Determining what’s most important to us makes deciding where to live, work and spend our free time all that much easier. These are known as personal values. A guiding compass we can turn to when faced with decision. Our values stem from the upbringing we had, our belief system, personal experiences, moments of healing and trauma. They tend to look different for everyone. Brene Brown has curated an incredibly diverse list ranging from humility and compassion to wholeheartedness and stewardship.
Discovering our personal values and coming to lead a life that is driven by them is easier in theory than practice. It is not straightforward in the least. Your true self and sense of purpose are developed throughout different seasons and stages. You evolve as different versions of yourself are drawn out. It’s easy to confuse your values with your behaviour when in reality the two are independent of each other. Your essence, your truth, is not the career position you occupy, the skills you’ve honed or your interests. This is ironic because many of us would struggle to describe who we are when forgoing labels. Simply put, we must focus on our intrinsic, God given qualities, not our extrinsic developed abilities. Values are guiding principles that inform the way we move about our lives.
Becoming intent on self discovery can encourage us to look at the bigger, broader picture to discover common themes and links between the topics, people, projects and experiences that light us up and show our inner shine to the world. This doesn’t require a complete overhaul of self or a change your life course. An expensive seminar won’t do the inner work for you. Rather, by removing self judgement and following our intuition, we can cultivate peace.
Paying attention to the attitude, feelings and drivers behind how you talk about your life is an incredibly helpful tool across the board. You will begin distilling your core values through this process and come upon many enlightening realisations. Sometimes abiding by your values requires you to step outside of your comfort zone. Finding alignment with your true self will make this worth it. Putting your thoughts to paper isn’t akin to carving your values in stone. They will naturally manifest themselves differently over time and perhaps change entirely. Your teenage diaries, for instance, may not be a perfect map for what your adult self will look like.
Remember not to get caught up in judging what your inner voice is saying. Just let the words flow. Breathe easy. Forcing an answer will only serve to distract you and remove the purpose and intentionality behind this practice. It will skew your perspective. Feel free to analyse and deconstruct later. Imagine yourself as an archaeologist when you revisit your journals, carefully removing the dust of a scattered mind to find more profound meaning.
Write down your ideal morning routine, right down to the small details:
Will you sleep in till noon? Does your quiet time involve bible study, meditation, yoga, reading? Do you drink artisanal coffee or pop over to Starbucks? What’s your go to coffee order? Do you go for a run or walk at dusk? Do you spend time cuddling a pet? Do you have kids to look after? Do you eat a savoury or sweet breakfast? Do you sing in the shower? Do you pop on a face mask? Acai bowls or smoothies? Do you make the bed?
Values to consider: Balance, Leisure, Self Discipline, Routine, Independence.
Write about your future self in present tense. Do so in a matter that is optimistic yet realistic. Be true to you and don’t focus on perfection. Your creativity should bring about clarity like a developing polaroid shot:
What do you see around you? Do you live in a big city apartment with downtown views? Do you head to bed with a glittering skyline beyond the clear glass of your home, the sounds of traffic and the bright lights of marquee signs calling you? Alternatively, do you live in a rural cottage home with a white picket fence, a thriving garden of tulips and sweet farm animals to keep you company? Perhaps you live in a terrace home surrounded by nature and street art. Be open to designing your dream future. Let your vision run wild.
Values to consider: Competence, Travel, Adventure, Exploration, Personal Development, Environment, Career, Mastery, Family, Parenting, Risk Taking, Finances, Vision, Contribution, Home.
Who are your heroes? Are they living or dead, fictional or real? Who do you aspire to be or share a meal with?
Do you resonate with an adventurous spirit, content heart, a justice oriented and bold voice? Which values and forces propel your role models? What are their drivers? Do you feel as if the same values motivate the thoughts and actions you put out into the world? Do you admire celebrities, politicians, activists, presidents, actors? What do you consider to be a valuable contribution to the world?
Values to consider: Advocacy, Equality, Compassion, Adventure, Altruism, Vision, Justice, Grace.
What art and media moves or represents who you are? Are you visual or auditory? What impact has this creation had on your worldview and sense of self?
Write about your favourite movie, song, show, book or album in the most raw and unfiltered way you can to uncover why it has stuck in your heart and mind. Can you make a connection to your piece of media and a real life experience? Does it tie into memories of a person or place? Are you inspired or motivated by the words it contains? Do you feel like you can relate to them? Do they soothe or validate parts of you that feel messy and broken? Do you feel powerful and in touch with the creator of this work? Does it transport you back to a time or place that you long for again? Does this work do justice in giving meaning to what you feel you can’t adequately express?
Values to consider: Art, Beauty, Creativity, Connection, Nostalgia, Comfort, Self Expression.
Consider your social circle of friends- Do you have a lot or do you keep your relationships small and close knit?
Do your relationships overlap? Are you friends with family members? Are your relationships both elective and predetermined? Is there a common thread between the people you are closest do? In what ways do you keep close to your loved ones? What makes you feel most connected to a person? Is there equal give and take? What are your relationships built upon? Are you able to maintain connections long term or do the people in your life drop off once you leave a common place of interaction or fail to talk everyday? Will the most treasured people in your life be there for the good and bad times?
Values to consider: Community, Family, Reliability, Connection, Humour.
What fires you up, makes you tick? What do you commonly get into disagreements about?
When you’re with your people, what topics get your blood boiling and launch a heartfelt debate? Do these differ when you’re with strangers? Do you feel most comfortable speaking up in a room full of familiars or when you don’t know anybody? Do you feel strongly about whether the jam or cream comes first when you add toppings to your scone? Do you feel strongly about climate change and activism when the people you talk to are unfamiliar about or take an opposite stance in the issues? Do these interactions cause you to see the people you care about differently or can you remain neutral and agree to disagree? Perhaps in subjective matters but not when it comes to matters of morale. Examine this discord closely and you’ll find that your values lie somewhere in the space between you and your disagreements.
Describe yourself in no uncertain terms as a plant: Are you lush and boisterous? Are you severe and spiky? Do you need constant watering or indirect sunlight and arid conditions?
Are you tender and blooming or hardy and perennial? What colour are your flowers, if you have any? How do they make you feel? Focus on the type of plant you believe you are or that you want to grow into. Consider the growth cycle of this plant. Will you stay small or go big and bold, reaching towards the tree tops, the sky? Do you branch outwards, remain tightly coiled or stand firm and bound together? Are you a cactus? Are you a fiddle leaf fig? Perhaps you’re a succulent or a banana leaf plant. Do you have thorns or are you relatively unmarred? Do you consider yourself gentle? Are you poisonous or healing?
Values to consider: Environment, Leadership, Strength, Joy, Resilience, Growth, Nature, Independence, Resourcefulness.
Dig in and allow yourself to be vulnerable for a moment: What personal qualities do you find need work or improvement? What do you want less of in your life?
Values to consider: Wholeness, Well-Being, Success, Mental Health, Spirituality, Peace, Justice, Truth
Mindfulness is more than yoga and deep breathing. It’s present, embodied awareness- the establishing of a connection with ourselves, our routines and the world around us, especially in such an unprecedented time.
It’s a conscious state and takes genuine practice to develop ability in. The good news is that your starting point doesn’t have to be one of difficulty- here are fifty simple ways in which you can add mindfulness to your day and some journalling prompts to encourage your inner wordsmith.
As you first wake up, do a body scan. Wiggle your toes, clench and unclench your fists. Stretch your arms over your head, lick your lips.
Make your bed and mist it with an essential oil or linen spray of your choice. Lavender, jasmine and sweet orange are a few of my favourites.
Step outside and take deep breaths of fresh air. If it’s cold outside, cup your hands over your mouth, then release them. Notice the way your warm breath is visible.
Make your morning cup of coffee with a French press for a tactile experience. If you’re a tea lover, brew loose leaf in a teapot you save for special occasions.
Do small favours for your later in the day, tired self. Load the dishwasher, clear and do a light clean of your space, then light a candle or turn on a diffuser.
Write out sweet, gentle words of affirmation or quotes that your particularly like on post it notes, then transfer them to your work space or mirrors. Mirrors work especially well as you are reminded of the beautiful things that make who you are whilst looking at yourself. It’s a simple practice that promotes love for oneself. You could also write out little love notes on food containers or products you use often, like moisturiser.
If you take daily medicines or vitamins, slow down and do so one by one. Don’t attempt to take them all at once. Pour yourself extra water or juice to help with any bad taste, then proceed.
Skip your usual morning social media check and pick up something tangible. Take fifteen minutes to read the newspaper or an article from a quality magazine. I like to read a few pages of Frankie, a lifestyle, creativity and wellness magazine.
The next time you cook, wash produce thoroughly. Take the time to feel it, like you would washing rice grains. Practice gratitude for the nourishment it provides you with. When the time comes, eat slowly and chew each bit.
Pay attention to the way all your senses engage when you eat. Notice smells, texture, taste, the way food feels in your mouth. Eat without media distractions. It may be tempting, but you’ll feel much less satisfied afterwards. Eating while distracted also contributes to overeating.
The next time you have clothes to put away, fold then neatly or roll them using Marie Kondo’s method. When done right, either way will save you space. Your drawers will start to look nicer and you’ll be able to pick out your outfits easily.
Water your plants and then wipe down their leaves individually.
Set a budget and note down any and every expense, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Analyse this at the end of the week. Costs add up!
As you move about your home in the changing seasons, make small rearrangements. Pack away clothes and items that don’t fit the season, like winter jackets and heaters. Set yourself up for follow by having a place for everything and everything in its place. Leave your daily essentials in easy to reach spots.
Visit your local library or bookstore. Breathe in the new book smell, run your finger over the spine. Read a few pages. If you’re at the library, considering checking out a few books.
Ground yourself and do a little cleaning while you’re at it. Wipe down bench tops, clean your bath. These are simple tasks but we often overlook them!
Hand wash a beautiful garment. Treat it gently and wash in cool water. Feel the fabric between your fingers, then hang it gently on a drying rack. Think back to a time you wore that article of clothing and how you felt.
As you turn on the lights in a room, invite one positive thought into your mind, then speak it out loud. As you leave the room, turn the lights off and remind yourself of that positive thought. Release any negative energy.
Pick out an outfit for tomorrow and make sure it’s cleaned, nicely ironed and pressed as necessary. Hang it up on a fancy coat hanger. There are some lovely velvety hangers perfect for soft items that need the cushioning.
Before bed, set aside ten minutes to sip on a herbal tea and reflect on the day you’ve had. I enjoy green tea and peppermint.
Read a favourite poem, passage of a book or religious text aloud. Really take in the words and notice how you are affected by them. Do you get goosebumps?
As you do a mundane everyday task like brushing your teeth, identify a way in which you were successful today.
Whilst planning out your day, allow yourself to doodle or make little drawings in the columns of your journals and to do list.
When at work, be hyper aware of your posture. Sit up that little bit straighter, flex and roll your wrists. Tilt your neck to the left, then to the right slowly. Give yourself a brief, healing massage.
Stretch your vision for a moment and focus on the furthest thing away from you. Block out all other distractions. Is it trees swaying in the distance? The moving of a vehicle? Notice this.
Don’t let yourself get stuck in the trap of viewing and replying to emails and social media comments whenever. Set aside a half hour to an hour block each day instead. Don’t feel as if you need to jet off a reply when you’re in your down time or have passed working hours.
Close extra browser tabs on your device to remind yourself of the task at hand. Don’t let distractions take over. At the end of the day, wipe down your devices- phone case, screens, keyboard, mouse.
When in a place you frequent, like a coffee shop or good friend’s house, challenge yourself to find something you haven’t seen before.
Go on a walk without distractions. Leave your phone at home. Notice the empty space usually filled in your pocket or bag. Stop and smell a patch of flowers. Reach out and touch a leaf or run your hand down the bark of a tree. Practice being one with nature and remove your shoes. Sit or lay down on the grass, really indulging yourself in nature and how immersive it can be.
As you go through your everyday routine, give yourself things to look for. Loose change on the ground, a song bird in the trees, cars of a certain colour, shape and make.
Set checkpoints throughout the day to name and acknowledge how you feel in the present moment. Is there worry present? Excitement, restlessness? Don’t feel the need to implement solutions- simply recognise them.
Hug your partner, friend or pet for thirty seconds. Longer hugs are proven to have health benefits and can significantly improve your mental health. Speak kind words to them.
Tell your family members or partner what you most want from them today, then say it to yourself as well.
If you’re wearing or using something you particularly love, email or tag the brand to thank them for their work. Do this especially for small makers or independent labels.
Say a guiltless ‘no’ when you are feeling over scheduled and close to burnout or simply because you don’t want to do something. Don’t let yourself be guilted into commitments you aren’t in the mood for. Respect your time as well as the work and effort you already have put in.
Thank your mail carrier for delivering parcels, saving you a trip to the post office. Thank the barista who makes your coffee perfectly on the mornings you are time poor.
When you are feeling judgemental in conversation and want to pass this on to somebody else, consider more helpful ways in which you could express yourself. Is there another perspective to consider? Take the higher, mature route.
Inform yourself of common slurs as well as ableist or racially offensive language. Find alternatives for those phrases and educate others where possible. See it as an opportunity to grow as a person and do better.
Make eye contact with people you are speaking with. This is a part of good manners and listening to take in information, not just to respond. Ask questions such as “what was the best part of your day?” or “what did you learn today?” and aim to continue the conversation. Resist the automatic.
Embrace a lighthearted, silly moment. Play with a younger sibling, share something funny with a friend or family member. Just be playful. Let down your guard. Do something that makes you feel childlike. This could be drawing and colouring or sifting through pretty objects like shells.
Aim to always act from a place of love, especially when you feel yourself going into a state of overwhelm. Ask yourself how best you can respond to the situation. Take into consideration all relevant and impactful factors.
Be direct about your needs and invite others to do the same. There is mindfulness in clarity and direction. This is a way to ensure your needs are met, as long as you are realistic and remain respectful.
Schedule in your media consumption. Do you have a favourite show you’re currently watching? For me, that’s Dexter. I like to set aside time for an episode each evening before bed. This is helpful because I don’t wile away my time during the day, nor do I get sucked into the trap of watching episode after episode! Pace yourself.
Before posting to social media, consider your intentions behind sharing a photo or video. Is it to inform or showcase? Could it be because you seek external validation? If the latter is most likely true, reconsider the post. Hold off and validate yourself instead. This is where real feelings of success and worth are from!
Listen to your favourite song and think deeply about what you like so much. What is the story behind the lyrics? What tone is the song sung in? How does it make you feel?
Create playlist for each significant part of your day to ensure you always have something that fits the mood. Create playlist also for key emotions. This could look like music for commuting, working, cooking, leisure time, bathing. Music for peace and tranquility, for when you are feeling more somber, for when you need something energetic.
Soften and relax your muscles, your jaw. Don’t frown or tense up. Release the wrinkles formed on your face when you frown or are upset. Lower your shoulders, breathe deeply. Allow room to be and don’t hold emotion, particularly that of which is negative, inside.
Apply a sweet scented moisturiser or hand lotion and massage it into the spaces between your fingers and palms. Take deep breaths and enjoy the fragrance.
Curl inward for a moment. Invert your head and let it hang down to your chest. You could also bend forward and let your fingertips touch the topside of your feet. Embrace a playful posture, enjoying the stretch and flow it brings with it.
Make a list of your best assets, the ways you bring value to yourself, others and projects, compliments you have received and times in which you’ve felt the happiest. Add to this list over time, reflect on it and celebrate all that you are and are yet to be.