It takes a lot of courage to ask yourself if you’re living with integrity: if you’re really manifesting your own core values.
But the great news is that just exercising this kind of thinking is immediately and hugely rewarding.
We all had pretty strong feelings about things when we were younger, right? Strong opinions and emotions might be something you grow out of, but passion for life is most definitely not something you should expect to lose over time! Don’t just assume you’ve run out of energy for the important stuff – and never use circumstances to excuse the issue really at hand – because a real sense of unease and lack of vitality occurs when we are veering too far away from our genuine natures.
So have fun getting back in touch with the person you might not have communicated with in a while.
Embrace getting to know yourself again!
The Knowledge Trap
Knowledge really only becomes relevant in our lives if we put it into practice. Otherwise, it risks being just junk information.
Image from daysoftheyear.com
The poet John Donne put it very simply when he said ‘So doth, so is religion’ – it really doesn’t matter what you say you believe, it’s how you behave that really reflects what you think:
If you believe in kindness, you therefore ought to be kind. If you believe in loyalty, then you ought to be loyal – your impact on the world (where you spend your time, your money, the things you say and think) is what speaks for your core values.
Would anyone, at a glance (without the convenient aid of a social media profile), be able to see and recognise the most important elements that make you who you are?
As a writer, I like to think of this as the ‘show don’t tell’ principle.
We could list in a handy paragraph all the important stuff you should know about a character before you read their story, but that’s lazy writing. What you really ought to be doing is showing it through their actions, thoughts and dialogue – because that’s where the truth about people really lies. That’s the evidence of their values and beliefs.
So, let’s start with the basics.
- What is the difference between a daily practise and a daily habit?
A daily practice is something we have chosen to do: a discipline, a meditation, a walk, an art – we are fully engaged in it and practise it daily, with intention and a full understanding of why we are doing it.
A daily habit is all the mindless stuff we do on repeat. We don’t think about it, we don’t really know why we do it, and if questioned, we probably don’t get a lot out of it. It just needs to get done.
- What do we actually care about?
Photo by Jonathon Simcoe
A quick assessment of a week’s schedule or a monthly bank statement will summarise how you’re spending your two most valuable commodities:
If you can identify time each day or money each month that you dedicated to the things you care about deeply – (charity, creativity, family, reading, writing, outdoor activities, symposiums on china doll collections – gardening, baking, fun!, live music, galleries – etc etc etc), then you’ll know you are spending yourself on things you care about.
If you don’t like what you see in either of these places, then you’re likely to feel there’s a big rift between your core values and where you are actually spending your precious time.
Be honest here, and ask the big questions.
If your time is spent predominantly doing things you don’t care about, then ask why.
Do you work a job you hate or a career that harms you just to make money?
In that case, you’re spending your most valuable, irreplaceable commodity (time on this planet) to rent out a life you’re not connected to.
If nothing else is remotely important to you, then maybe these two things could be:
- Enjoying being alive
- Trying to make the place as nice as possible for everyone else around you and those coming after
- What are your core values?
What do you believe in? What sort of people really inspire you? How do you know when you’re getting close to something that you want to make a fundamental part of who you are and how you act?
You ask a lot of questions:
- What moves you? What excites you?
- What makes you angry? What hits at your sense of injustice?
- What do you regret?
- What keeps you awake at night?
- When do you feel most badly about yourself?
- What do you wish you could change about the world?
- What gives you a major burst of energy just thinking about it?
- Who inspires you? Who do you wish you could be more like – and what is about them that you so admire?
- What do you get absorbed in so deeply that time tends to disappear without you noticing?
4. Understand the difference between a Passion and general interest
A passion is something you are willing to make sacrifices for. This doesn’t have to be the major kind, like poverty, starvation and pain, but it can be something you are willing to turn into a priority.
What are the kind of sacrifices you are willing to make?
- Getting up an hour earlier to make time for it
- Putting a bit more energy, effort or planning into things by fitting it into your lunchbreak, or after work
- Suffer the discomfort of facing your own doubts and fears to actually try something, rather than give in and relinquish it to a distant dream
- Stepping outside your comfort zone
- Being brave
5. Don’t limit yourself before you even start
We limit ourselves all the time as a matter of habit. But like all habits – good and bad – they can be overridden and they can be made and broken. Just because you’ve spent years telling yourself ‘oh, that’s a selfish dream’, or ‘I would be no good’, or ‘I don’t have time’, or ‘it would cost so much money I couldn’t justify it’, just push yourself into the future and force yourself to look back and ask yourself one really big question:
6. What IS the point?
If your life wasn’t spent on doing things because you felt passionate about them, then what is the right thing to spend it on?
What exactly is the big reward for all that sensible thinking at the end of the road?
Do you get some kind of reward for being careful? No. We all go out the same way, the only difference is how we’ve felt along the way and how many regrets we take with us.
7. Understanding that living close to your values does not mean depriving anyone else
It seems quite natural to assume that by following your own dreams and beliefs, you must somehow deprive someone else of theirs. Maybe as a parent you feel that devoting time to anything other than your children will result in some vague form of neglect? Maybe as a partner you feel that your time should be shared, and any endeavours should be joint ones? The truth is, there are so many ways to express your interests and passions that you can fit it around your life and responsibilities just fine, without anyone else having to suffer at all. It’s a case of planning and working it out.
Can you involve them in it in some way?
Wouldn’t you want your children to feel able to express themselves and take time for their own wellbeing? Why not show them how to do it – that it is an important and valuable and worthwhile endeavour?
8. Saying no to other people isn’t an act of unkindness
Do you ever feel annoyed about your friends asking for your help? If you don’t, then you shouldn’t feel remotely bad about asking for some time to yourself. If you do, then there’s a chance they’re taking too much of it, or you haven’t given yourself nearly enough that you feel like you’ve got spare to give. Either way, saying no to constantly devoting your time to other people’s projects and values is not in the least bit bad. Are they devoting time to their interests and needs? Wouldn’t you encourage them to do it for themselves? Why don’t you treat your own life with the same care and kindness that you doubtless treat others?
Remember, everything you do reflects what you’re really thinking and feeling, and it does have an effect on the world around you.
If guilt is a major blocking point for you, just try to turn it around in your mind.
By showing the world that you are willing to make time for the things which are important to you, you are letting others feel like they can do the same.