This is a unique point in time where most of us have had all of our commitments stripped away – whether we like them or not. It’s scary, for sure. There is so much unknown, people are sick, and who knows what the future will hold.
However, as things start slowing opening back up (at least during this time in the US – (and not interested in any discussions on whether or not they should be)), this is also a time where we can reevaluate our lives. We know that life will be different on the other side of this – it has to be. And by removing what feels like everything, and being forced to stay home, we have an opportunity to look at what matters most to us.
This can take the form of what’s been taken away, or what we are ‘forced’ to focus on.
This time is good for providing us with an interruption in our day to day, normal routines, and giving us a chance to reevaluate what we are used to doing. While we may not be able to completely avoid prior commitments, many we can.
We’ve never had a time like this before. A time where we are all starting at a similar place in terms of living according to our values.
What are values?
Before we jump into how to find your values, we are going to look at what values actually are. According to psychologists Barb Markway and Celia Ampel in “The Self-Confidence Workbook.”
“Values “are the principles that give our lives meaning and allow us to persevere through adversity””
Basically, our values define who we are. They help us navigate through life, and they help us stay strong during tough times – because we’re confident in who we are. And this means that they can change many times throughout our life – especially during times like this.
For the purposes of this post, we are not looking at values in terms of our ethics, political views, or religious beliefs. While these are important and can certainly steer our values, they’re not the focus for this post.
Why should we live according to our values?
I personally believe that we were all brought to/put on earth for something.
I’ve heard from various sources that anxiety and depression can (note that this is not in 100% of the cases) be a result of not living according to our values. I know for me, this can be true, but not all the time. Something I thought was worth mentioning though to stress the importance of living according to your values as much as you can.
How to find your values
There is not one right way to identify your values. Additionally, I believe much of it is a feeling. You know, that feeling you get when you’re in the zone, something just feels good and right, and the time flies. Something that you feel strongly about.
Or the opposite: what gives you a gross feeling? What makes you super uncomfortable and anxious? What do you stress and ruminate on prior to it happening?
Our body often gives us clues as to what our values are, we just have to tune in and listen.
However, there are some tools you can use to help you on your journey to discover how to find your values.
How to find your values: Brain dump (with an identifying your core values worksheet)
For this exercise, grab an old notebook, scratch paper, computer, or using the free identifying your core values worksheet, go through the questions below and identify the ones that speak to you. Select a minimum at five; knowing that the more you answer the more information you’ll be able to gather.
- Who do you miss that you can’t see?
- Who do you NOT miss that you can’t see?
- Who are you reaching out to and talking to regularly?
- What regular commitments got cancelled, and which ones do you miss?
- What types of things are you relieved to no longer have to commit to?
- What activities are you excited to have more time for?
- What are you doing to fill your time (if applicable?)
- Have you started connecting with more neighbors? How so?
- What emotions are you feeling throughout the day?
- What is something you’ll change once self-isolation has been lifted?
- What are things you DON’T like about this time that you won’t continue forward?
- What things are causing you anxiety right now?
- What are some things that have made you happy during this time?
- What are things that light you up? That makes time fly by?
- What has been a moment of pure joy for you during this time?
- What has been the most frustrating?
- What things motivate you during the day?
- What things have made you feel aligned? That just feel good and right?
- Write or think about your daily routine. Why do you do the things you do?
- What are the first three things you’ll do when things reopen?
Here are some examples that have come up in my life after answer some of the questions:
- My family values have been reaffirmed. My family and I have been taking more time for walks and doing things together closer to home. I have appreciated the time with them.
- My extended family values have been reaffirmed. I am talking to certain family members more often, and am thoroughly present and enjoying the time talking with them – because it’s all I have right now.
- I value my health – because the virus is scary and I’m thankful that (as of the timing of this post) my health and my family’s health has been good.
- I value nature and getting outside. When the outdoors is the only place to go, I’m so thankful for that space. This also trickles down into my environmental values, because I want to do what I can to protect that space.
- My community’s values have been strengthened. I miss the community events that have been cancelled, and further appreciate the amazing neighbors we currently have who are kind and willing to help whenever.
- My volunteer values are stronger. I miss the organizations I’m active in and am looking forward to getting back to them once they restart.
- I appreciate the slow mornings and open evenings – lack of certain commitments means we can take things slow and enjoy the downtime.
- My values in supporting local small businesses has strengthened. Those businesses were some of the first to help the community when things shut down, and the ones I have made an effort to support during this time.
- I really miss time away from home with friends. I’m happy for technology to connect, but found I really value the experience of going out to a restaurant and connecting.
- I really value my alone time! During this time, I’ve really come to appreciate the limited time I have by myself at home.
There are more, but I think you get the idea.
After I responded to some of the questions, I went through and identified common themes, and made a point to identify the things that I want to make sure to keep in place once things start ramping up again (family time, friend time, me time, limited commitments, community engagement, the environment, making health a priority – physical and mental, etc.)
Psst: if you’re asking yourself something along the lines of: How am I supposed to make more time for the things I value?
Don’t worry, I’ve included some tips at the end of this post.
Out of all the activities I share here, this one is my favorite because the act of writing out the responses really helps me clarify what it is that is important to me.
And in case you missed it, here is the free identifying cores value worksheet.
How to find your values: 100 Things List
This activity is one that only takes about 15 minutes, so if you’re short on time, or want to do a couple of the exercises listed here, this one is a good option. It’s similar to the exercise above in that it is a type of brain dump; however it focuses more on short answers versus the longer journal-type responses.
You can find more information on how to do the 100 things list exercise here.
Free Values Quiz
This free values quiz will tell you your main, general values that apply in your life right now. The quiz took about 20-25 minutes, but was easy to do and provided some good information. You do have to create an account, but after that you get your results right away.
I thought it was a good exercise if you have time and want to learn some of the more general things you value in your life right now. It can also be a good base to some of the other exercises in this post.
Word Association Exercise
This exercise is another word association one – similar to the shorter ‘100 things list’ exercise, except in this one, the words are already given to you. All you have to do is identify the words from a list that resonate with you, and from there, group them together to identify five core values. This exercise is another one that is more of a general value-identifying exercise, but can give you a good start for one of the others that are more specific for this time.
Related post: Intentional Living 101: The What, The Why, and The How
How to find time for your values
Ok, so you’ve done one or more of the exercises above to find your values and what you want to bring with you into the post “quarantine/self-isolation” life.
But, I know what you’re thinking: HOW do I ensure I have time for these things?
I get it – I’m a little nervous too, especially with the pressure to “get back to normal.” But, there are things you can do to set yourself up as much as possible. I’m not going to go into great detail here, because I have a ton of information on each of the resources below. Read more for what you can do to set yourself up for making time once the quarantine is over.
***Disclaimer: Don’t feel pressured to do all the things right now if you’re not feeling like you have the energy or if you’re trying to work from home with kids, or you’re just existing and nothing more. This is a new experience for all of us, and we all react in different ways.
Declutter: Getting rid of physical clutter can free up time for us in the form of less time cleaning, less time looking for items, less time shopping, and less mental clutter. Yes, there is some time involved up front, but it WILL be worth it – I promise!
Find all of my decluttering posts here.
Make eco-friendly swaps: Some eco-friendly swaps can help us reduce the amount of shopping time and mental clutter it takes to keep track of the items, go to the store or online to order the items, etc. Items such as cloth tissues or unpaper towels, reusable menstrual products, etc. The time savings may not seem like a lot, but they add up! For example, during this time of self-isolation, which at the time of this posting, we haven’t had to do a Target run ONCE for toiletries. The only paper products we’ve purchased has been toilet paper.
Check out some easy swaps you can make in this post.
Practice reduced social media use: We spend a lot of time on social media – time that we could be putting towards things we value instead. I don’t know about you, but nowhere in my values exercise did I write that I must spend a ton of time on Instagram. Not only will this help free up some time, it will also help free up some mental clutter!
Here are seven of my tips to detach from social media.
Practice making time for self care NOW: The time is now to start prioritizing time for YOU, when you have fewer commitments. Sure, you may feel swamped with work and schooling for the kids, but the extracurricular commitments are likely not happening – whether we like it or not. Get in the habit of making time for self-care (whatever that looks like for you) now, so that when things start ramping up again, you’ll already have the habit in place.
Check out my post on the secret for making time for self-care.
Practice saying ‘no’: Here is another piece you can put into practice now while the commitments and extracurricular activites are limited: and that is saying ‘no’. Saying ‘no’ to things that don’t match your values and aren’t 100% absolutely necessary (because we’ll never be able to be completely free of things that don’t match our values) is a GREAT way to free up valuable time.
As things start slowly coming back into your life, line them up against your values you discovered from the exercise(s) above, and if they aren’t necessary and don’t match what you found, say no.
Here are the things I do to say ‘no’, guilt free.
I don’t know of many other times when we’ve had the opportunity to ‘start from scratch’ in accordance to our routines and lifestyle. And while this isn’t what any of us asked for, here we are. I personally feel that it would be a shame to let this time pass us – especially if we’re not feeling content with the way things were ‘before’.
Have you felt your values shift during this time? What activities or exercises help you determine what those values are?
Want to learn how to adopt a reduction based lifestyle (through mindfulness, minimalism, anxiety management, and zero waste living but not sure where to start?
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