How to Live a Values-Driven Life
“Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” ~ Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
It is likely you’ve read or know instinctually that our beliefs and values inform our perspectives, decisions, and behaviors. We put everything we see, hear, and do through the sieve of what we believe to be true and what matters most to us. But even though we know this intellectually, and even intuitively, not many people know the truths and values they operate from. I hope that by the time you finish reading this article, you will know.
In addition to my role as a corporate human resources executive, I am a certified life and leadership coach. I enjoy coaching people who are at inflection points in their lives. Perhaps they have spent most of their lives checking off boxes, achieving, and realizing a great deal of professional success. But they come to a point when they want more. The more they want is usually not another material gain.
What many people are seeking include things such as work-life-balance, inner peace, joy and personal fulfillment, a sense of meaning and purpose, richer and more satisfying relationships, clarity about what to do or where to go next in their lives.
Some even admit that they’ve never lived their own lives. They are strangers to themselves. They’ve lived lives meeting other people’s expectations, adopting other people’s truths and values as their own without consciously choosing them.
Now they are ready to figure out what they want for themselves. They want to live the life of their dreams, and they want to live authentically. That’s an Aha! Moment for so many people.
In all cases, the process begins with self-discovery. How can anyone live authentically, if they don’t know who they are at their core and what truths they embody, what values they represent.
To help individuals identify their values, many coaches use an exercise that starts with a list of several values (e.g., 100) and over a few iterations, probing questions, and insightful discussions, the person is to narrow the list to their core values – usually five innermost values. Another exercise is simply to have people list the values they believe are prominent in their lives and explain how those values show up.
Both of those exercises are good, but not great at surfacing someone’s truths and values. I’ve done them myself. I realize now that listing values is an egoic exercise. It’s like in Palmer’s quote above – we are telling our lives what truths and values we have decided to live up to. And while those values may be admirable, they are still fraught with biases, expectations, people pleasing, or a desire to fit in to some abstract norm.
If we want to live a values-driven life, authentically, we must let our lives speak to us and tell us what truths we embody and what values we represent. A values-driven life is lived from the soul.
How do we live a values-driven life?
- Inquire within. It could be a simple question, “What are my truths?” But then, it’s waiting and listening patiently for the answers to emerge.
“The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions.”
- Revisit your life stories and experiences. What values emerge in your life stories? Look for meaning in all experiences, and in your strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures.
“If I am to let my life speak things I want to hear, things I would gladly tell others, I must also let it speak things I do not want to hear and would never tell anyone else! My life is not only about my strengths and virtues; it is also about my liabilities and my limits, my trespasses and my shadow.”
- Ask, “How true is that for me?” Whenever you read something, listen to an “expert,” hear a perspective or are asked for your thoughts – pause. Refrain from accepting anything passively. Be a conscious participant in your life, and choose your thoughts, perspectives, beliefs, values, and actions as your own, regardless of what anyone else says or does.
“We listen for guidance everywhere except from within.”
- Confirm your truths and values daily. Every day you have opportunities to live your truths and values. If compassion emerges as a value for you, for example, then when given the opportunity, you will represent compassion toward others. It’s who you are.
“Verbalizing is not the only way our lives speak, of course. They speak through our actions and reactions, our intuitions and instincts, our feelings and bodily states of being, perhaps more profoundly than through our words. We are like plants, full of tropisms that draw us toward certain experiences and repel us from others. If we can learn to read our own responses to our own experience – a text we are writing unconsciously every day we spend on earth – we will receive the guidance we need to live more authentic lives.”
When you live a values-driven life, it’s not a life of striving. You are not striving to be someone you’re not or to please others at your own expense of identity. It is your most natural way of being in the world. When you embody your truths and represent your values, you will experience greater freedom, happiness, and wellbeing. Authenticity is our natural state.
“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live – but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.”
All quotes by: Parker J. Palmer in his book, Let Your Life Speak (buy it from your favorite bookseller)
Thanks for reading and being a part of the Your Aha! Life Global Community. I hope you found this article helpful and that you will reflect on what truths you embody, what values you represent. That is essential to living a life of wholeness and authenticity, which leads to happiness and wellbeing.
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With love and authenticity,
Learn My Story