Discover What You Value

sage wolfsong values and your to-do list blog title graphic

We're a month into 2018. How are those resolutions coming along? How about your goals and intentions? 

I'm writing this in the second week of January (yes, I planned the heck out of my blogs this year, and am ahead of the game, because I can be!); and I can honestly say that for the most part, I've knocked a number of my goals and intentions out of the park already (by the time this post goes live, several more things should be knocked off my to-do-in-2018 list).

So why are some people successful at their goals, and others aren't? I have yet to see any empirical evidence of this, but here's my hunch: The goals that are aligned with what you value, are the goals that have the greatest chance of being achieved.

Put another way: If you are setting goals based on what other people say you should be doing, you're setting yourself up for failure (and the whole boatload of guilt that goes along with it).

You can take any goal, and tweak it until you find a way to line it up with what you value. But before you can do that, you have to decide what it is you value!

In Barbara Stanny's great book Sacred Success, (affiliate link), she includes an exercise for finding your top 5 values. I've tweaked her process a bit, to make it a little more workable for me, and when you do this process yourself, you might find something that makes it more clear for you. Psst... I'm totally okay with that, by the way! (But hey, Karma's a thing, you know? If you want to use this in your own blog, I'd love a little credit!)

Finding what you value is both easier than you might think; it's also one of the hardest things you'll ever do. Because we live in an information-overload society, you'll have to filter through a lot of mental BS to find what's really you. So here it is, broken down into the basic steps that should, on the other end of the process, give you your top 3-6 values in life. (I'm giving you this lesson in a nutshell. It's important to me, to the extent that I created a course on Skillshare around this very topic. If you're already a premium member of Skillshare, you can find the course here. If you aren't, and you've never tried Skillshare before, you can get a free 2 month trial with this link, and take the class!)

  1. Get yourself in a quiet location, with a notebook, pad of paper, or your friendly word-processing program on your laptop (grab a pen or pencil if you're handwriting this). 
  2. Make a list of every nebulous concept you can think of that might be a value. Some examples are: wealth, education, family, religion, spirituality, healthy eating, environmental issues, sexuality, motherhood, etc. This is merely a list of ideas - a brainstorm of ideas for values. You will most likely find yourself adding to this list as you go along, so give yourself a few hours after making your list before moving on to step 3 (you can give yourself a couple days, alternatively, and just add to your list as things come to you). Optional: I created a worksheet for the Skillshare class on Values and Your To-Do List, and you can download a copy here.
  3. Review the list you made in step 2, and add any last minute ideas that come to you. When you feel you have your list as complete as you can possibly make it (I can promise you that you will miss something, and think of it in a later step - that's OKAY! Add it to your starting list to repeat down the road, because what you value will change over time.). Go through your "complete" list, and cross off any concepts that you are ambivalent about. Being super wealthy isn't important to you? Great! Cross it off. Being Supermom isn't all that important to you? Cool - cross it off, too. Being financially secure is important to you? Wonderful - do NOT cross that one off! (were you paying attention there? *grins*)
  4. Step 4 can be tackled one of two ways. I personally can't stand working (even writing) in a sloppy space, so when I do this, I pull everything that isn't crossed off, and create a new list; these are things that do matter to me, even if I have 20 ideas on this list. I'm going to narrow it down further, so hang with me, folks. If you can deal with the crossed off stuff, and not miss any of the items that you did NOT cross off, cool. Skip this step! [Note: If you do not have at least 6 values on your list, go back and see if you can fill in any gaps.]
  5. See if you can rank your new list in order of importance. Ties are not allowed here! In other words, if wealth made your list, and you feel it is just as important as being thin, but not as important as being Supermom, but it's more important than having financial security (confused? Wealth and financial security are different concepts on my personal values list) - something's gotta give. One will be the most important item on your list, 2 is the second most important, etc. Keep going until you have ONE item per ranking, and all the values on your list have a ranking.
  6. Review your list. Do those top 6 items on your list really, really, really matter? Make adjustments as needed. Once you're absolutely certain that these six items at the top of your list are truly what you value, cross everything else on the list off. Yes. I said cross them off. While you value those things, they are not going to be your driving force.
  7. Copy your remaining 6-item list onto a sticky note (or several) and place it wherever you work on your schedule, to-do list, or goal setting. 

sagewolfsong what do you value blog graphic

When you go to set your goals, or plan your to-do list - if it doesn't satisfy one of your values - YOU DON'T DO IT!

Yeah, I really said that. Don't do it if it isn't in alignment with your values. I believe this is why so many folks are so unhappy today. People are stressed out, pissed off, and generally irritating to be around, because they are living outside of their values.

So, what do you do about things like paying bills, visiting your in-laws, and taking out the trash? I can hear you trying to put those items outside your values (yes, I can! I've been there, too).

To some extent, there are some "shoulds" that you just gotta. 

Hubby and I have gone a few rounds about old debts. Yeah, I want to have financial security, and life would be a lot easier if I just ignored the old stuff, took care of the new stuff and socked money away in the bank for emergencies. I'd meet my financial goals a hell of a lot faster if I could look the other way about that old stuff that's eating at me.

However - Integrity is one of my highest held values. And I cannot look myself in the eye (in the mirror) and say I'm living in integrity if I skip over paying those old bills. So they remain on my list of things to be paid off (and I set a dollar amount every year for how much I want to pay off in that 12 month period).  I might change how I prioritize what gets paid first, based on goals for that year, but in the end tally, I want every one of those bills paid OFF.

It's not just a matter of a sparkly clean credit score. It's my integrity on the line. So I do it.

Conversely, I've dropped a few things off my to-do list when they no longer fit my values. I've unfollowed speakers and thought-leaders when their personal views became more important than whatever they were teaching when I started following them, and like everyone else, I have exactly so much time per day - I'm not going to spend that time reading through someone's preachy personal agenda, when I followed them to learn how to think for myself.

Because independent thought is a highly held value in my life, I'm not going to waste time with the people who say, "Think like me, or you're an idiot!" I also do my best to avoid saying that in my own blogs and newsletter. (If I do, feel free to call me on it!) Variety of thought is what makes the world a better place - we learn new things, develop new ideas and technology, and make new connections because of independent thought. So go be independent!

Okay - Rant aside... Now that you have your list of values, make sure that you're doing something each day that supports each of your values.

Creating is important to me, as is storytelling, so I spend time daily, writing.

Independent thought is important to me, so I spend a little time each day, reading something I might otherwise dismiss as "wrong" - it challenges me to think for myself and question what I know.

Financial stability is important to me, so I spend time each morning, balancing our accounts, reviewing our credit card status and checking all avenues of income for our businesses.

You get the idea. 

Drop into the comments below (Yes, I know this was a very, very long blog post), and share what you ended up with on your list, and how you'll support your values each day.

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