I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about things like values, meaning, and identity lately, because this past year or so has seen me going through a lot of internal changes. Now that I’m firmly planted in the “adult” part of my life I’ve been asking myself that age-old question: what’s the best way to live? I’ve been influenced a lot by Jordan Peterson’s videos talking about things like living a meaningful life.
At the start of the year, in addition to making goals for 2019 I also thought about what my key values are. Values are important because they answer questions like “why?” and “how?” and those kinds of things really help form an identity. It makes it easier for you to describe yourself. I came up with 7 main values for myself, including things like learning, creativity, and personal freedom. The presence of these things in my life are valuable to me. When you know what your values are you can better answer the “how should I live” question because you have those cornerstone pieces laid out.
Living a meaningful life in part means doing things that push you toward the ideal state of your values. In my case, life feels meaningful when I am learning new things, sharing my thoughts, or overcoming anxieties. My values converge to create an ideal life. Quantifying what my values are also means I can better quantify what that ideal life is like. A lot of people want to have a “better life” but they don’t really know what that looks like because they never give it deep thought.
Where I currently lack is even though I have my values and my goals thought out, I do a really bad job of living according to them. This is because there are many things that are more fun, shiny, and pleasant to do than what my values and goals would have me do. This is a battle that everyone has to deal with. We have our convictions yet often those convictions are at odds with what we really want to do in a given situation. Experiencing some of this is normal. But if you’re constantly at odds with yourself then you need to truthfully ask if your convictions are what you claim they are. If you value physical health but constantly eat fast food, then let’s be real, your physical health isn’t really as important as you claim. You may really believe it is, and get quite upset at anyone claiming otherwise. But your actions aren’t matching up with your words.
So if someone like me wanted to start living according to their values more honestly, what would I need to do? It’s primarily habit change. I would need to think about how I could apply my values in daily life, then shape my life so those things happen. Say I want to continue learning. I should find a few topics that interest me, grab some books, and begin reading during my downtime. Or if I want to improve my spiritual life then set aside time for daily prayer, church attendance, and see what areas in my life are ripe for thoughts and behaviors that are more in line with the example Jesus gave us.
I can bet you if I were to take these things more seriously, my life would become quite different. I wouldn’t be on the Internet so much. I’d be outdoors more often. I’ve have a wider network of friends, and some of those friendships would be much closer. I’d be better with acting in the face of anxiety or uncertainty. I would feel like as though I were simply wasting my days away, and more like I was moving toward the kind of person I’m meant to be.