It’s a hard thing to wake up and realise you have no idea what you value. Dangerous too, because if, like me, you find yourself battling low mood at times, losing sight of your values will mean that everything loses colour. The very fabric of every action starts to unwind. Why do anything? Who even are you? Why exist?
The slippery slope is a steep one. From a difficulty making decisions, to a lack of higher purpose, a difficulty finding motivation behind simple tasks, and finally, towards the very questioning of life itself. To live without clear values is to live in the fog.
But finding and holding on to values is also really hard. It’s common to lose sight of these at times, for them to grow and change with the years. Here’s how I navigate the need for an essential heart to my life, alongside the demand for psychological flexibility.
Determine What You Value
I think one of the most difficult places to be in is one in which nothing seems all that valuable. What do you actually want to do? Why? Why not? These are really tough questions.
Russ Harris’ The Happiness Trap does a marvellous job of breaking down the troubles we have in determining our own values. There are so many possible excuses not to address this question — from “I don’t know what I want” to “I don’t want to think about it” to “I can’t be bothered right now” to “My values conflict with each other” and so on…
Remember that these blockages are driven by you; if you sit down and just draw a blank, it is worth reflecting on why that is. Are you really trying to determine your values, or are you just consumed by fear? Blockages are really interesting signs of where something you really value lies. I resisted the idea of writing as a career for ages, dithered through job after job, precisely because I was afraid of what committing to what I really wanted would be like. What if I failed?