A friend of mine is writing a graduate school admissions essay. You know the kind. You look at your life and explain why you want to get the degree or certification or credential in question. When he told me about the essay, we started talking about our values and how they align with what we do every day.
I thought I knew my values, but I was surprised once I started listing them that I have more values than I realized. If someone had asked me how many values underlie the things I pursue or the way I behave, I might have said four or five.
Of course, I saw an opportunity to write, so I started listing and describing my values. I came up with sixteen before I decided to stop (for now). After all, how much can I expect you to read!
Aligning Values with Actions
I enjoy things that align with my values, like nature, animals, music, the arts in general, and baseball. I’m not exactly sure where baseball fits in, so I’ll put it with family. It’s a connection I’ve had with my dad since I was eight years old, and in the beginning of our relationship, my husband and I bonded over our love for the sport.
I share my list not because I think you care what my values are, but because you may recognize something that resonates with you. If you want to share your list with me, I’d be honored!
My values are…
Spirituality – I value seeking and staying on the path to God or enlightenment (same thing in my mind). I’m not sure if spirituality is a value. Maybe faith in something greater than me is what I should call it. Or knowing who I truly am. I’m not sure how to explain this, even though it has been my primary value for as long as I can remember!
Silence – I believe that except when we have something useful to say, it’s best to be silent. It’s in silence that we learn to recognize truth.
Kindness – No one likes meanness. If you’re with people and you’re not helping them feel better about themselves, you’re better off being silent. That said, I recognize it’s not always meanness that prevents others from feeling good. Some people cannot accept kindness. They are the same people not likely to be kind. So, again, if your kindness is not received, be silent. The value of kindness is probably obvious. If you’re not sure what’s valuable about it, be still and notice what you feel next time someone is kind to you.
Simplicity – I think the more we have and do, the more crowded our minds become and the lower our vibration becomes. If you’re a spiritual seeker, you know that vibrating at a higher frequency is the key to transcendence and enlightenment. So, I don’t want a lot of stuff or too many places to be or too many superficial relationships. I don’t want a house full of things or a closet full of clothes. I want the energy to flow, and that requires simplicity.
Being organized – Clutter and chaos slow the flow of energy as well. I was born with the ability to organize, so maybe this is more of a trait than a value. It’s also another reason I value simplicity. It’s easier to keep things in order when you don’t have a lot of them!
Discipline – Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today tends to be my motto. In my case, it might even be don’t put off until noon what you can do at 8 am. I know this makes me unusual, but it’s who I am. I’ve never been able to procrastinate.
Listening – You will learn much more by listening than speaking. You will grow much more by listening than speaking. And interestingly, you will help more by listening than speaking. If you have ears to hear (as Jesus said), do so. Listen. Hear. Reflect. And then you will know what to do.
Gratitude – If you want to be happy, be thankful. I learned about the power of gratitude gradually, mostly from my yoga teachers, who speak about it often. They do this for a good reason. Gratitude has the power to fill your life. The less you think you have, the more you’ll gain from being grateful. I’m serious.
Following through – If I say I’ll do something, I do it. And I do it by the time I say I’ll do it. In my work, I never miss a deadline. Of course, because I value being reliable in that way, I’m also careful not to commit (or appear to commit) to things I’m not sure I can do.
Learning – In the past, I would have said education. I come from a family of educators. I earned a master’s degree but didn’t think that was enough. I wanted a PhD. I now realize I wasted a lot of time in school meeting requirements when I could have been out there actually learning something. I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to learn.
Integrity – Integrity is a kind of honesty that isn’t so much about conveying facts versus fiction but honesty in intention and staying true to my values when I make choices about what to do or what to say.
Care of Creation – I try to value all of creation. It all deserves to be treated with awe and respect. This includes inanimate objects in my care, such as books, my home, and my yard.
Helping others – This is certainly a value, but I mention it with a caveat. We often think helping others means bending over backwards to do everything for anyone who asks, even things that don’t align with our natural gifts. Our natural gifts are ours for a reason. We have them to serve. When we align with them, helping others comes naturally too.
Animal rights – One of my favorite quotes is Gandhi’s quote about animals. The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. The more I explore this idea, the more I see the truth in it. We can learn a lot about life from animals and a lot about compassion and kindness from people who treat them well. Unfortunately, we also learn a lot (mostly about greed and selfishness) from people who mistreat them.
Family – Here, I expand the definition of family to anyone—whether related by blood or not—who you love and who loves you as close to unconditionally as humans are capable of and who is as committed to your well-being as you are to theirs. And by that definition, of course, biology is no guarantee that you are a family.
Health of body, mind, and spirit – Here is another way my work aligns with my values. I should also say that my interest in health is mostly holistic. Mind, body, and spirit are intimately connected, and I’ve explored that from every angle for decades.
Humor – Without a sense of humor, life would be much more boring and difficult than it needs to be. I sometimes think talented comedians do the most good in this world.
Creativity – I don’t have a great way to explain why I value creativity, but if I value creation, then I guess it makes sense that I value creativity.
I encourage you to think about your own values, and maybe make a list (be prepared for it to keep growing). If you do this, you may be surprised by how much bigger your life feels and how much more sense it makes.
If you don’t feel that, it may be because you’re not living in alignment with what you value.