Living a Life Based on your Values
Our values dictate our attitudes, beliefs and behaviours often without us even realizing it. So, how then do we determine what our values are and actually put them into words?
This can be a challenging question for many people. Part of the reason is that our values are so deeply ingrained within us, that they are driven by emotions and instinct vs. intellect. What do I mean by this?
If you’re into watching video, check out the same exercise on our YouTube channel
When we look at the human brain, there are two important components we are dealing with:
- The Limbic Brain, this is where emotions, motivation and learning occurs, and
The Neocortex which is involved in higher order functions such as problem solving, perception and language.
- Unfortunately, the limbic brain is disconnected from the language part of the Neocortex.
When the limbic brain transmits signals to our body, it is generally a feeling or an emotion that we can’t quite describe.
Think of that ‘gut feeling’ we have all experienced at one time or another. Without a connection to the language part of the brain, it becomes very difficult to put our emotions and feelings into words! The same applies when we attempt to articulate our values. This is a gross oversimplification of neurobiology but, I hope that helps to clarify what I am getting at.
The good news: with some practice and a few exercises, we can begin to articulate what it is we truly value and find important in our lives.
VALUES help to set the direction of our journey through life, and GOALS are the destinations along the way. Unlike goals, which are finite and eventually come to an end, our values are infinite. We never accomplish or finish our values. We simply continue along the path in the direction our values have set for us.
Let’s get to it:
How do we determine what are our values around living healthier lifestyle?
The first question(s) I ask my patients are:
Why do you want to be healthier? Or Why do you want to lose weight?
You’ll soon come to realize ‘WHY’ is the most important piece. The answers I often hear for these questions are: ‘To be healthy.’ ‘To not feel uncomfortable.’ ‘To be happier.’
Again, I pose the question ‘Well, WHY?’.
This is often met with bewildered looks, and the look of ‘What the hell do you mean WHY? Isn’t it obvious?’ Then I prompt a response back such as, ‘Do you want to be healthier so you can stay at home and “Netflix and Chill”?’ After, hopefully a chuckle and another bewildered look, this usually garners a bit more of a deeper dive – and – we start getting closer to an individual’s values.
‘I want to be healthier so I can have less pain in my knees.’ ‘I want to be healthier so I can play with my grandkids.’ ‘I want to be healthier so I can travel without worrying about my health.’
Now THOSE statements demonstrate something we can set our personal compass to. These are not destinations or goals. The most important thing to remember? If you can still ask ‘WHY’, you likely haven’t found your value or the deeper reason for wanting to make a change!
REAL-TIME VALUES EXERCISE:
1)Pull out a piece of paper and write down as many values you can think of, fill up the entire page!
2)Next, we need to create a value statement. Below are the simplest forms of a value statement, and you can feel free to use them or create any kind of variation that you feel works for you.
‘I want to be healthier so that ____________________’, or
‘I want to lose weight so that ____________________’, or
‘I want to live a life where my health is not preventing me from long into the future.’
Again, I recommend writing these statements out by hand as they generally become more deeply internalized. Write as many as you can. The more you put into this exercise, the more you will get out!
3) NOW – I want you to post that piece of paper somewhere in your home or an area that you will see it every single day. This will be a daily reminder for the journey you are embarking on!
So, why did we go through all this trouble? As I said above – our values dictate our behaviours.
When it comes to making changes and living a healthier lifestyle, you will constantly have to make decisions that will affect the direction you are travelling.
For example: To eat the cookie or not eat the cookie, to go for a walk or not, to pack a lunch or not, etc. Fundamentally you will have 2 choices. However, with your beautiful handwritten value statement(s), those choices will hopefully be easier to make and might look something like this:
‘If I eat that cookie I bet it will be delicious, BUT you know if I don’t eat that cookie then I will be living based on my value of being able to keep up with my grandkids.’
Now will this work every time? No. Also, by no means am I saying that one cookie is going to derail your entire journey, BUT the cumulative effects of eating a cookie daily, might.
What if it’s your grandkid’s birthday and there are cookies and cake around? Does living based on these values mean you can’t partake in any of the good stuff? HELL NO! The bottom line is that your VALUE in this case is your grandkids – hence, spending time with them on their birthday.
And guess what? Birthdays sometimes involve cake and cookies, and THAT IS OK! In fact, it is a fundamental component of a healthy lifestyle.
We will get into this more in future blog posts but, food is a large part of our culture and society. We not only use it for fuel, we use it for celebration, when we are feeling sad, or when we are spending time with the ones we love!
So, I hope this helps you in finding your values and setting the course for your journey, whatever that might be! If you ever feel like you are restricting yourself or avoid socializing with those you value because you might be too tempted by food…then we need to talk.