Living congruently with values – what is most important to us – requires a focus on four key areas.
- well informed decisions and
- compatible action
Awareness and clarity about our top values is the place to start. Consider the top 5 values in different areas of your life. (You may have a longer list, but prioritise these back to the top five.) Health. Work life and Career. Social connection. Finances. Relationships. Personal development. General life values and spiritual or care of the soul values.
This self awareness then informs each choice and decision.
Commitment is an essential feature of living congruently with our values. This commitment is reflected in every choice and decision we make each day.
Being true to ourselves and living congruently with our values and needs is not always an easy or comfortable course to take. However, in the longer term, it is more uncomfortable when we are not true to ourselves.
Being true to our values may mean we risk disappointing or upsetting other people. This often invokes fears of disapproval, conflict or rejection. Fear of negative judgement or rejection from other people, is a common barrier to honouring what is most important to us. How often do you choose something or to do something that you really do not want to do? When everything in you is saying ‘no’, but you allow fear (or neediness) of some kind to make the choice? Usually this is a strategy to gain acceptance and approval. Sometimes the cost extends far into the future.
We may have to endure considerable ‘present pain for future gain’. Most people who pursue extensive study and demanding careers know very well the trade offs that have to occur. When something is important enough, we do what it takes. We are convinced it is worth the sacrifice or the effort. Excellent health requires commitment and discipline. Winning Olympic gold requires enduring commitment and willingness to do what it takes for many years.
Throughout our lives, we often have to make difficult choices or decisions. We may have to forgo a competing desire. For example we may put a high priority on both travel and buying a home, but find ourselves having to choose between these (at least in the immediate future). These kinds of decisions implicate other values such as lifestyle or security values. No decision occurs in isolation. A ripple effect of consequences is inevitable.
To make life shaping decisions that honour living congruently, carefully consider these questions:
- What is more important in the longer term?
- What is more important now?
- What am I willing to trade off?
- What am I not willing to do or risk?
- What may be the potential costs and regrets in this decision?
- Which choice or decision is likely to carry more potential for regret?
The most critical questions are those that address regrets. There is no easy ‘fix’ for regrets. The wisest course is to avoid setting ourselves up for regrets at the point where the choice or decision is made. Living congruently with our values, is the most effective insurance against regret. (See also the post What Can I Do About Regret)
Decisions made in isolation, or on impulse, can quite easily set us up for suffering and regret. Decisions made without sufficient consideration of the broader context can carry big potential for regrets. Avoiding tough decisions can also set us up for regret. How many people have you heard say ‘if only’ or ‘I wish I had/had not…..’?
We avoid tough decisions for a variety of reasons. The most ‘popular’ reasons are fear, guilt, anxiety, lack of confidence and habits like procrastination. Many people do not trust their ability to make the right decision for themselves.
We may be unbearably miserable, but stay in a damaging relationship because we are too scared to leave. Or we may stay in a job that we intensely dislike, (or that is damaging to our well being) because of fears about what could happen if we leave. For example, common scenarios are fears about finding another job or feeling guilty about letting down the employer or co-workers.
All of the barriers to living congruently can be effectively addressed. Techniques and processes can be learned that guarantee you make the right decision for yourself. Every time. Fears and anxiety can be effectively worked on. You can be helped to get clear about your values and how to live to them. Self esteem can be re-set.