In an extract from their book “A Simpler Life”, Lucy McCarraher and Annabel Shaw give you an exercise to help uncover your core values.
Imagine you're at a party to celebrate your life: let’s say it's your next big birthday – so not too far away. The room is filled with your friends, colleagues and relations. People have travelled long distances to attend this event. You know them all and care deeply about what they think of you.
When the speeches start, three people speak about one or two of your greatest achievements or strengths.
The first person talks about your family and friendships: about the values that underlie your dealings with those closest to you, touching on the child you were, your home life now, your relationships with extended family and close friends.
The second person tells the audience what it’s like working with you – not necessarily just in paid employment, but also your contribution to the communities you live in or are part of.
The third speaker, someone who has known you a long time and whose judgment you trust, speaks about you as a person – the qualities that make you ‘you.’
What would they say? Imagine their appreciation of those things you’ve been most proud of in your life; but also their honesty in gently holding up your faults to the light. Can you recognize some of the core values that they believe are the guiding principles of your life? Do they mention some incidents or attitudes that you don’t feel are really in tune with your personal values?
This is different from knowing what you consider to be your core values because this time you have to imagine what other people think your values are, judging from your actions and behavior.
Do they come up with the same values that you yourself have identified in your list of six?
Are you happy with what they've come up with? Think about that for a minute.
Now let’s move forward to another party. This time it’s your 90th birthday, so there’s even more to celebrate - and time to have made changes.
What would you like those people to say now about your relationships, your achievements, your personal qualities?
Already you may be asking yourself how you should change things now to ensure that in the real future, at your real 90th birthday party, your friends are able to say what you would like them to.
The more conscious you are of your own core values and the way you live them – as opposed to the more general values we all hold - the easier it is to align your choices with what feels right for you. And feeling right or wrong is often a simple way of making a decision that reflects the authentic you. Listen to your gut feeling; it will usually tell you where your true values lie, when your rational mind can’t decide.
Lastly, here’s a quick way to put your values into practice. Within the next hour, do something that reflects one of your six values. Are you committed to helping others? Make an appointment to donate blood, or sign up to be an organ donor. Have you realized that you’re deeply dedicated to your family’s happiness? Leave work early and go home with a surprise treat. Do you want to promote green values? Refill your water bottle from the sink and don’t buy any more bottled water. Notice how living up to your values in simple ways will help you feel good and true to yourself.
Once you’ve gained a good understanding of where your true values lie, you’ll find it increasingly easy to spot where conflicts and complications can arise.
You’ll then be in a position to make simple choices based on your authentic and very personal values – rather than what others might wish or expect of you.
Your life – and the choices you have to make – will become simpler and more real. You’ll know in what direction you should be headed, what will enrich your life and what will not; what to say yes to and when to say no.
You see? Simple. – Lucy McCarraher and Annabel Shaw
Lucy and Annabel are also the authors of "The Real Secret - what to do when the universe hasn't delivered".