What's Most Important To You?
by Mary Marcdante

"When I asked my nine-year old nephew Michael what he thought I did as a professional speaker, he replied, "You talk to people about what's important."

I felt myself beam at his insight, which I had been so challenged to identify for myself. I acknowledged his brilliance and then asked him, " Michael, what's most important to you?"

He paused a minute and said, "My family, my house, my dad's job, and laughing with my friends Nick and Arthur at school." I was amazed at his clarity. Leave it to a child to know what makes them tick. If we'll only listen, oh, how much we can learn about how to feel less stress in our adult lives.

Relationships, security, laughter, learning. Core needs. Whether it's a nine-year-old boy, a 39-year old CEO, or a 59-year-old nurse, we all have core needs that reflect the values we hold most dear. These needs and values shape how we experience life. Yet, many of us never explore or talk about those values until we hit a crisis, which only adds to the pain we're already feeling. It doesn't have to be that way.

If we are willing to take the time now to deepen our self-awareness and learn the communication skills to express our values to each other, life will become a whole lot easier, more meaningful and enjoyable. As we discover and dialogue about our values, we free ourselves to create the experiences that match them. Without that knowledge, life is one unconscious choice after another that may or may not get us what we truly want and need.

Take 30 seconds right now to write down the four most important things you value in life today. If it's hard to decide, answer these questions:

1)  What values make you feel happiest and on purpose?

2)  What values do you most want your children to learn (If you don't have children, imagine that you did)?

3)  What values do you want your loved ones to remember about you after you're gone?

Here's a list of twenty values to get you started. In order of importance from 1-20 (1 being your most important value and 20 being your least important value), list what is most important to you.

Art & Beauty Appreciating the fine arts, culture; surrounding yourself w/ beauty; music, making art Purpose    Finding meaning in life; seeking to understand life; living to create a legacy for loved ones
Competence   Being the best in some area; mastering a craft or skill Recognition    Giving and receiving acknowledgment for who a person is and what they do
Creativity     Self-expression, using your imagination and resourcefulness to create solutions Relationships    Connection and intimacy with family, friends, community
Environmental Protection   Acting as a steward for the planet, protecting natural environments Responsibility    Doing what’s expected of you, following through on commitments
Gratitude   Noticing what is good about life; Blessing all past, present, and future experiences; saying thank you Security    Feeling safe in the world; having your basic needs met
Health    Taking care of your human system -- body, emotions, mind, and spirit; staying well Self-Fulfillment    Developing your capacity, career; realizing your potential
Independence    Doing things on your own, freedom to do as you believe Service    Contributing to the welfare of others or the planet; a desire to help with no concern for monetary gain
Learning   Accumulating knowledge and understanding of things that interest you
Spirituality    Devotion to your faith, connection to God or Higher Power
Pleasure    Being happy and having fun, feeling good; being playful; enjoying yourself Wealth    Earning a great deal of money; being able to buy whatever you want and do whatever you want
Power    Controlling the situation around you; being successful; competing and winning Work    Using your skills and talents to produce a service or product in exchange for money; right livelihood

What are your top four values?

1.  Health 2.  Recognition
3.  Relationships 4.  Gratitude

Now ask yourself what you're doing or can do every day to create, experience, and express those values; those values that make you feel good during and after you've done them. List at least four actions -- one for each value (keep adding to your list as you notice actions and activities that make you feel good about yourself. When you're down, review your list, choose and then do something immediately from your list and it will bring you back up again. The more you do this, the longer your good feelings will last.)

Daily Actions That Match My Values

1.  HEALTH: Walk at least 30 min out in nature, and do 15 minutes of yoga. 2.  RECOGNITION: Acknowledge at least five people throughout the day.
3. RELATIONSHIPS: Have a meaningful personal conversation w/ at least one person 4.  GRATITUDE: Do a "ten daily blessings" count every night.

If your list is short, your challenge (and gift) is to put your attention on what one thing you can do in the next 24 hours that would align you more closely with what you value.

If your list is long, and you're still yearning, consider adding the next four values (5-8) and choosing four more activities that bring more joy in your life.

There can be a difference between the values you hold as ideals to live by and the values you actually live by. You'll often find this to be true if you're feeling unhappy.

When you're on purpose, life fits.
You feel happy with yourself, even when you're challenged.

I like what Gloria Steinem said -- "If you want to know what's important to people, take a look at their checkbook stubs." Look at your checkbook -- what does IT say about what is important to you? Do your choices reflect you values? For example: If you say that work is one of your core values, yet you hate going to work, it's time to ask yourself, "Is it the job, or the way I'm thinking about the job? What am I doing to make this job more valuable, meaningful and enjoyable to me right now?" (You're going to be there anyway and you have a choice -- What do you choose to feel -- miserable or grateful?) The philosopher Anonymous said, "One cannot be grateful and unhappy at the same time."  Perhaps your one task becomes "Focusing for one minute on why I took this job." Your answer will help you discover more about what you really value and what to do about your job.

It's easy to get overwhelmed by trying to change too much too quickly. You don't have to change everything today. When Mother Theresa was asked how she got so much done in such overwhelming circumstances, she said, "I just do the very next thing that is in front of me that needs to be done and everything that is important gets done."

So, like Mother Theresa, simply ask yourself, "What's one thing I can do right now that will bring me closer to what is most important to me." And then go do it.

And then email me and let me know what you decided to do and what happened.

Inspirations and blessings,

Mary Marcdante

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