So my school meets as a faculty every Friday morning for collaboration time. Last Friday, the principal gathered us all together and wanted to share what she learned at some leadership training that she went to. She started by saying that the definition of stress is when you have strayed too far from your values for too long. Because we’re all teachers and it’s third quarter and we’re nearly always stressed, she wanted us to identify our core values so we could figure out how we could go back to those and get a handle on the stress. She gave us all a stack of paper with different words on each paper and we had to go through them and narrow down our values. Usually I roll my eyes at this stuff because we did it at the beginning of the year and I’ve done it countless times before and it doesn’t seem to change anything. I did the activity, but I thought it was silly and that it didn’t really apply to me.
Except that now I’m sitting in my bed on a Saturday night thinking back on that experience.
First, she had us pick our top 10 from the list of words. Which was hard to do because pretty much everything on the list is important. Like Loyalty, Love, Service, Growth, Making a Difference, Traveling, etc.
So I pick my 10. In no particular order:
- Financial Independence
- Spiritual Life
Then we had to narrow that down to 5.
What’s funny is that as I narrowed my list down to 5, I think I got self-conscious about my values and tried to put the top 5 that I thought others would want to see. And I don’t really know why that happened. Why was I getting ashamed of my values? There’s no wrong answer. How could there be? No one actually cares what I think are my own top 5 values. Yet somehow that was all getting to me.
My list of 5 ended up something like this:
And there’s nothing wrong with this list. Except that I started feeling regret for some of the things that I cut away from the list. How could I cut Creativity? Orderliness? Health? Somehow I thought that the things I spend the most time thinking about weren’t important enough to be on a list of Top 5 Values. My list of Top 5 Values ended up feeling shallow and basic. Not that these things aren’t important, it just didn’t feel like me. Yet somehow I ended up with this list.
The next step in the activity was to think about each value and consider how much effort you were putting into each value in your life. In other words, we had to quantify how aligned our life was with that value. Rate it on a scale of 1-10. I started to feel guilty because right now I feel like I’m struggling to feel Joy and Purpose (3). I didn’t know how to quantify Respect (5?). I felt pretty good about Learning (10), but that I could do better at showing Compassion to others (6). I was starting to feel disappointed and guilty because my life is not really aligned with these values that I picked. These aren’t the things I think about every day. These aren’t related to the specific goals I aspire to accomplish. The original 5 I picked are good values, but they are not the ones I want to prioritize right now. They are not the things I am regretting not including in my life. I also felt some dissonance because I’m honestly not sure that teaching is the best fit for me, yet here I am sitting at my school thinking about how teaching gets in the way of my values sometimes.
So I reevaluated.
These are my real Top 5 Values:
There are still some areas where I feel I am lacking, but they are the things that I want to work on and get better at. You’ll also notice how some other values intertwine with each other. Here are the reasons for why I included these in my top 5:
While religion is a huge part of my life, I specifically chose Purpose because I think that’s the point of religion and spiritual practices. To know why you’re on this earth. Some of those purposes for me include learning and growing to become more Christlike, raising a family, and developing relationships that bring others to Christ. My other values help me discover and work towards these purposes.
I don’t know how this didn’t make my original top 5 because Creativity drives everything that I do. This is the biggest way I find my purpose no matter what I’m making. Sometimes I doubt my creativity and if I’m good enough. I fall into the comparison trap all the time. My lowest grades in college were the 4 art classes I took freshman year. I thought I wasn’t talented enough to be a designer. Yet, I always come back to the idea of making things, and being creative is always what brings me the most joy in my life.
This one is in my top 5 because I when I was a teenager, I was given a special blessing from a leader in my church and he told me something that I will never forget. He told me that there are many things I will learn in this life, but the most important thing that I should learn is love and compassion for others. One reason why I became a teacher is because I thought that this would be the best way to learn love and compassion for others. Aside from teaching, Hayden and I made it a goal to serve someone specific that we love every month of this year. This has been incredible so far and I look forward to completing this act of service every month.
This one I struggled with putting on my top 5 because it feels shallow. Like it’s synonymous with looks or appearance. But really, health is so much more than that. Good physical health leads to good mental health. I have also struggled with making this a habit since I got married, but I’m always conscious of it and want to work on it more.
This was another one that felt silly to be in a list of values, but I would be lying if I said this wasn’t a big deal to me. I can’t think straight when things are out of order. It makes me irritable. I’m not perfect at keeping things orderly, but it’s always a goal of mine. When things are in order, it helps me be less stressed and feel more peace in my life.
I hope you can learn from my thought process as you hone in on your values. Don’t let outside influences and comparing yourself to others psych you out. These are for YOU. Any decision you make should align with one of these values to help you lower stress and anxiety in your life. This has been helpful to me so far and I’m excited to report back in a couple months to let you know how this has worked for me.
In the meantime, you can tell me: