Just as we have outer priorities in our lives that guide us in our decision-making and setting goals, we have inner priorities, too. The values that we live by can be considered our inner priorities and they guide us in how we implement our outer priorities, the areas of our lives to which we choose to devote time. In my experience, people who pay attention to the inner, can be more effective in the outer realm.
In our daily practice of refraining from thoughts, words, and actions that cause suffering, we can find support in adopting a commitment to core values that nurture and deepen our sense of internal and physical well-being. Here are ten values I find particularly beneficial to developing an enduring sense of well-being.
1. Be truthful in what you say (wise speech) and speak with wise compassion. This does not mean that you are always “nice” but that when you have something difficult to say to someone, you express it with as much kindness as possible.
2. Be genuine and authentic. We so often protect the “false pride” of the ego or else “package ourselves” for acceptance, approval, or popularity and this is not a winning strategy for well-being. Of course, we use common sense in our words and actions in regards to safety and being effective, and we maintain boundaries and dignity, but we do not employ pretend words and actions to make our way in the world. When you feel authentic to yourself, you are most empowered to genuinely affect people and situations that you can affect, and to accept those situations when you simply cannot affect what happens.
3. Be kind in all that you do and say. Kindness is not contingent on outer circumstances, thus even if you have to be firm with someone or disappoint them, you can still act with the greatest kindness possible. Do not confuse kindness with “niceness” a social interaction artifact, which has positive attributes and can be sincere or not, but is often not genuinely kind.
4. Be compassionate to those who are in pain and/or experiencing difficulty. Compassion is contingent on what’s happening.
5. Act and make choices in terms of relatedness. Know that you are part of something larger. For example, when you are driving in heavy traffic, know that you are part of the traffic and not separate from it. Or, in the workplace, maintain an awareness that you are dependent on others and others are dependent on you. Having a sense of your connection to others breaks the aloneness that’s part of our existential quandary as human beings.
6. Honor you own creativity. Pay attention to what you care about and align your outer priorities accordingly. Honoring yourself can look like not doing work that you hate, not staying in a situation where you do not share the values of the people around you, or deciding against doing something because it’s in conflict with your inner values.
7. Maintain a personalized life balance such that you primarily spend time on areas you care about. This requires that you know what matters to you and that be absolutely honest as to how you are spending your time and life energy. Your time and your life energy are two separate items. Time is easily understood; life energy is your inner engine, and is independent of time such that even a small amount of time doing something that is somehow at odds with your heart can greatly drain your life energy, whereas spending a lot of time doing something that you sincerely care about may drain very little life energy.
8. Continue to learn and grow (personally and/or professionally) at every stage of life. People who are growing tend to thrive. This is one key to sustainable leadership for those who are already successful and is an essential aspect of becoming successful. Success does not just mean worldly success. Being a life long learner applies equally to your relationship, to being a parent, to being a good friend, to being effective in maintaining your own well being.
9. Be present in your life moment to moment. I do not mean this only in the sense of practicing mindfulness in daily life which is, of course, very important. But I also mean be present in the sense of showing up wholeheartedly for your life, whether is be pleasant or unpleasant; this is your life at this moment. This means not being on autopilot for if you are on autopilot, then you don’t get to live your values and you don’t have choice. Being on autopilot puts you in reactive mode.
10. Take responsibility for your body and make choices that support your body’s health and well-being. This includes choices in the areas of diet, exercise, sleep, relaxation, play, and health maintenance.
If you wish to further your investigation of clarifying your values, you can find a worksheet on this topic here.