What are your values?

February 24, 2012

Philosophical, Self-improvement

Feeding my mind and soul while I am feeding my body is what does work.

by Irene Conlan — 

A practice I have developed over the years is reading a book while eating my breakfast. I call these books the “al” books — inspiration-al, motivation-al or information-al. I do this for several reasons but primarily to start the day on a high note or with a new thought.

I have done this for years and find it to be of great benefit. I wish I had done this with my family when my children were young — maybe just a short quote or idea that fed our minds while we fed our bodies, and gave us something meaningful to discuss as we started our day.

I know some say that you should be totally present when eating a meal, but that does not work for me. Feeding my mind and soul while I am feeding my body is what does work.

The book I am “eating” for breakfast these days is Choosing Happiness: Life and Soul Essentials by Stephanie Dowrick. I highly recommend it. It is one of those books that you can pick up, choose a page at random and always find something pertinent. I usually prefer to read straight through, but now and then I will do the random pick. Recently I came upon the following thought that seems perfect for reflection in these challenging economic times.

Discovering who you are and what your values are is a lifelong task that is frequently accelerated in the face of loss — loss of job, country, marriage, health, loved ones or friendship. When the familiar props fall, you are left with nothing but yourself, your values and these most crucial questions: What gives your life meaning? What meaning are you bringing to life?

These are complex questions and cannot be answered off the top of your head. However, you do not need to wait until you experience a loss to answer them.

Do you know what your values are? What gives your life meaning? Take a moment to reflect on each question before you attempt to answer.

A typical response would be to list the things that you think should be on your value list: honor, sincerity, love, family, loyalty, etc. An easier solution would be to do a Google search of the term “values” and choose from the lists of warm fuzzies. But this would not give you a truly personalized list, would it? There is no point in cheating if you are serious about consciously living and improving the quality of your life.

The more challenging but also more rewarding way to identify your own true values is to look at your life. You will find that the way you act and react is based on what you value.

What in your life shouts out your values? Do you consistently reach out to help others, demonstrating the values of love, giving, charity and caring? Does your speech reflect the value of positive thinking, education, kindness, thoughtfulness and gentleness? Does your body show that you value health, wellness and strength? When you examine your checkbook, does it reveal a dedication to helping others and to giving back, or does it speak of simply accumulating more stuff and satisfying whims of the moment?

The next question is equally important: What meaning are you bringing to life? Ask your spouse. Ask your best friends. Ask your co-workers. Ask your parents. Ask yourself, “What do I do that contributes to the lives of those around me?” Does the positive impact you bring to your home and community outweigh the negative? Are you a giver or a taker?

Do you build others up or tear them down? Do you reach out to help more than you reach out to be helped? When you find yourself in a group of complainers, do you join in or do you gently shift the conversation to talk about what is good and what is uplifting?

Listen to your own conversations. What do you hear? Are you proud of the way you conduct yourself verbally? Do you leave people feeling better or worse after having a conversation with you? Do you interrupt what they are saying so you can tell your own story before they finish theirs? Do most of your sentences begin with “I”? Pay attention to how others react to your words. Do they look surprised, annoyed or bored? Remember the rule that Thumper’s mom gave in the “Bambi” film: “If you can’t say sumpthin’ good about somebody, then don’t say nothin’ at all.” What does your conversation say about you and your values?

As you do your self-review, write down what you discover. After completing your list, sit with an open heart and mind as you reflect on what you have learned. According to the way you live your life, what values do you hold? Are they consistent with what you say you value?

Then ask yourself what values do you want your life to demonstrate? Be honest with yourself. If you are not pleased with what you discover, determine what you can do about it. Make a list of the values you want to uphold and visualize what your life would look like if they were already present. Then go about making it happen.

If, for example, compassion is a value that you treasure and want to demonstrate more fully, take a look at how you now operate on a daily basis. Can you find examples of compassion in your daily life? If you see an elderly man struggling to get his groceries in or out of the car, do you stop and help? When your neighbor is ill, do you ever ask what you can do to help and actually do it? Do you perform random acts of kindness just for the fun of it? These are not big things, but they are acts of compassion. Develop compassion in your heart and mind, and then let it play out as you find creative ways to help those around you.

Identifying what you truly value and making sure these values show up in your daily life can be one of the best things you ever do for yourself, as well as those around you. So, enjoy the process and do it thoughtfully, thoroughly and honestly.

 

Irene Conlan has a master’s degree in nursing, is a certified hypnotherapist and a certified past-life regression therapist in Scottsdale, Ariz. www.theselfimprovementblog.com or iconlan@cox.net.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2011.

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