Honing in on your values

I often marvel at all the “time-saving” products and services that exist right now. You can do just about anything online, have anything delivered to you anywhere, at a moment’s notice, and hire someone to do pretty much everything except eat and sleep for you.  All of these things exist to make our lives easier, but are they really worth it? Is the time we’re saving enriching our lives, or fueling a busier and more stressed out life in the pursuit of “doing it all”?

Sometimes, the experiences that we are trying to make more “efficient” are experiences that are much better when enjoyed at a less frantic pace. Take cooking and eating, for instance. It can certainly be a chore if you are running around with a million things to do, and you just need to get something into your stomach NOW! This is why we have fast-food restaurants, take-out, delivery, microwaveable meals, nutrition bars, and packaged food that can be eaten in the car, or on the run. Maybe the problem isn’t that we need more ways to get nutrients into our bodies as quickly and easily as possible, but that we are sacrificing a fundamental need in the name of work, or productivity. Personally, some (ok, a lot, actually) of my greatest joys revolve around enjoying a meal. I love turning on some music, opening a bottle of wine, and cooking a delicious meal with someone I care about. I love having a good conversation on the outdoor patio of a restaurant on a warm summer evening. How do we reclaim these experiences?Our busybody culture isn’t going to change overnight, but we can make changes in our own lives. Instead of viewing productivity in terms of just doing more, think about it in terms of being more intentional with your time. Being productive about rest, self-care, and building relationships is as important as working towards your goals.

As we get busier and busier, we tend to lose sight of WHY we are doing what we do. Are you acting out of necessity, obligation, or enjoyment? Are your actions aligned with your values? What do you even value right now?? You can’t focus on what is important to you if you haven’t identified what it is!

Who is most important to you? This one may be obvious, but think hard about if you are actually prioritizing them. Sometimes we take for granted the ones we love the most, knowing that they’ll be there no matter what. Put them first on your to-do list. Schedule a date, a family dinner, or a fun event, and then work everything else around it. You can start small. I have a group of busy girlfriends that are really hard to pin down. Whenever one of us sends out a text to the effect of “let’s meet for dinner next week!” it turns into scheduling nightmare, and then we have to drop the effort entirely. We’ve since learned that we can schedule a time about every two months, if we do it in advance. It’s not much, but without that effort, the friendship could easily fade away. Make a habit of prioritizing your family and friends.

What do you love to do? What is the thing (or things) in your life that you are passionate about, inspired by, and puts you in a state of flow? If something doesn’t immediately come to mind, you need to get out and start exploring! For most of us, though, the problem is not figuring out what that thing is, but figuring out how to fit it in our life. Identify the reasons why you aren’t pursuing that hobby or goal (or aren’t spending as much time as you’d like). Is it a lack of time? Money? Confidence? Once you know what is holding you back, you can work towards changing your circumstances and finding new ways to do what you love. How can you adapt what you love to fit your life today?

What do you hate doing? What drains your energy? I’m an introvert. I enjoy intimate gatherings of friends, but I can get exhausted by large parties/celebrations, especially when it’s for someone I don’t know very well and I have to interact with a lot of strangers. Recognize what is not working for you and get comfortable with saying no. You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way.

What do you need to do to stay sane? Analyze your habits. How many hours of sleep do you need at night? Do you need a certain amount of socializing or alone time? What works best for you? Figure out what is non-negotiable, and what you have some wiggle room with. I absolutely have to exercise, or I feel really out of sorts, so I make sure I have enough time for it every week. I value reading time, but I’m okay putting it aside for a while when I have too much on my plate, so I can be more flexible with it.

Once you start to reflect on some of these questions, you will get a better picture of what you need and want in your life, and can edit out the things that are hindering you. As the rainy season starts, it’s a perfect time to go inward. Get cozy, get out a pen and paper, and start exploring. You’ll be thankful you did!