Life can spin us off-course sometimes. Maybe it’s an off day, or maybe you’ve been trudging down a path for a while that, deep down inside, you know is causing you to sacrifice your happiness. All of us have this feeling at one point or another: questioning if we’re at the right job, in the right relationship, or behaving in ways that are good for us. It’s healthy to question our current state; it helps us rearrange our lives when needed. The important thing to do when we realize this is to not beat ourselves up, or start self-criticizing our decisions. Simply tune into your internal compass — the little voice that softly whispers what you know to be right. I call this voice your values compass.
Oftentimes, fear driven by past experiences ends up guiding us down a path that isn’t right for us. We choose to play it safe because our fears of what may happen are keeping us bound in an unhealthy routine. The risk of failure is scary — and it is often what keeps us tethered to thoughts, behaviors, people, or situations which are detrimental to our happiness. Fears of being alone, being broke, being judged are all common and human, but it is when they impede us from living a full life that we need to begin to loosen the ties. Evaluating our behaviors through introspection is important — we can’t expect to figure out what is wrong if we never take time to be with ourselves and ask the important questions. Practices like meditation, yoga, journaling, or talking with a therapist help us look inward and question our current practices.
Start by making a list of what you want to embody as a human being, or what we’ll call your values. What characteristics are important for you to cultivate? An easy (and slightly morbid) way to answer this question is asking yourself, “if it were my funeral, and someone was reading my eulogy, what would I like them to say about the way I lived my life?”
Would you like people to say you were loving? What about compassionate? Maybe you place importance on motivation, honesty, or being spontaneous. The answer is uniquely yours, and everything is valid. Once you have a list of your values, you can use this as a roadmap to guide you towards a more genuine life. Look at your list and ask yourself which of these values are low on the scale, meaning you practice them very little. Maybe you value honesty, but find yourself lying a lot. Whatever the reason is that pushes you to lie, you likely don’t feel very good after you do it. Why? Because it is taking you away from your values, and when we deviate from our values, it always feels wrong. Take the time to think about why you engage in behaviors that are the opposite of your values (e.g. lying, violence, laziness). Was it a practice implemented long ago as a reaction to something? Maybe at one point it was a way to defend or protect yourself. It is likely that the negative habit came from a useful place, but after years of being practiced as an inappropriate response, it has stopped being useful. It may even be hurting you.
Once you investigate where these habits came from, you can have a better understanding of when they will come up. This understanding will facilitate awareness, which is the first step in changing any behavior. Being able to notice when you engage in a negative behavior, what triggers it, and even what happens in your physical body when it comes up, is important in beginning to turn the ship in another, more positive and valuable direction.
Being aware of fear-based behaviors, and noticing when and why they come up, can start us off on a productive journey towards change. Make daily decisions to live by your values, and challenge yourself to step away from negative patterns. This is when we can turn ourselves back on course. Point yourself in the direction you know to be better, more fulfilling, and more in-line with who you truly are. Start investing in decisions that cultivate a life that feels more right. It’s never too late (or too early) to point yourself back onto that genuine path — your very own, unique true north.
Comments will be approved before showing up.