What does it mean to live your values?4 min read

What does it mean to live your values?
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We read everywhere that we must know our values and live our values—but what does that actually mean? Is it about having a moral compass, or is it something deeper? And what are values anyway?

Values are the core principles, beliefs, and ideals that underlie our thoughts, actions, and decisions.

They are the fundamental elements that define what is important and meaningful to us in life. When we know what our values are, we can use them as a compass for living—meaning that they can point the way, giving us direction and motivation.

Values are the deeper feelings, states, or themes that you most want to experience in your life. Here are some examples: freedom, health, security, creativity, purpose, family, art, strength, exploration, mastery, beauty, peace, joy, spirituality, and legacy.

As you can see, values are broad and abstract. They may represent the final essence of what you really want in life, and what motivates you to take action, but they don’t tell you what your next step is. For that, they need to be unfolded into aspirations and goals.

Values, Aspirations, Goals, and Habits

In Mindful Self-Discipline, living purposefully is about knowing your values, creating aspirations that encapsulate those values, then breaking them down into achievable goals, and taking action on them via habits.

Let us now unpack that.

Values

Suppose that freedom is one of your core values. You go through the exercises in the book and workbook, and then realize that freedom is the main motivator behind many of your goals, and it’s what you really want to experience more of in life.

Now, freedom means different things to different people. What we care about is not the dictionary definition of the word but what it means to you.

Aspirations

If, for you, freedom is about having financial abundance and being in full control of your time, then you would articulate your aspiration around that. One such aspiration could be: “To have enough passive income that I can dedicate myself full-time to my hobbies, without any financial concerns.”

Now that is much more specific than saying that you love freedom—and therefore more actionable too. But it’s still not actionable enough. It paints a clearer picture of what you want but doesn’t tell you how to get there.

For that, we need goals.

Goals

A goal is a specific project that helps you get closer to your aspiration. While aspirations typically last many years or a lifetime, goals are shorter-term action plans to help you take steps toward your aspirations.

Just like your aspirations need to be an expression of your core values for them to be meaningful, your goals need to be an expression of your aspirations for them to be motivating.

Here are some good examples of SMART Goals for the aspiration above:

  • Sell my apartment and move to a small country house by December this year.
  • Master the fundamentals of how to make money trading cryptocurrencies in the next three months.
  • Launch the website for my consulting services so I can earn my living working from home by my birthday.

You can have multiple goals for a single aspiration. In fact, in the journey of living your values, when one goal ends, another one begins. Like this, little by little, project after project, you manifest your vision into a reality.

Habits

The final layer is habits. This is the most specific of them all. It tells you how you are spending your time and energy on a daily basis.

It answers the question: is the way you are living your life going to take you to where you want to go?

Here are some possible habits connected to the SMART Goals above:

  • Spend an hour every day tidying up my apartment so that it’s ready for selling.
  • Study crypto trading every morning from 7 am to 9 am, five days a week.
  • Work on my side business for six hours every Saturday and every Sunday.

Unlike many people think, habits are not the be-all and end-all of self-discipline. Having the right habits is essential, and it is an expression of living your values, but it is not enough.

You also need to cultivate the awareness to remember your aspirations during your daily life, and the willpower to make choices that are aligned with them—even when they are not the comfortable choice to make. Sometimes these choices will be habitual, but not always.

How to Live Your Values

So, what does it mean to live your values? It means that you have clarified and implemented all these four layers in your life. In other words:

  • You have clarity on your values
  • You have articulated powerful aspirations around your values
  • You have unfolded your aspirations into specific goals
  • You are consistently taking action on your goals by keeping your habits

If you have the first two (values and aspirations) but not the last two, you will be a dreamer who doesn’t take action. Your life, then, will not be an expression of your values.

If you have the last two (goals and habits) but not the first two, you are taking a lot of action, but it may not be aligned with what you most care about in life. You may be effectively climbing the wrong ladder.

When you have all these four elements in place, then you are living your values. Then you are living inside out. Your life is an expression of your vision, and you become the master of your destiny.

What does it mean to live your values?
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