When our lives are designed and controlled to avoid painful experiences such as fear, we live in reaction to avoiding disturbance rather than by what is meaningful and worthwhile.
As we learn to build awareness and observe our inner experiences with greater distance, we can then choose to act in accordance with our values rather than react in response to inner discomfort. Living life in an automatic and reactive way limits our opportunities to grow, learn, and live authentically. Valued living is about genuinely being the person you want to be in this world; it’s about creating a life that is meaningful and valuable to you; and its about taking action and investing time and energy into the things that feed your spirit. Living in accordance with our values allows us to move down a path that brings fulfillment, worth, and happiness.
Living in a valued way is not to be confused with achieving goals or controlling the outcome of events. Many of us have been taught that we are supposed to control the outcome of things. If life would just go according to how we believe it “should,” then we will be happy and fulfilled. This is problematic because we have limited control over life’s happenings and other people’s actions. When life doesn’t unfold in the way it “should,” we label it as being “wrong” or “bad” or not okay somehow. By embracing this idea we are robbing ourselves of connecting with joy and value in the here and now. Valued living rather is about living each moment or each day in a way that is meaningful to you despite what the present circumstances might be. This allows us to be joyful regardless of how things unfold. Having specific concrete goals that help us move in a valued direction is okay, as long as they are held flexibly and with the understanding that the outcomes may not unfold exactly as we like. Values are never things that we finish or accomplish they are ways in which we live life, and this is what truly matters.
When we experience chronic unhappiness, emptiness, or lack of fulfillment it can be an indication that we have moved away from what we value. When something is really important and we are not manifesting it in our lives, this causes pain. For instance, if you really value connecting with people and are spending most of your time alone or withdrawing due to fear or insecurity, that will lead to unhappiness. Every human being has their own unique blueprint for what is important to them. The greater the discrepancy between what matters to us, and how much we are manifesting that, the greater the pain.
Lack of self-awareness, avoidance of emotional discomfort, fear, old painful beliefs about ourselves and others, being reactive rather than mindful, and maladaptive coping strategies all get in the way of valued living. We can’t take valued action until we know what our values are. In order to begin uncovering this, consider reflecting on questions like: “How would I like to be remembered?” “What would I want said about me at my funeral?” “What are the things that matter to me most in life?” “When do I feel most alive?” “What areas of my life are most meaningful to me and why?” With reflection, patience, and willingness to commit despite discomfort, we can all feel more fulfilled and alive.