Most of us hesitate to give much thought to one of the few certainties in life—the fact that we’re all going to die. Some might say that the topic is too morbid, but we’ve found just the opposite to be true. Whether working on our own lives or coaching others, it seems that when we become clear on how precious each day of life is, we live with deeper purpose and authenticity.
One step we can take to deepen our daily experience involves connecting more fully with our personal values. We discussed this in our last blog where we explored how to infuse our authentic values into each of our day-to-day activities. The practice works . . . but only when we do it. Truth is, for many people there’s often a disconnect between our professed values and our day-to-day activities, which means that we may find ourselves compromised.
To prevent such a disconnect, we recommend analyzing the degree to which you’re in harmony with your values by utilizing a Values/Activities sorter . . . something we provide in our Thriving Online Course. It’s simple. You simply list 5 or 6 of your most foundational values (the ones that really light you up) in a column on the right side of a blank page. Then list the main activities of the past week in another column on the left side.
Now estimate the number of hours you spent this past week engaged in each activity. Then move to the right-hand side of the page and make a brutally honest estimate of the number of hours you spent fully living each of the values you've listed there. By cross-referencing the two lists, you can quickly determine whether the time spent in activities coincides with the hours spent living your values. In other words, the degree to which you’ve learned to a) infuse your values into each activity; and b) engage in activities that more naturally allow you to model your values.
For instance, one of your core values might be creativity. But perhaps you spent 20 hours this week watching television. Being a spectator is not a deeply creative pursuit for most people. In fact, it's often a mere escape. So, that might be an example of a disconnect.
Even more alarming, you might discover that, although you spent 40 hours plus at work, not many of those hours were enjoyed, values-wise. That situation would warrant some sober contemplation. If we’re not fulfilled at work, we’re not fulfilled in life. So how might you better infuse your meaningful values into each activity (as we described in our last blog).
As we explore in our book, Thriving in Business and Life, when we are misaligned with our values, we tend to feel disconnected, we lack a deep sense of purpose and meaning, and we function from a sense of obligation rather than passion.
Our values can also become a compass that we use to navigate our lives. One way to develop this ability is to map the story of our lives on a big sheet of paper.
Start by placing an X on the extreme left side and marking that “birth.” Next, place another X on the extreme right side and mark it “death.”
Next, draw a line connecting the two and place a third X at the point where you imagine yourself to be on this life journey and mark it “now.” If you’re 25, that X will likely be closer to birth than if you’re 65.
Now, on the birth side of the page, list five to ten moments, experiences, or accomplishments that helped shape you and which may define your life up until now. Between “now” and “death,” list the qualities, values, and vital feelings you want to make sure you experience more fully before you exit this life.
This is not a bucket list of activities. This is a promise to choose activities, situations, and relationships that more naturally align with your values. It’s also a commitment to yourself to infuse your values into whatever activities you engage in. It is a pact between you and Life, to honor and live the remaining time life gives you . . . deeply and fully.
Acknowledging our mortality is a powerful way to consciously realize just how valuable every day is and to make the most of the years that remain to us.
Your Thriving Challenge for the week:
Create your life line.
Analyze your life to date and then what’s important to you in the future.
Take a few more minutes to create a values/activity sorter.
Using the two sheets together, adjust your activities for this next week,
to align them more closely with your deepest values.
Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding