• How to Fearlessly Live Your Core Values

    Identify your core values and learn how to live by them to build greater happiness.

    Sometimes you can go through life without paying much attention. Maybe you move from one thing to the next, playing on your phone, without considering whether your actions match up with what you believe is important – core values. But when you go through life without following your values, you can lose yourself and your ability to generate real happiness.

    Want to identify what your core values are and learn how to live them? Keep reading…

    Identify Your Values

    When you identify your values, you begin to design a life that is in better alignment with your true self. It’s important to remember that values are different for everyone—you are the only one who can identify your values.

    Think about the list of values below. Write down any of the values that feel right for you. Add any other values you find that aren’t on the list too.

    Values List:

    Authenticity Adventure Balance Bravery Compassion
    Challenge Citizenship Community Creativity Curiosity
    Determination Fairness Freedom Friendships Fun
    Generosity Growth Grit Honesty Integrity
    Justice Kindness Knowledge Leadership Learning
    Love Loyalty Openness Optimism Recognition
    Responsibility Security Self-respect Connection Spirituality
    Stability Status Wealth Wisdom Wellness
    Short List of Values

    Next, note your most important three to five values. For each of these, write down three or more actions that define what it means for you to live by these values. For example, if you value loyalty, actions might include forgiving a friend for a betrayal, negotiating fair treatment at work to ensure your commitment to your employer, or choosing not to engage in extramarital affairs.

    Now, write down one thing you have done that does not reflect each of your top three to five values. For example, if you value fun, it’s a more action-oriented choice to take the time and effort to look for fun activities to pursue.

    Next, write down what you could do differently next time. Maybe instead of bracing for the worst, you could think about what might go right, what you might learn, or what cool things you have to look forward to in the future. When you engage in this activity, you may learn that you can live in closer alignment with your personal values.

    It might be hard to follow through. Maybe you need to –

    It’s quite easy to go with the flow, keep the peace and lose sight of your values. It’s a lot harder to live by our values and do what’s right for ourselves in the long run.

    What if you haven’t been living your values?

    For one woman I know—a kind, smart, caring person—the rift between her values and her actions became apparent when she started leaving her boyfriend at home so she could gain attention and physical satisfaction from other men. It was clear that her actions went against her values. So even though her actions made her feel good in the moment, each night she would go home feeling terrible.

    For another woman I know—a strong, giving, selfless person—the growing gap between her values and actions was happened when she started staying in her basement office working until late to avoid her responsibilities at home. Never had she been the kind of person that couldn’t handle a challenge. Never had she been willing ignore her kids. But in the middle of the pandemic, she was overwhelmed by constant needs at home and work all happening at the same time. She lost her track of ability to give and receive love – one of her highest values. It was only when she reminded herself that her family was the most important thing that she reached out for help and started living her values that she rebuilt her relationships and happiness.

    The good news and bad news are that we all hold different ones. The outcome will look different for each of use loses track of our values. Many of us never think to ask ourselves what our values are or what would happen if we weren’t living them, the result is feeling lost and not knowing what to do.

    By identifying what you need to do to live your values, you can become the person that you want to be. And as it gets easier to love yourselves, you start to feel happier.

    Live Your Values

    When I did a values exercise in early in my career discovered that kindness is one of my top values. I was living this value in many ways, but I had some major gaps. For one, I could be really critical of my supervisees, criticizing them for the smallest things without a kind word at all. I could tell you I acted this way because I have high expectations, but while that’s true it was a rationalization–excuse I told myself to justify my behavior. The truth is that living your values is hard, and I wasn’t yet ready and as a young professional didn’t know how and felt ashamed to ask for help.

    I could tell myself I was being kind when I was really being stern-even blunt. But one day I realized I was just making excuses, and I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I was not who I wanted to be and behaving that was wasn’t comfortable. It seemed scary to be present in the moment when I wasn’t sure how to say what needed to be said. But I decided that I had to do it and no matter how much I fumbled, I had to live me values and be more kind and accepting.

    For each of your core values, in the last exercise ask yourself these three questions:

    1. Are there any people with whom you have a difficult time living this value? Maybe your romantic partner, parent, sibling, coworker, or friend?
    2. Are there any situations that make it difficult for you to practice this value? Where are you and what are you doing when you don’t practice these values? For example, maybe you’re at work, at home, out at a bar, on social media, in the car, or at the daycare center.
    3. Is there anything else that makes it difficult for you to live your personal values? For example, maybe you live your values at the start of the day but by nighttime they are a distant memory.

    Once you’ve identified what triggers you to veer away from your core values, it’s important to identify what about these experiences affects you in this way.

    Ask yourself what thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations lead you to behave differently than you would like to. Also ask are there any people or situations that lead you away from your values.

    The emotions that trigger you may be the same across all situations, or they may be different. Write down anything that think might lead you away from your values. These emotions, thoughts, and associated bodily sensations are the foundation of what causes you to abandon our values. When we act in a way that’s inconsistent with our values, we are attempting to regulate or reduce our negative emotions, even if only temporarily. By acknowledging this and changing your habits, you can start to live in accordance with your values and improve your lives. Changing your life is never easy, but it’s always worth it.

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    Stress Resilience Map

    It's your magic wand for stress!

  • 6 Simple and Effective Habits for Happiness in Life

    Are you just starting your happiness journey? 

    Even if you’ve been on the happiness path for a while, building a foundation that helps you accelerate your growth means that you can be happier sooner than you think!

    When I graduated with my doctorate, I had no idea what to do next. My mentor and I had planned to do some work together, but she passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks after graduation. I had my own cancer treatment coming up at the end of that month. The plan was to give myself a month to recover. I couldn’t be around my kids while I was radioactive, so a bit of time was needed. The reality was that I needed to go back to work. At the same time it was difficult to be positive – quasi requirements for a coach – when so much of my own life was mired in grief and disappointment.

    My experience probably doesn’t surprise you. To grow something sustainable, you have to start with the basics—and this is also true for learning happiness. We can make it easier for ourselves to build happiness when we choose supportive habits as the foundation. Here’s how to get started.

    Get a Quick Win with Something Easy and Fun

    Researchers believe that some happiness habits are easier to build than others. So rather than starting with whatever happiness habit is currently the most popular—meditation or self-care —you’re better off starting with habits that are easier or more fun.

    The broaden-and-build theory suggests that experiencing positive emotions broadens your mindset and builds your psychological, intellectual, and social resources, allowing you to benefit more from your experiences. 

    By starting with easy or fun practices, you may be able to get a jumpstart in happiness and boost your sense of self-efficacy that propels you forward in the happiness-building process. And luckily, now there are lots of these easier-starter activities online.

    One study showed that people who felt more positive emotion in the beginning of a happiness program reported greater improvements at the end. By going after the simpler and easier parts of happiness, you can build up reserves of confidence and good feelings that may help you tackle the trickier skills later.

    Which Habits Are Easy to Start With?

    1. Savoring

    One habit that researchers believe is relatively easy to build is savoring good things in your life (like a special trip or awe-inspiring concert) by continuing to reflect on them and share them with others. On the flip side, surveys suggest that learning mindfulness can be relatively difficult, as beginners may struggle and become cognitively depleted.

    2. Fun

    Another good way to start is with something fun. The Greater Good Science Center’s Science of Happiness course invited students to try out 10 different happiness practices, and (at the end of the course) reflect on their experience. The surveys showed that among those 10, students most enjoyed mindful breathing, awe exercises, gratitude journaling, and listing three good things. They found these practices to be a better fit—aligned more with their internal values and natural inclinations—than practices like forgiveness or self-compassion.

    3. Be Present

    In a 2012 study, people picked which activities to practice. They selected exercises related to setting goals, savoring the present moment, and recording gratitude more frequently than thinking optimistically, savoring the past, expressing gratitude to others, and recording acts of kindness. This evidence gives us some idea about which habits are the most enjoyable (or, at least, which ones we think will be most enjoyable).

    So, when getting started with happiness habits, try to begin with easy, fun ones—but don’t stop there. More difficult habits are valuable, too. 

    Get more bang for your buck with high-impact habits

    Some habits have a bigger impact on happiness than others.

    I recently asked a group of clients about which well-being habits contribute most to their happiness. They said feeling positive feelings about themselves, improving their self-relationship, seems to generate more happiness than the rest.

    4. Optimism

    Other research supports this idea. For example, researchers found that one group of habits that highly impact happiness in the long run are those that shape what you pay attention to. This includes practices like anticipating good things in the future, paying attention to the positives rather than the negatives of a situation, and reflecting on good things that happened in the past.

    5. Movement

    One of the most important habits is movement. The focus isn’t necessarily to just to “get in shape,” but to move your body instead of being inactive. The research suggests that healthy behaviors—like exercise—improve well-being, even among people who have a difficult time building other types of happiness habits. In fact, one study showed that a health enhancement program alleviated depression and increased life satisfaction faster than a mindfulness program among people diagnosed with depression. Although both programs were effective in the long term, the authors argue that positive health habits may more quickly increase well-being, while mindfulness may lead to more gradual but sustained improvements.

    6. Variety

    Using a greater variety of practices, regardless of what the practices are, may also be beneficial. For example, one study found that compared to a program including fewer types of happiness practices, a happiness program including more practices led to greater increases in well-being. Other research suggests that the people in happiness programs who choose to engage in more different practices show greater increases in happiness than those who choose to engage in fewer practices. And people who engage in a diverse range of practices and engage in them in more situations seem to show the most benefit of all.

    In sum, trying to create any new habit can be tough, so it’s worth thinking about which happiness habits to cultivate first. Once you’ve built a few of these habits, you’ll get the hang of it, and building other habits will feel easier. Use these tips to start off on the right foot and you’ll have the resilience you need to weather any storm.

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    Stress Resilience Map

    It's your magic wand for stress!