How to live in sync with your values

It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”- Roy Disney

In today’s busy world, personal decision-making quality suffers as we tend to be fairly inconsistent in how we invest our time and energy. Most of us are easily distracted from making the choices that bring real meaning to our life and fall into the trap of living by different priorities everyday. Our important life choices often get lost in unessential trivialities as we don’t choose our priorities consciously. If you had tough time making a decision about something in some situation, it is most probably because you weren’t clear about what you value most within that situation.

Our personal values serve us as effective decision-making guidelines that help us to remain congruent, consistent and balanced in our efforts to reaching our goals. But, how do you know what your values are? Growing insightful of what compulsions drive you and what instincts dominate your actions, you can decide upon what your highest and most important values are.

Understanding values..

Our personal values are central to who we are – and who we want to become. They are the foundation of how we think, act and feel. They stand for our most meaningful ideals that inspire us to persevere when going gets tough. Values format our attitudes, drive behaviour, guide decision-making, lead direction and build perception. Our interpretation of our own life experiences may be one of the strongest source of our values. We also personify and adopt values from people we love and admire, from our culture, religion, political and social environments.

Types of values

Our core life values are two types; ends and means. Ends are what you truly value most–the end values you are pursuing, in other words, the emotional states you desire like love, security and happiness. Means are simply ways for you to trigger these emotional states you desire. For instance, family and money are merely a means to achieve your end values like love, security, comfort and happiness.

When we are not clear on the difference between means and ends values, we tend to keep ourselves busy pursuing means values instead of achieving what we truly desire –ends values. This is the reason, many people set goals without knowing what they truly value in life and fall into the trap of pursuing means as if they were the ends that they were after.

The Value-hierarchy

We also are constantly motivated towards certain pleasurable emotional states and have a tendency to value some emotions more than others like success, love, freedom, passion, health and comfort. These are our moving-toward values because these are the states we always desire to achieve and will do more to achieve than others. Thus, we all have a hierarchy of moving-toward values that control the way we make our decisions in each moment. For instance, some people choose passion over comfort and freedom over security.

Similarly, the relative levels of pain we associate with certain emotions will affect all of our decisions. We try to avoid experiencing emotions like anger, loneliness, humiliation, rejection, failure or guilt. These are our moving-away values, while you want to avoid feeling all of these emotions, some are more painful than others. Thus we all have a hierarchy of moving-away values as well. For instance, if you put humiliation at the top of your list of emotions you would do the most to avoid, then you consistently avoid entering any situations where you might be judged harshly.

Once you know what your moving-toward and moving-away-from values are, you can clearly understand why you head in the direction that you do on a constant basis. Also, by seeing the hierarchy of your values, you can see why sometimes you have the difficulty making certain decisions or why there may be conflicts. For instance, If your number-one value is security and number two is adventure, then often you will come across challenges when cycling between two incompatible values. A simple change in your values-hierarchy can help you solve this difficulty.

Why personal core values are so important?

By making your values as a personal compass and then committing to live by them, you can point yourself in the right direction to make right decision in any given situation. They represent our unique, individual essence and act as the primary driving force behind our actions and behaviours that provides us with a set of ‘rules’ to live by. They also help us wisely manage our personal resources such as time and money and play an important role in our mental well-being.

Most people though are unclear of what’s most important in their lives. They waffle on any issue and never take a stand for right things in their lives and thus decision-making becomes a form of internal conflict for them. This is not true for people who have clearly defined values. If we are not clear about what’s most important in our lives and what we truly stand for, then we cannot lay a foundation for a sense of self-esteem and have the capacity to make effective decisions. To discover your values is to connect to those goals or areas that are most important to you.

Knowing your values changes your behaviour

Your core values influence what you focus on, how you perceive reality, how you evaluate things and the behaviours you choose or choose not to indulge in. Not using your internal compass results in frustration, disappointment, lack of fulfilment and leads to unhelpful habitual patterns. Many people try to distract themselves from those empty feelings by filling the gap with the behaviour that produces a quick fix change of state. This behaviour becomes a pattern and people often focus on changing the behaviour without dealing with the cause. Anytime you have difficulty making important decisions like personal growth or security? Adventure or comfort?, long-term progress or instant-gratification? it’s the result of being unclear about your values.

Understanding our personal values increases our awareness of the way we think, feel and act and helps us to learn about the issues that can have negative effect on our productivity. Also helps to overcome and change our unhelpful behavioural patterns.

So, How to live in sync with your core values ?

If our goals and decisions are not aligned with our core values, we will find ourselves lost, disorganised, and ungrounded in most aspects of our lives. Not syncing them leads to dissatisfaction, resentment, bitterness and frustration in some instances. To avoid this, you must make a real effort to align them with your personal and professional goals. Here are some steps to identify your values and sync them with your values.

Determine your most important values

Although your personal core values may not exactly match anyone else’s, understanding what they are helps you become more focused and effective decision-maker. Identify what’s important to you. Reflect back on a moment where you felt happy, fulfilled and proud of yourself. Take few moments to remember when you felt incredibly regretful. Identify a time when you felt frustrated, unfulfilled, empty or annoyed. Make a list of activities where you experienced flow.

Which values are most important to you? What are your passions? What values do you truly desire to cultivate and live each day? what makes you of value to those around you? What qualities do you identify in yourself that you believe others may find of value? What do your values need to be in order to achieve the goals you desire ? Brainstorm these questions and make a list of your important values.

Self-assess your values to gain clarity on your life’s purpose and kind of goals you would want to achieve.

Establish your value-hierarchy

Prioritise your top values. This step is usually most challenging and also most important, because, when you’re faced with a decision, you may have to choose between solutions that will satisfy different values. That is why it is important to establish values hierarchy to know which value is more important to you. To do this, make a list of your top ten values. Look at the first two values on the list and ask yourself, “If I could satisfy one of these, which one would I choose?” Work your way through the list, comparing each value with each of the other values until you’ve got your list in the correct order.

What values are of priority and occupy the top of your list ? What benefits does this order of values provide you with? In what order do your values need to be in order to attain your goals? What other values would you need to add to increase the quality of your life? What values should you eliminate from your list to improve yourself ? What benefit do you get by having a value in a particular position on your value- hierarchy?

These self-reflecting questions can help you create new list of life priorities that you can commit to. Taking control of your value hierarchies helps you to transform your unhelpful habits, makes you more focused and goal-oriented.

Align your goals with your values

If your values are not aligned with your goals, then you will continuously sabotage yourself and frequently fail to reach your objectives. Your values must be aligned with your personal circumstances, with your goals, and ultimately with your purpose. When you come across conflicts with your goals and values- hierarchy, then changing the position of your values in your hierarchy can help you to align with your goals. See which values you might get rid of and which values you might add in order to create the quality of your life you want. For instance, how would your capacity to deal with fear, frustration and rejection be affected by deciding to place courage high up on your moving-toward value list?

Which of your values are aligned with the goals you would like to achieve the most ? What are the underlying reasons for achieving those goals? Which of the values are compatible with other important areas of your life? Answering these questions can help you connect to your goals to your ends-values and not means-values.

Identify potential conflicts.

It is important to realise that each of us has value conflicts within ourselves. For instance, Do I be honest and say what I think, even if it will hurt someone’s feelings? Seems like a conflict between honesty and compassion. When people have a major values conflict, inspite of taking huge steps forward, they will say or do things that sabotage their very personal, emotional or physical success they are pursuing. For instance, If you select success as your top moving-toward value, and rejection as your top-moving-away-from value, such a hierarchy leads to self-sabotage as your brain has already decided that feelings of rejection are the ultimate levels of pain, it will therefore make the decision that the pleasure of success is not worth the price and as a result, you end up sabotaging yourself before you truly succeed in order to avoid the pain of rejection.

Organise your values-hierarchy to ensure that there are no conflicts. You can do this by exploring your moving-away-from values: What feelings do you seek to avoid most? What don’t you want to ever experience? What next will you seek to avoid most? Think about all the emotions that you rather would not want to experience again, whether that’s anger, criticism, judgment, fear, stress or guilt to avoid your potential conflicts with your moving-toward values.

Connect your personal and work values

Are you practicing your personal values in your work? Are your personal values consistent with your organization’s values? If not, identify the disconnect and create an action plan to find congruence. Ignoring the issue can create tension and resentment. If your personal values are not in alignment with your organization’s or workplace’s values, either choose to work in an environment with greater alignment or see the disconnect as an opportunity to further develop into your own leadership and help the workplace evolve by communicating about where you see the potential to progress.

Reaffirm your values

Values guide our decisions. Whilst our values in life are constant, our priorities are always changing; therefore how we prioritise our values are susceptible to change. Also It’s helpful to remember that our values often change as we transition through various stages of life. For instance, while pursuing your academic goals, you might consider knowledge as your priority value. But after choosing a career, your values may shift to independence and security.

Some strong emotional impulses or adversities can also alter our choices, decisions and actions. However, there are some personal core values that we would never want to compromise like integrity, honesty, health, empathy, love, selflessness and so on that remain constant. Such attributes are truly core and won’t change. Reaffirm some of your personal core values and check your top priority values to make sure they fit with your life and your vision. Do the values you’ve chosen make you feel good about yourself? Do these values represent things you would support, even if your choice weren’t popular? By reaffirming, you can be certain to keep a sense of integrity in your decisions and will be able to approach them with confidence and clarity.

To conclude,

It’s not always easy to make value-based choices, but it will make your life much easier in the long run as you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation. When many options seem reasonable, it can be comforting and helpful to rely on your core values and use them as a strong guiding force to point you in the right direction.

So, Are you living your life in accordance with your values? How do your values make you feel? Do you feel they are consistent and in alignment with your work or organisational goals? When making your most significant decisions, what are the values you base them on? Which values are vital to your work environment? What is your values-hierarchy? Are there any conflicts in your values-hierarchy? What are some of the feelings and emotions that you mostly want to avoid? What are your moving-towards values, freedom or success or security or adventure?

These are the essential questions that you must ask yourself to live in sync with your values. Identifying and taking the time to understand your values is an important and challenging exercise. Follow the above strategies to identify your core values, establish values-hierarchy, and rethink on the position of some of your values in the order list to remove the potential conflicts.

“Focus on making choices to lead your life that aligns with your core values in the most purposeful way possible.” —Roy T. Bennett

How to let go of your toxic thoughts

Every thought we think is creating our future.”― Louise Hay

Our thoughts and emotions shape our experiences. We become what we feed our minds. The decisions and choices we make determine the direction we take in our lives, and we do so by our thoughts. Thoughts if aligned with our goals and with what we want to achieve can take us forward—and, obviously, this is the direction most of us want to take. But many times, we fall into a repetitive pattern of negative thinking that often takes us in the opposite direction. Negative/ toxic thoughts become the driving factor in a negative lifestyle that take us away from our goals and objectives, whereas positive thoughts often lead to motivation and success.

Our thoughts have huge influence on the choices you make.

We are all engaged in a continuous internal dialogue in which the meaning and emotional associations of one thought triggers the next, without us being consciously aware of the process. We launch our desires in the form of a thought and they play an important part of our inner wisdom. A thought held long enough and repeated enough becomes a belief. We shape our lives by the choices made around these beliefs and build our identity around them.

We contribute towards the creation of every condition in our lives with our internal thought process influencing us. But when we get involved in negative emotions and feelings, we begin to compare, criticise, form opinions, and make judgments that can be detrimental to our well-being. Our minds like to throw lots of thoughts at us all the time and many of them are mostly unhelpful. Such unhelpful negative thoughts can create toxicity reflecting unhealthy comparisons between an ideal and reality.

What are toxic thoughts?

In our default mode, our mind hops from one thought to an other creating toxic thought cycles. Toxic thinking is a survival strategy our minds come up with, that constantly activates the body’s survival response. This is a way of dealing with feelings such as not feeling “good enough”, “deserving enough”, or “having enough”. Such feelings are natural way of dealing with issues and other stress situations. It is very easy for us to turn to toxic thoughts because we are hardwired to over think and be extra critical of ourselves.

How toxic thoughts sabotage well-being and productivity

Some of our toxic thought patterns create the conditions for our illnesses. Physiological reactions caused by toxic thoughts affect our well-being . This is because our subconscious mind manages all of the “built-in” processes that help our body function. This happens through neurotransmitters or brain chemicals that help communication between the mind and the body.

Our subconscious brain is hard-wired for survival and can not distinguish between real or perceived threats. Toxic thoughts ignite fear based thinking that signals the brain to release stress hormones and puts your body in high alert to cope with the perceived danger. Thus, when faced with threat, it triggers a psychological stress response and releases stress hormones which our body is only equipped to cope with for short periods of time. Unfortunately in our modern hectic lives, we are faced with stressors every day, be it real or perceived. This constant stress responses floods your body with stress hormones which can be harmful to your immune system.

Our brains constantly tend to flip-flop between the past and the future. Thus, past memories and perceptions can create repetitive patterns of negative thoughts. When we constantly replay in our minds, events and people that harmed us, or incidents that upset us or made us angry, we get locked in a negative loop. These recurring thought patterns are toxic to us both physically and mentally affecting our well-being and productivity.

Also, Self-deprecating thoughts can batter your self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. When you become your highest critic, you stop taking action, start making excuses, stop sharing and you start to live like you’re not enough. More negative thoughts, more are the chances of making bad choices and this can further sabotage your efforts of creating the life you would dream of. It is simple fact that positive thoughts lead to better choices and thus to a positive life. Negativity leads to limited and wrong choices.

How to let go of toxic thoughts

It is essential to notice when your inner dialogue is turning toxic. Adopting strategies to consciously acknowledge, identity, accept, and letting go of your toxic thoughts can be an effective way to detoxify yourself. To truly create long-lasting improvements in your productivity level and well-being, it is essential to let go of your toxic thoughts. Here are some toxic thoughts you can to let go in your future self improvement goals.

Procrastinating thoughts like “ I’ll do this later” or “ I’ll start tomorrow” is often an excuse for not taking responsibility of how to change or improve yourself. Putting off something you need to get done leads to more stress. Being intrinsically driven and adding structure to your routines can be effective in warding off your thoughts of procrastination. Stop giving into short-term gratification and be committed to long-term health and fulfilment.

Thoughts of victim hood like “It’s all their fault… “ or “ I am a genuine victim” Playing the victim card can be a huge obstacle in pursuing your goals and makes you feel that someone else should take care of you, take responsibility for different areas of your life including your health and happiness. Stop blaming other people or circumstances for your problems or difficult situations you are in. If you don’t like where you are now, begin to take personal responsibility to empower yourself to change your circumstances and situations to achieve your desired goals.

Thoughts of constant comparison like “I am inadequate” or “ I should have” or “ if only I was” result in thoughts of insecurity, jealousy, resentment or unworthiness. We compare ourselves to other people and take the differences and create toxic thoughts around them. It is important to understand that everyone has their own struggles and it’s not right to compare our lives to what we think others’ lives are like. This leads to thinking that we are deficient or defective, failing at life or broken. This type of thinking can quickly impair your ability to succeed both personally or professionally. Instead of always trying to keep up with something, work on improving yourself.

Thoughts that focus on the past like “my past equals my future.” or “ I need to stay safe.” Many people operate from this idea that past equals future, i.e., if you had faced rejection in past, therefore they avoid taking risk or to come out of their comfort zone. Similarly. a lot of negativity comes from the past especially when it comes to personal or professional relationships. We all tend to keep a piece of our past with us to protect us from being hurt again. But if you continue to bring past into your present, you will end up self sabotaging your present and create toxic thoughts that constantly resist ‘what is’. Look to the past to prevent yourself from repeating mistakes but do not obsess about the past so much that it impacts your present and future.

Worrying about the future like “ I’ll never get what I want.” Just as dwelling on the past is toxic, over worrying about the future can make your thoughts more toxic. Tying your happiness an achievement in the future is like postponing your happiness to a later moment which is not in your control. Instead change your thinking pattern so you are not always waiting for your circumstances to change. It’s important to give some thought to the future so that you can come up with a plan to reach your goals, but over obsessing is never good. Forgetting to live in the present can have serious implications on your happiness and success.

Worrying About What Others Think like “I must be approved of by everyone or I am not a good person.”This is an extremely toxic thought because you think others are judging you. Constantly wondering what the people around you think is useless because no matter what you do- good or bad- someone somewhere will always think something. No one is judging you as much as you are judging yourself. So, Let go of worrying about what others think about you and pursue what makes you happy.

The need to be always right or “I know I am always right.. “ or feeling that you always need to prove that you are right. It feels good to be right, but sadly the world doesn’t always work to your advantage and there will be times when you are flat out wrong. Such times, admitting that you are wrong is a much more noble and mature thing to do. Always wanting to be right becomes limitation in learning new things and leads to stagnation. The first step in getting unstuck is to stop telling yourself you always have to be right. Besides, everyone has a different opinion. So why not have yours and let them have theirs.

Thinking that you can change others. You can only inspire and motivate people to be their best selves to some extent. You cannot change other people, you can only change yourself. It is not your fault that other people are the way they are. We all have free will to do what we want with ourselves and it’s not your responsibility to try and change that. Only they can truly change themselves.

To conclude,

So, which of these toxic thoughts will you let go starting from today? what other toxic thoughts are holding you back and interfering with your well-being and productivity? How many “could-have”, “would-have”, “should-have” and “if-only” statements are part of your inner voice? How many times have you replayed in your head a conversation or situation that pained you or that hasn’t even occurred yet? Are your goals and purpose aligned with your thoughts? How distorted is your thinking about the future? Are you forming a personal identity around an illness or condition? Focusing on these questions can help you narrow down to your toxic thinking patterns.

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in negative, toxic thoughts and let little things get you down. Make time each day for a mindfulness meditation. Focus on your breathing and being present in the moment. Identify your toxic thoughts that are interfering with your personal and professional goal-striving. Accept and let go of them to clear and detox your mind of the negative, so you can stay healthy, optimistic and productive.

Letting go of toxic thoughts and people who bring a lot of negativity to your life, are major steps towards being happy.”

⁃ Neeraj Singhvi