that her creative writing course was fulfilling the values of creativity and exploration for her. When she was there in the classroom discussing books and new ideas for stories she was alive, expressing her creativity, passionate and completely enthralled with what she could produce. No other area of her life made her feel that way. She also realised that she obtained a great deal of inner peace and connectedness when she visited her local church. She rarely made time for it, but when she did, she was uplifted and more loving towards herself and her family. When Cathy imagined living her life by fulfilling her values every day, she visualised a future that was bright and colourful and full of love, the most important value for Cathy. Now she would definitely be making time to get fit and healthy but also finding the time to do the other things that seemed to nurture her spirit. In the presence of her values a clean kitchen floor was no longer that much of a priority. Cathy also confirmed for herself how important giving love to another child was. Consequently, she is finding out about other options including IVF and adoption. Getting in touch with her true values allowed Cathy to make decisions day by day that would bring about the great future she envisioned. It gave a future filled with hope.

The Importance of Knowing your Values

Knowing your true values can also confirm that there are things you don't want in your life. If your values are not being met, you are likely to become dissatisfied, depressed, disheartened, resentful or bitter. Lethargy and drudgery can become the recurrent theme in your life. If Cathy had given up on her creative writing, her visits to church and her desire for more children, she would have been fine but her life would have been dull, flat and flavourless compared with the one she is living now. Once you identify your values you can use them to create a life which is empowering, energising and fulfilling – a life which is right for you!

Try it for yourself.

There are no right or wrong values, only your values. Here are some values which others have mentioned as values they want in their life (see Table). Use them as a prompt and add your own.

As you read the list you will notice that some values will appeal more than others. Take note of the ones that particularly feel significant for you. Trust yourself – some of them will just feel right or ring a bell for you. Some may sparkle and shine compared with others. You will know what is right for you! Values are very personal.

When you are clear about what is important to you in each area of your life and what is important to you overall, you are in a much better position to keep your life stress free and balanced – and a lot less likely to lose the things you value. If spending time with your family is very important to you, but being successful in your career means putting in a lot of time away from home, you have a hard balancing act to achieve. Unless the rest of your family share your sense of success as being important, they may not always be willing to take second or third or fourth place.

Prioritise and note the five values you must have in your life in hierarchical order. Start with the most important.

Ask yourself:

1 When did you know you didn't have it?
2 When did you know you did?

This will help you to recognise what you do and don't want in your future. Think about finding different ways to bring your personal values into your life and start finding other behaviours to fulfil them. If you love going out horse riding and galloping your horse over a field, the values which this fulfils may be freedom and exhilaration. You may enjoy those same qualities performing on stage, windsurfing, riding a motorbike or jet skiing. The more ways you have of fulfilling a value makes it easier to adapt to life's changing circumstances. It allows you to be flexible and initiate change yourself, knowing that you can find ways to bring about what you want in your life.

Once you are clear about your top five values, imagine what your life would be like five years in the future if you were fulfilling your values day by day. Is that a future which energises you? If it doesn't, what's missing?

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About Michelle Maxwell

Michelle Maxwell is a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming. She discovered NLP in 1996 as a mature student studying for a degree in Human Communication. Since that initial discovery she has trained to become a Master Practitioner of NLP with one of the originators of the field, Dr Richard Bandler. In addition she has had the pleasure of learning from some of the most skilled innovators and trainers of NLP; Eric Robbie, Sid Jacobson, Reg Connolly at Pegasus NLP and Jo Cooper and Peter Seal of Centre NLP. The inspiration for this article comes from her book When What You've Got Is Not What You Want – Use NLP to create the life you want and live it to the full written in conjunction with her friend and fellow author Sandra Cain. They have pooled their combined talents to create a company which empowers other people to go for their own dreams. Tel:01425 470611, e-mail Michelle.M@btinternet.com.

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