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One of the first things I do with my clients is talk to them about what matters to them and take a core values inventory. So often in life we get caught up in stress and fear and we forget who we are and we stand for. Not surprisingly, straying from the things that we believe in the most deeply, cause us great distress.
A person who knows who they are and what they stand for is a person of integrity, who has less trouble making decisions, planning their day, acting with conviction, and resting their head easily on the pillow at the end of the evening. We all admire them, want to be around them, and wonder how they can be so strong.
With a little work you can figure out what matters to you too. Core values work is not about being who others say you should be. The values you choose are not those of your friends, family, spouse or society although it's a good idea to pick people who share your values! Values work requires tapping into what matters most to you deep down inside.
Surprisingly, knowing your values can also help you to tap into courage to overcome anxiety and depression. It can be the momentum you need to make a hard choice rather than to turn away or avoid or make an easy comfortable choice in the moment.
Being clear on your values and setting the intention to stay true to them each day can help you to do hard things.
With my clients this often turns into some of the most important work they do, and helps them to gain the momentum they need to push forward toward the goals they have been trying to meet, or to discard goals that were really not relevant in the first place and choose ones that are more meaningful to them.
Too many people choose goals that are not connected to their values, and they wind up on a path to unhappiness, checking off items on a list such as go to the right college, get the right job, by the right house, marry the right kind of women. Only to find that they feel empty, lost and very unhappy. Often this is because they are living a life that is inconsistent with their values. I have had many successful people on the outside, but unhappy people on the inside, find their way back to themselves by doing values work.
Once you take inventory of what's important to you, you can start to see where you are compromising and shortchanging yourself. Identifying these habits, helps reveal one path to depression and anxiety. Acting in a way that is contradictory to who you want to be, just plain makes you feel bad. Acting in a way that is consistent with who you want to be just makes you feel good.
The first step to doing this is to take and inventory of what is important to you.
This is a great form by Russ Harris, although there are many you can use, to start with. Remember, you focus on who you are when filling out this form, not who others want you to be, or who you think you should be. Take a few days to fill out this form and think it through and really narrow it down!
The bullseye form is another form I use with my clients. It helps you evaluate how you are doing in certain domains in your life compared to how you wish you were doing so you can zero in on where you need to focus. It divides up your life into
4. Personal Growth/Health and helps you see how you are doing in each area. Are you focusing to much on work or play? Are you neglecting your relationships? A great tool to help you assess how you are doing.
Other great ways to bring your life into balance include Steven Coveys personal mission statement. A personal mission statement can help you to align your life in the same way it helps a business keep it's mission clear. Franklin Covey's website will help you do this for free here . It's a great tool.
One final exercise is and exercise designed to help you think about what you want people to say at your funeral. Often this will help you to really get in touch with what matters in life. Bonnie Wrare who who wrote The TOP Five Regrets of Dying wrote that one of those regrets was " I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
Most of us don't honor who we are or our dreams. Then we wonder why we are unhappy depressed or anxious. Often these are symptoms that we are out of touch with the things that matter in life.
Writing your own Eulogy is an exercise that can help you give very careful consideration to who you really want to be when all is said and done.