It’s been a while since I took the time to write something to share with others. There have been multiple changes in my life in the past few months and it feels as though every single idea, thought and emotion that has been in my heart, mind and body for the last few years is trying to come out from the place I stored it while I was in a season (one that lasted way longer than it needed to) of productivity, and non-stop doing. I’ll write more about the changes and my experience while navigating those later. Today, I want to write about something that has come up in conversations with friends and family and something that has really helped me navigate this season of change with more joy and less fear and anxiety.
Since I can remember talking about our values has been part of a moral conversation. A moral conversation that in my personal experience always had more to do about others than myself. A few years ago, when I thought about values I always thought about things like respect and honesty which of course are principles to live by, but the thing is, I always thought this meant showing up in the best way possible for others and not myself. I’m not exactly sure when, perhaps when I turned 30 or maybe running a small business made me face and question things that I had never thought about before, but at some point, a few years back I started to really question what I thought my values were and why they were important in my life, not for others but for myself.
If you know me personally you have probably heard me talk about this or if you have taken any of my classes (all of them have been created specifically for designers and the stationery industry) you have most likely listened to a version of what I’m talking about here. And I will probably talk about this for as long as I can because I truly believe that recognizing our values as our life changes and our worldview evolves is the best tool to help us make some of the most important decisions in our life and ultimately it works as a compass that shows us the direction in which we are heading.
As I mentioned before I used to think that my values ultimately told me how I should show up for others. But was I really being honest with myself? was I respecting myself? For the most part, we think we know ourselves because how wouldn’t we? We live with ourselves every day, most of us make our own decisions and we are the ones experiencing our own life. But, when we start sitting down in silence, listening to our inner dialogue, being aware of our thoughts and emotions we can quickly recognize that there are MANY thoughts and feelings within us that are not cohesive (should we say honest?) with the decisions we make. It took me a while from the moment I recognized this to the moment I found the courage to actually do something about it and be honest and coherent with the way I felt and the way I acted.
This is when I changed the way I thought about values and how I actively integrated them with my way of being and how I wanted to show up for myself. I started by changing the way I asked myself what my values were to “what do I value?” it’s a simple change but my brain processes this question completely different. When I ask this, the answers immediately come to me in a way that feels honest and not rehearsed (because we are used to saying my values are: xxx) I also love the fact that this question allows room for growth and change. What I valued a year ago may be different to what I value today and again, I truly believe this is our compass the tool that will help us navigate our life in the most authentic way possible.
When I first started to ask myself this question it was evident that the one thing I valued the most was my time and the flexibility and freedom to use my time in ways that made me happy. But of course, we all want time the question is what do we want to fill our time with?
As many of us know, 2020 was a year that made us realize many things that we were previously ignoring, or that we were simply not aware of. Many of us recognized that we were not happy with our lifestyle in general… that included our jobs, our day to day and weekend activities etc. The problem was that even though we were able to recognize this we didn’t really know what we did want. And this is when the question of “what do I value?” changes everything.
I’ve consumed hours of audio books, reading books, podcasts, retreats, meditations and a lot more personal development content that have helped me develop a sense of self-awareness as well as tools and strategies that have inspired me to do this simple exercise to recognize what I value. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to put my thoughts on paper. We allow our thoughts and emotions to occupy space every day, every hour and every minute just like my friend, whom I promised to I would write this, told me the other day… “I give these ideas time every day when I shower, while I ride my scooter, when I’m walking… I know I’m unhappy where I am, but I don’t even know what I want. And the thing is I haven’t really taken the time to sit down and ask myself, what do I like?”. I think this is the story of most of us.
So, what is the simple exercise I do to identify what I value?
First, grab a big piece of paper and something to write with.
Even though when I’ve written down the things I value I haven’t referenced a list of common core values; I recognize it may be helpful for some people. I would suggest to first think and write down what you value without referencing any list. You can then see if there are any things that resonate with you from the list I’ll share. This will help you be more intuitive and authentic with your answers. This is a list that James Clear has shared on his website: https://jamesclear.com/core-values
Then, write down those things that resonate with you in order of priority. I will give you my own list so you can reference it. My list includes:
Next, I want to identify the type of verbs/activities that can fall under each of those values. The first thing I noticed in my case was that under Connection I had two pillars: Connection with myself (aka spirituality) and Connection with others.
This is what I wrote under each category:
With myself: Meditating, journaling/writing, exercising, attending retreats, reading, gardening, walking in nature, cooking, creating
With others: attending group classes, meeting up with friends and family, talking, calling, texting, cooking, eating, traveling
meditating, reading, taking classes, watching documentaries or movies, listening to books or podcasts, traveling, challenging myself, writing
attending a class, practicing yoga, stretching, walking, running, working out, joining work out challenges
meditating, gardening, going in nature, going to museums, traveling, watching movies or documentaries, designing, eating, cooking, shopping, visiting pretty places
gardening, designing, meditating, painting, drawing, cooking, writing, working with my hands
You will quickly notice that there are some activities that show up under different categories; those are the ones I want to practice more often/daily. Then I identify those that I can do once a week, once a month and so on. So now you can write down on a different piece of paper the following:
Daily activities to put into practice:
Meditating, Journaling, exercising, reading, gardening
Weekly activities to put into practice:
Cooking, going to group classes, designing, going out to eat
Monthly activities to put into practice:
Visiting a museum, going to a garden, watching movies or documentaries
Yearly activities to put into practice:
Traveling, visiting pretty places, shopping, challenging myself, joining work out challenges
Although this is an incredibly simple exercise it brings so much awareness to the things that we actually care about. And the best part of it all is that not only it gives us clarity of the things we truly value but it also shows us those things that we give too much time, space and thought but don’t provide much fulfillment in our life.
“You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.” Alexander Den Heijer
I want to say so much more about this, but I realize I’ve already written 3 full pages on this subject. So, for now I will end this by telling you to start with this simple exercise, recognizing what you value and inviting some of these activities that spark joy in your life. The more we do this the more we practice being authentic and honest with ourselves, every decision no matter how small (like choosing what to eat for dinner) or big (finding a job) will become easier because there is nothing more freeing that honoring ourselves.
Give yourself a moment of connection
© Nat Otalora 2022. All rights reserved.
The more I do and create the more I want to share with others.
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