Living Anxiously Part Three: Define My Values

True success is living by your values. Hold your values lightly, but pursue them vigorously.

–Russ Harris

At the beginning of the year, I attended a community meditation about values. After spending time in meditation, where we were asked to imagine our funeral. You can do this too.

  • Where is it?
  • Who is there?
  • What does the person giving the life sketch/eulogy say about you?
  • What do you want him or her to say about you?
  • What do you want everyone to remember about you?

As I considered these things, a few very specific things immediately came to my mind. I quickly wrote them down. This exercise created my number one value that is driving my life right now. Maybe one day I’ll share it, but today is not that day. Too many personal things have already been shared this week.

I mentioned The Happiness Trap yesterday, but I didn’t expound on it much. The book has been a godsend for my husband and me. The Happiness Trap has taught us a lot not only about how to defuse difficult emotions and connect with our lives on a real level, but it has also helped us communicate more honestly and openly with one another. There is an entire section about values because after I develop the ability to defuse anxiety and depression, I need a way to connect with my life so that I don’t continue ruminating in it. And if I do something I value, like mindfully playing with my son and baby, most of the time I forget about the anxiety and become fully involved in what I’m doing. Values are wonderful because they can become the guiding posts for life.

Anyway, the book has a great quiz to help determine your values more specifically and I highly recommend it!

Along with reading The Happiness Trap, I began reading memoirs and watching a few YouTube videos, some from Marie Forleo, and watched interviews with my favorite celebrities. It sounds silly, but reading Dick Van Dyke and Maya Angelou and watching Jane Fonda, Oprah, Ellen, Betty White, Mary Tyler Moore, Kate Winslet, and so many other amazing people discuss important topics and life on roundtables, I was inspired. These are people who felt the pain of life and lived meaningfully anyway.

With their inspiration, I sat down with a notebook and started brainstorming. Pretty quickly I had a long list of what was most important to me. I began connecting the values that went together, i.e. self care and eating well–eating well is more of a sub-topic of self care. I ended up with five very firm values. Then I created a bunch of subtopics underneath, then goals under each subtopic, then under each goal, I defined SMALL things I could do every day to help me focus on the goal which would help me focus on the value.

Again, it is through the small things that a meaningful life is made, so I am focusing on those because I get so overwhelmed by the big things. Small is good for me.
The great thing about values is the great thing about the weather. They change. As I grow older, I won’t be focused on raising little children, it will be raising teenagers (heaven help me), then sending them off to college (bah!), and then some of my values will be something totally different. They are supposed to change, but having something concrete (even if they do change) really helps me to engage with my life and not to get overwhelmed, which for me always leads to anxiety.

Focusing on my values has led me to define my life in a real and meaningful way that has led to more accidental mindfulness (is that an oxymoron?) and falling asleep satisfied with how I spent my day instead of anxious about what I did or did not do on my checklist.

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