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How to List Your Values to Act as a Northern Star

I have All Access Membership to Mindvalley and thus some of the my thoughts and reflections might have source there. Today that is the case. Or rather Quest I’m following there sparked this writing. I’m currently following Quest Hero.Genius.Legend. in which Robin Sharma is sharing his insights. Most likely I’ll write more on that soon enough.

Big 5 – Life Defining Targets

Today on the Quest as a homework you had to define your Big 5 and your values. The Big 5 that as an idea had roots in African animals was defined roughly as follows:

What 5 things need to happen between now and the last day of my life, for me to feel like I have lived a beautiful life?

This was touching close by as just yesterday I was lost in Impossible List which was something very interesting that I need to also come back to. I found that by the way while looking more into Thomas Frank, whose YouTube channel I have been following a bit. He has public impossible list available and that was quite impressive – both as a list and as completed topics. Awesome actually.

In my very first post I also wrote the following: “What was it supposed to be that makes me tick? What did I actually want? Who am I and where am I going?” I have put some thought into what I want. And in my humble opinion to list the Big 5 of your life is not a simple feat. If those are THE five things that you want to be etched into your brain, written on your mirror and first thing pushing you up from the bed in the morning. Or putting it other way around – if you have your priorities down to those listed five items, maybe you do not need to create this kind of blog in order to find yourself. I had a plan to figure that out maybe during this year 2021 and then work from that.

But now that I had it as a homework I had to list my big five. So that went faster than expected. I wrote them down to my daily journal so that they remind me on the priorities each morning, at least as long as I follow the journaling habit. Now that journaling was mentioned… I have been journaling quite a lot during the last year or so, but in one of the previous days Robin Sharma was selling his ideas around it and I bought everything. I will really try to concentrate on that more.

List Your Values

As listing the Big 5 wouldn’t have been enough another part of todays assignment was to list your values. Write them down and make sure you “Live your life on your own terms”. Now if I wouldn’t be so grateful for being able to educate me on these rather nice courses and quite stoked to hear each morning more on things that help me to stay mindful about my life, I might have gotten a bit angry. 

Now I do get the concept of value, the term is not new to me.

“…value denotes the degree of importance of some thing or action, with the aim of determining what actions are best to do or what way is best to live…” from Wikipedia.

Ok, there was quite a lot in that article (goddammit it looks interesting, really difficult to continue writing while I could read more on those), my point still being that I have considered my values a bit. A quote that I have written down in my journal in last May:

As values deepen one starts to want instead of just drifting

In August I have shortlisted some from Brené Browns good list of values (PDF) (so much stuff there again. Also I have her book Daring Greatly halfway through in Audible, would really want to jump there now…) My list has 32 values left. So, ok, I may have longlisted but still… Brené suggests that you have 2 core values, which means that I have 30 extra in that list. I found unbelievably great writing on listing values by the way by Colin Breck. (Or google found, but I did handpick it from the results and made mental note to self to read more of him.)

Defining values is not simple. I mean first even the list of values, acceptable values in your multi-select list. Brené has beautiful list, but I believe that is not a full list, or only list. Here you can find a list of Chraracter Strenghts like ‘Love’, ‘Curiosity’ and ‘Integrity’ all of which could be values. Emotions easily listed as values as well. When values can be so mixed group of items, how on earth would you choose just two? If one you can choose is world and another something really small?

Next page on my journal seems to immediately answer with a quote from Leo Buscaglia:

A single rose can be my garden; a single friend, my world.

I guess it is just a question of perspective and selecting then. At the end of October I have been drawing a Venn diagram about friends and social contacts. In that exercise you define where your Values, Interests and Abilities overlap in the sweet spot. In my bubble of values I had 20 values listed. Sadly some of those values, that Brenés list didn’t have. 

I seem to have a few other lists as well.

Your Real Values?

One thing I have been thinking when listing the values is the problem on how to really know what are my values. What I mean with that is that I can short list 100 values into 32. Then cut those down to 10, 5 and ultimately to that 2 (I here by the way bravely assume that Brene is right when saying there can be two values. I kind of believe the “Multiple priorities mean no priority at all” so two seems to be generous. As good target as any, keeps my focus sharp. I might want to accept help on that front.). But once I reach 2 core values that drive me, are they actually my values?

It is rather easy to believe what society tells us, especially if telling means ‘life long subtle brainwashing that has replaced your own thinking and identity”. If one of my values would be “health”, would I have it because it really, really is the core driver in my life or because it is the answer that is expected? Answer that I think I should want? Would my decisions and actions really be driven with that guiding star?

The gap between values I would want to have and values I live by is so scary that so far I’ve written 1000+ words in order to not actually confront it. I’m currently reading Jay Shetty’s book Think Like a Monk (so far very good, by the way). He introduces following exercises to poke and dissect your values and something similar I have seen elsewhere as well:

  1. Where did your values come from?
    • Are you living your own life or the one that is expected from you by your parents, friends, culture, etc.
  2. Audit your time
    • How you spend your time, what decisions have you done regarding that? What seems to be most important for you when allocating your limited weeks?
  3. Audit your money
    • Where do channel the money that flows through your life? Is your money usage in line with your values?
  4. Consider your past values
    • What have been your 3 best and 3 worst choices in life? Why did you make them and would you now choose differently?
  5. Companion audit
    • Who do you spend your time with? Do their values reflect yours?

Still, ‘Health’ is nicer value than ‘Laziness’ and ‘Growth’ sounds objectively better than ‘Cat videos’. Often for us, for me at least, the values we want to have are not so very well aligned with values we seem to be holding in life.

For months I have been beating around the bush with values. Now it is very late and I need to go to bed. Tomorrow morning there is new Quest session waiting for me. I run out of time and now I will need to define my values. I guess that it is healthy for me to just cut the bullshit and write down the values. Robin wanted me to write down five main values, but I’ve listened more Brené and believe her in this more, so two it is. Maybe, to make it easier for myself,  I list 3 bubbling under values that I can refer to when I need to revisit my list of values now that I needed to list them without proper time to plan and consider.

What about the gap?

I decided now that I will list good compromise values. Values that I really want to have as my values that are such that I can recognize them in my life without feeling a full liar. And then I start using them as the guidance. Couple quotes from past week to help me with that:

Vision without daily execution is hallucination.

– Thomas Edison

Sometimes a hypocrite is nothing more than a man in the process of changing. 

– Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer

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