“Could you explain a little more about what you mean by core values?” Lisa asked.
I think most people, including me, lack the ability to summarize their core values, and then shitty things happen afterward, and then we all struggle with trying to figure out why.
But THIS IS WHY the shitty thing happened. Because we don’t know what our values are.
Since we can’t go back in time, the only reasonable choice is to try to make tomorrow better than today.
Our inability to identify our values means we don’t REALLY know who we. And that prevents us from being able to communicate it accurately to others.
And that’s a problem. This non-programmed and ill-defined Life Navigation System is incapable of getting us to our desired destination without blind luck. Thus, whenever we’re not experiencing good luck that we may or may not have earned, life sucks.
I’ve been hammering on this point lately and it’s not just because I think I know things (I don’t), but rather because whatever personal advancements I’ve made in the past three years can be directly attributed to me honing in on my values and learning how to enforce my personal boundaries.
And on the flipside, everything about my life that sucks can be directly attributed to not honoring (or not knowing) my values in certain life areas, or compromising my boundaries (usually because it’s “easier” in the moment, even though we always pay for it later).
“What are Values and Boundaries? This Sounds Like Psychobabble.”
The words “values” and “boundaries” are the kind of words that always sounded like bullshit to me. They don’t sound like they mean anything. They’re just words adults used when I was growing up when they were droning on and on about things that weren’t fun to listen to, and if I HAD listened to them, I’d have had less fun.
Or would I have?
When I was young, I didn’t feel motivated to explore ideas like this or learn new things because everything was always good. I was healthy and safe. I felt loved by family and accepted by friends. All of my needs were met. Because I never wanted for things, I never had to ask myself how to get something I wanted, and then go through the growth process and hard work necessary to achieve it.
But then, almost exactly three years ago (April 1) my wife left, and my son didn’t live at home all the time anymore. I was sad, angry and ashamed.
I was nothing like the happy and confident person I used to see in the mirror back when nothing was wrong.
I was a broken, crying, terrified shell of that kid. If I’m not that person anymore, who the hell am I?
I didn’t matter, and I knew it.
I was weak, and I knew it.
I wasn’t worth a woman’s love or desire, and I knew it.
Those were hard truths to accept, but life is really hard sometimes. After a lifetime of mostly blaming others for anything that ever went wrong because it’s so much easier than raising your hand and accepting responsibility, I finally asked the right questions:
How did I get here? What could I have done differently to prevent this?
The answer is simple enough: I didn’t always live my values, and I didn’t always enforce my boundaries.
Suddenly, these “bullshit” concepts skyrocketed to the top of my This Stuff Really Matters list.
Here are two of my favorite explanations for these critical life concepts.
Here’s Debra Smouse at Tiny Buddha on VALUES:
Values are who YOU are, not who you think you should be in order to fit in.
Why is naming your values important?
Values are the backbone of life. They are the beacons on our path—in personal life and in business. When you identify your values and get clear with them, something magical happens: They come alive in ways you haven’t even imagined and illuminate and nurture your entire life from the inside out.
If we don’t know what’s important to us, we spend a lot of time wandering and wondering what we should be doing. There is tremendous power in discovering and living according to our highest values, and experiencing inner peace as the natural consequence.
Here’s Mark Manson on BOUNDARIES:
Healthy Personal Boundaries = Taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions, while NOT taking responsibility for the actions or emotions of others.
People with poor boundaries typically come in two flavors: those who take too much responsibility for the emotions/actions of others, and those who expect others to take too much responsibility for their own emotions/actions.
Why Does This Matter?
It matters because our lives suck sometimes, and outside of grieving the deaths of loved ones or developing a disease impossible to prevent, it’s pretty much always our fault. We feel INFINITELY more confident and in control of our lives once we accept this truth.
Your wife left you because you were a shitty husband.
Your kids rebelled because you made missteps as their parent.
You lost your job because you failed to make yourself indispensable.
You got sick because you make unhealthy choices.
You don’t have money because you’re unwilling to put in the work or take the risks it requires.
Your boyfriends always cheat and treat you like crap because you don’t love and respect yourself enough to not date men like that.
Bad things happen. And we really feel them because negative emotions tend to register more prominently with us than positive ones.
“A major reason for the more noticeable role of negative emotions is that they possess greater functional value. The risks of responding inappropriately to negative events are greater than the risks of responding inappropriately to positive events, since negative events can kill us while positive events will merely enhance our well-being,” Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeév wrote in Psychology Today.
Maybe everyone else grew up faster than I did, but I was in my 30s before recognizing that the common denominator in most of my life problems was me.
Because I want to feel happy (the real happy that comes from internal peace absent fear, guilt, anxiety and shame) more than I want most things, I made the choice to try to define my core values, honestly communicate my boundaries to others, and then ENFORCE them.
That means, when someone I just met at my birthday gathering says something that genuinely offends me and contradicts my core values, she and I will have a totally uncomfortable and not-fun conversation right in front of everyone, and then when she tries to play nice later and reach out to me via Facebook Messenger in an attempt to score a date, I don’t consider it, even though that’s something I probably would have done just three years ago when I was desperate to feel liked and wanted.
Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.
– Mahatma Gandhi.
Your core values are who you are when no one’s watching. Your core values are what you do and say because it’s your truth, and not what you do to win the approval of your friends, family, co-workers, classmates, neighbors or romantic interests.
Your core values are THE REAL YOU, not who we think we should be so people will like us.
When we live our values and enforce our boundaries, the only people in our inner circles end up being people who share (or at least respect) our values, don’t attempt to manipulate or take advantage of us, don’t bring unwanted drama into our lives, and who love, respect and accept us for who we REALLY are (and not because of what we do for them).
Not the bullshit nonsense I once chalked them up to be, but rather ideas with the power to change everything. For the better.
More on Values and How to Define Them
From Dawn Barclay at Living Moxie: How to Define Your Core
From sourcesofinsight.com: How to Find Your Values
From Mark Manson: WHERE ARE YOUR [email protected]#%ING VALUES?
More on Boundaries and Why They Matter
From Mark Manson: The Guide to Strong Boundaries
Originally appeared on Must Be This Tall to Ride.
Photo by Shutterstock.