Taking Care of What Is Important To You
Taking care of what is important to you is a lifetime project. It requires conscious and pro-active management.
However many of us tend to run on automatic. We compromise. We ‘put up with’ unhappy situations at work or in relationships. We wish things were different but resign ourselves to how it is. We are often fearful of going for what we really want. We get distracted.
When there is little room for anything new, we get more of the same.
When you maintain a deliberate focus on taking care of what is important to you, you open the way for happiness. For fewer regrets. For greater satisfaction with how your life unfolds.
The process begins with doing a life audit.
- How easily could you describe your top/priority values?
- What are your plans and strategies for actualizing them?
- Is how you live your daily life congruent with these values?
- In what areas are you not taking care of what is important to you?
- What gets in the way?
- What would have to change to be more in sync with what is important to you?
Gaining Awareness and Clarity
Nothing much can change until you are clear and definite about what you really want. The flip side is to be specific about what makes you unhappy or dissatisfied. Examining both of these areas will reflect what is most important to you – your values.
Begin by making separate, well considered lists of your top 10 values. The next step is to prioritise each list.
Do this exercise for each key life area:
- Core life values (e.g. freedom, peace, love and so on)
- Health and well being
- Family and friendships
- Couples relationships
- Lifestyle and
Values and how we define them, reflect a huge range of individual differences.
A list of work/career values, for example, might include job security, income level and opportunities for advancement. Maybe a family friendly workplace culture is important to you. Maybe you put a priority on challenges and variety.
Top values for relationships commonly include trust, fidelity and good communication. Some couples list compatible financial decisions, or quality time together.
Some of the values on your list will be easily measured and actioned. These include things like income level, or compatible decision making. Other values, such as ‘good communication’ require more clarity and detail. This clarity is achieved by asking the right questions.
For example what does ‘good communication’ mean to you?
- How would you describe good communication?
- What would be happening? (or not happening!)
- What would you be asking from your partner or work colleagues?
In the context of work, how would you define ‘challenges’? What are you seeking to achieve or experience? For example would it mean you take on greater responsibility? Would it mean having opportunities to extend yourself into new areas?
Core life values like love, freedom, wealth or happiness are too vague, general or abstract to be well managed. You need to be specific about exactly what each of these values means to you.
Consider the popular core values of freedom.
- How would your life be if you were ‘free’?
- How would you describe a typical day or month or year?
- What might you be doing or experiencing?
- What choices would become available to you?
For Peter, freedom is being single and renting on his own. He does not want the responsibilities and ties of home ownership. Sonia said freedom is having no debt. Jason nominated being a millionaire because it meant freedom of choice. As a student of Buddhism Lachlan nominated achieving a state of non attachment. Carol said freedom meant excellent health and fitness. She also put this on her list of health and well being values.
Plan and Take Action
Being clear and specific about our values is essential if we are to actualise them. We can easily assess how in sync we are. It allows us to regularly monitor and make timely adjustments. It makes it much easier to develop short term and long term strategies and plans to live to these values.
This self knowledge informs every choice and decision. Every day. Decisions and choices are much easier and more straightforward, when we can easily reference them to our priority values.
Are your current decisions and choices taking you towards what you really want? Towards what is most important to you? How often do your choices and decisions take you in the opposite direction? What gets in the way? What would you change?
All major decisions need to be congruent with taking care of what is important to you. Many major decisions have the potential for massive and long lasting impact. For example starting a family, or taking financial risks. To avoid potential regret, it is essential that these sorts of decisions are a happy fit with what we hold as most important.