How do you know if you’re really being the best version of yourself? If you’re not actively reminding yourself of what matters to you, and if you don’t have goals that align with your values, then it’s pretty easy to forget what the best version of you looks like.
If you recognise yourself in any of the below, you definitely need to connect with your values again (or learn what they are!). If you want help with this, be sure to grab my free guide ‘Welcome to Your Valuable Life’ to get focused on what matters to you.
Sign Number One: You have trouble making decisions
Once you’ve gathered a bit of info, trouble making a decision boils down to one of two things: you care too much about other’s opinions, or you’re not clear on what ‘right’ looks like for you, so you get stuck trying to figure out the ‘right’ choice to make.
Whether it’s what to choose from the café menu or what career path to follow, you can use the same signposts to guide you. If you know what’s important to you, then you choose based on that.
Sample value: Curiosity
How it looks at the café: Choose the most ‘interesting’ menu option – who knew that blue cheese ice cream was a thing?
How it looks at careers day: Science and technology fields, counsellor, jobs which involve learning about other cultures.
Sample value: Family
How it looks at the café: Choose something that you can share with your two year old
How it looks at career day: A job with flexible hours so you can spend time with family, home town based careers (no travel please!).
No matter what the choice, if you know what’s important to you in life, then choose based on the outcome that best fits being able to express what matters to you.
If you have trouble doing this because you’re worried that others will disapprove, then you need to be aware of the futility of that. You can never make someone else happy – only they can decide how to feel. But, you can definitely make yourself unhappy – by choosing to live your life based on how others react to you!
Remember, nothing is more attractive than a passionate person living a life based on their heart. You’re actually far more likely to make people happy when you’re happily following your own path rather than trying to make them feel better by squashing who you really are and what you really want.
Sign Number Two: You feel flat, low and unmotivated
You know why you feel like that? Because you’re not engaged in something that matters to you.
By (my) definition, values are those things in life that, when you act on them, make you feel alive and energised. So if you’re feeling flat and unmotivated, you just need to go back and start doing some of the things that matter to you. When you do that stuff (whether it’s making art, making a company or making love) you will get your energy and enthusiasm back.
Sign Number Three: You never reach your goals
The number one goal killer is choosing a goal that doesn’t fit with your ideas of who ‘you’ are. You’ll never reach your goal weight if you constantly say things like ‘I just don’t like healthy food’ or ‘I’ll never be comfortable in a gym’. Also, you’ll never reach a goal of being the company director if achievement just doesn’t matter much to you.
If you can’t reach your goals, then it’s likely that your goals aren’t in line with what really makes you feel good, energised and alive (see previous point, it’s much easier to stick to a goal if getting there feels good whilst it’s also challenging) or you’re telling yourself stories about who you really are – so really you do value your health, but it’s not cool to say this out loud to your friends or family because they don’t value their health. Or you don’t really want a career, but your spouse insists you keep adding to your income. If that’s true for you, then see sign number one: you’re trying (less obviously here) to please somebody else.
If health matters to you, if that’s your goal, then make sure your words and actions support that ‘I’m finding healthy foods I can eat every day’, ‘I’m learning to be comfortable in a gym’. Focus on the feeling you get when you move towards that goal, and ignore the detractors and your negative thinking. It’ll get easier.
Sign Number Four: You reach your goals, but they’re just not satisfying
Maybe you’ve got the drive and discipline to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself, but are left feeling lost and empty when you get there. Isn’t reaching your goals meant to be a cause for celebration?
Sometimes the end of something we’ve worked hard towards feels like a loss instead of an achievement. Now what do I do? Now how do I define myself?
The answers to these questions, and the solutions to these problems, is to yep, (you guessed it!) - set goals that fit with your values. This works because another defining characteristic of a value (as opposed to a goal), is that acting on values is not something you are ever ‘done’ with. There will always be more opportunities to practise being connected to nature, or connecting to others, or to be creative. Reaching a goal which fits with your values feels good because you’re not ‘losing’ anything. It’s more of a step on your lifelong journey than a surprise dead end.
If this is you, then look at why you set certain goals in the first place. Was there some bigger reason you tried to fundraise $1000? Was it charity, being a good friend, for the sense of achievement? See behind the goal to the values that shaped it, and the goal will seem satisfying, because now it’s not an ending anymore, but a point in a lifelong process.
Sign Number Five: You feel like no-one understands you/ you’re feeling disconnected from your true self
Others won’t get you if you don’t talk about what matters to you and/or don’t act on what matters to you. If you do those two things, then it’s pretty hard for people not to ‘get’ who you are (liking you is a whole different story however!) and you won’t feel disconnected from who you are – you’ll be living who you are.
If you feel no-one understands you, it’s because you’ve shut down communicating about yourself. You may have done this with a ‘good’ reason: fearing criticism when you speak up about who you are and what you want. News flash: This is NOT a good reason! You are not here to make other people happy, and they’re not here to make you happy. See point one about decision making.
You will find your relationships are much more satisfying if you can free yourself from the attempt to avoid upsetting other people. Your friends and family are separate entities from you and are the ones in charge of their own feelings. But the reverse applies to you too: If you stop changing to try and make them happy, then they won’t do the same for you either. While this might be initially frustrating/ scary, it won’t actually cause your (real) relationships to crumble. When you’re free to be yourself and give others the permission to do the same, you’ll find you’re actually a nicer person to be around.
When you’ve given time and a voice to yourself, you stop moping/ worrying/ feeling resentful and can actually fully be there for your loved ones when they need you. So look, it’s not even selfish to do this: in the long term, being true to yourself and your values will definitely lead to more ‘happiness’ than trying to control yourself to avoid upsetting others.
Just trust me: criticism of who you are is way easier to bear than the feelings of isolation and not understoodness that comes from crushing your true self. It’s way worse to censor yourself than to be censored by others.
Hopefully by now you’re full of renewed passion and purpose to go out and live your values again. But if you’re feeling lost about which way to turn, if you’ve hidden your values for so long you’ve forgotten what they are, or if you’ve never really stopped and considered what might make you feel satisfied and fulfilled, then be sure to grab my guide by clicking here right now so you can figure it out!
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.