Clarity on This Can Help You Behave Like Who You Want to Be

A Moment of Decision

On Monday I was in my home office, working on the idea for this post. I heard my three-month-old son, Luke, crying downstairs. With skills that would make Sherlock Holmes proud, I deduced that Amy was having a hard time getting him to sleep.

At this stage of life there isn’t much that Luke wants from me. However, I am often able to rock him to sleep. My strategy while rocking is to sing the ABC song to him like it’s “The Song That Never Ends.” Given the choice of sleep or listening to my off-key singing, he often chooses sleep.

As I heard him cry, I felt conflicted. Like many who work from home, during the workday, I’m at home to…work. Not to hang out with my family.

Several minutes later, Luke was still crying. I chose to delay writing and went downstairs, took him from Amy and rocked him to sleep.

I decided to help because I have a value of loving my family wholeheartedly. I saw a moment where I could love Amy and Luke by being there for them and I took the opportunity.

It also gave me the start of my blog post. Too bad he woke up again fifteen minutes after he fell asleep. The struggle is real.

Even though the outcome wasn’t what we hoped for (aka a long afternoon nap), I was able to honor who I wanted to be in that moment.

Being in tune with my values helped me know what I wanted to do in that instance. Knowing our values can empower us to know what action to take in a difficult situation. Whether the situation is comforting our children, managing a challenging employee, or facing a life-altering diagnosis.


Defining What I Mean By Values

Like many words, there are tons of ways people define values. So let me attempt to be clear about what I mean.

Values defined: How you choose to do things daily.

This is a play off of my favorite definition of company culture: “how we do things around here.” Our values are really our personal culture, if you will. Our personal values affect how we operate at work and at home.


Breaking Down the Definition

“How you choose” – You get to choose what values you live by. No one picks them for you. You have the freedom and responsibility to choose them for yourself.

“to do things” – Values lead to action. My values inform my behaviors. Externally and internally. They impact how I move, how I think, how I act.

“daily” – Every day I have the opportunity to live out my values.

Learning to live out our values can help us experience a more satisfying life. We can choose to do things daily that align with them.

Before I get into how you can identify your values, let’s go a bit deeper into what values are and are not.


What Values Are


1. Motivating.

Values are about how we want to live and who we want to be. Not who you think you are supposed to be. If your identified values aren’t inspirational, then you’ve selected the wrong one(s).


2. Actionable.

Values are powerful when they affect how you behave. When they influence what you choose to do. If you can’t think of a tangible way to exercise a value, then it’s too fluffy.


3. Always available to you.

Each day, you will have opportunities to live out your values. Sometimes, you will fall short of them.

I fail to live out one (or more) of my values on a daily basis. I can be impatient with my kids at times rather than loving them wholeheartedly. Thankfully, while I’m alive, I always have another opportunity to honor my values.


4. Chosen by you.

Values are like your preferred ice cream flavor or maker. It doesn’t make you right or wrong to prefer chocolate while I may prefer strawberry. It’s just your preference. And you get to choose.


5. A compass for your journey.

Think of values like the compass you would (hopefully) take on a backpacking expedition. Would you constantly look at the compass while you are hiking?

Of course not. You would miss out on much of the beauty of the great outdoors. You would pull out your compass from time to time to see if you are on the right course. If not, you would adjust.


6. Inclusive of ourselves and others.

It’s not just about how we relate to ourselves. Or others. If I value being kind, I will seek to be kind to myself and others.


What Values Are Not


1. Rules to beat yourself up for breaking.

Values are not things you must, should, ought, or have to do. Values are what you want to do. They aren’t helpful if you cling to them rigidly. That makes them shame inducing, rather than bringing you greater health and vitality.


2. Goals to achieve.

I’m all for goals. But once you achieve a goal, you’re on to the next one. Defining ourselves by our goals keeps our focus solely on the future.

Living out our values enable us to be who we want to be right here and now. They help us enjoy the present moment.

You can fall short of accomplishing your goals. No one can stop you from exercising your values.


3. Something to perfect.

It’s one thing to say that I value loving my family wholeheartedly. It’s another to say that I “am wholehearted love.” That’s unrealistic. And kinda weird.


Identify Your Values

There are a variety of ways to identify our values. My favorite way to date is using this list of values from researcher and author Brené Brown:

Brené recommends that you only choose two. I approach the exercise a little differently. In the areas of Work/Education, Relationships, Health, and Play, choose 3 to 5 values that resonate with you in each domain.

You may have values that you choose for multiple domains. Or perhaps like me, you may have different values for each domain.

As you look through the list, reflect on these questions:

  • How do you want to behave?
  • How do you want to treat your family, co-workers, friends, neighbors and others?

  • How do you want to treat yourself?

I tape my lists to my computer monitor as a reminder:

Put your values list in an area where you will review it daily to keep them top of mind.
Thinking about identifying and living out your values may feel intimidating. After all, life has a way of derailing us from behaving like the person we want to be, doesn’t it?
Your mind will beat you up and tell you that you can’t do it. You may feel overwhelmed by the idea of behaving like the person you want to be.
Learning to be more present in the moment and how to cope with difficult emotions better are skills that will help you live out your values.
Gaining clarity on you values will give you a compass to direct you on your journey of life. That compass will help you navigate the challenges that stand in your path.
Are you struggling with loss & grief, anxiety, or burnout and live in Ohio? Reach out to me at Oak Harbor Counseling Services. My office is conveniently located in northern Columbus. You can learn more about my counseling practice here or email me at [email protected].
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Brent Flory

Brent is a licensed professional counselor in Columbus, Ohio. He works with adults and adolescents, and specializes in helping people who are struggling with anxiety, loss & grief, and burnout.
In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his family, playing basketball, and eating too much ice cream.

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