Updated: Apr 15
When I felt lost, stagnant, and directionless my therapist told me that's a sure sign I was not acting in accordance with my values. She helped me understand that there are behaviors that lead us towards our path, and those that lead us away. When we're acting in a way that doesn't align with our values it mixes up our signals, and it's easy for us to feel defeated.
At the time I was feeling directionless due to my lack of work-life balance while adjusting to being a new parent. My life had changed drastically and I hadn't yet figured out how to navigate this new life I was living in a way that felt right to me.
She showed me a very simple diagram:
The dot at the bottom represents a choice in your life. Your decisions can either take you towards your goals/values/desired life or they can take you away from them. We make thousands of choices every day. Some are big, some are small. Sometimes we forget that doing nothing is also a choice.
How do you make choices that move you towards your values?
Step 1: Define your values. It's very difficult to align with your values if you don't know what they are. A good way start defining your values on your own is to sit down with a pencil and paper and write down things that are important to you and goals you may already have. Why did you write down these particular things? Your values are the why behind the things that are important to you.
Did you write them down? If so, you're ready for the next step.
Step 2: Notice choices that you are making throughout your day. We have choice points all the time. Our choices are influenced by the status quo, societal norms, financial pressures, family expectations, and our perceptions of what we "should" do. Often we don't see these influences and we feel we don't have a choice--but we always do. Noticing doesn't mean making a different choice, just noticing that it is a choice.
Did you notice any choices just now? Keep practicing.
Step 3: Start (slowly!) making conscious choices that will move you towards your values. What is one choice you've noticed that doesn't move you towards the life you want? What could you choose instead? Just ask yourself the question: "Does this move me towards or away?" Practice with small easy choices so that you build your conscious decision making muscle. Over time it will get easier to tackle larger and harder decisions.
Did you try making one conscious choice? Maybe even just getting up and stretching right now. Wouldn't that feel good?
Step 4: Set incremental goals to create the life you want. One common mistake is assuming that most things are impossible for you. In reality, most things are possible given the enough knowledge, enough time, and enough effort. Another common mistake is to make a huge lofty goal but have no idea how to get there.
So you're going to do this in two parts. First, figure out what you would want if anything was possible. Then look for stepping stones to make that happen--even if you don't know all the steps yet--focus on something that will move you towards that big idea. These stepping stones are your goals, and if they are aligned with your values, they should always lead you towards your desired life.
What does this have to do with finance?
Aligning your life with your values applies to all aspects of life, but it's particularly important with your finances. Often we put our financial choices on autopilot without examining the influences that are leading to these choices. We make purchases according to what we think others are doing without stopping to see if these things are serving our own goals. Only you can define what you want. No one else has that power. So take conscious control of spending your money in a way that aligns with your goals.
I invite you to notice the choices you are making with your money. Just notice. No need to judge. Choices aren't good or bad (most of the time). They're simply choices that may lead you towards or away from what you want in life.
So once you have an idea of what you want, and you've started noticing your financial choices, you can then see clearly if the choices you're currently in the habit of making are aligned with your values.
There is no right answer by the way. Everyone's values are unique. Everyone's goals are different. A choice that might be "away" for one person could very well be "towards" for another. You're the protagonist in your story. You make the call. (and you can't be wrong!)
If you want help with any of the steps above, don't hesitate to book a free 15 minute call with me. I'm happy to help no matter what stage you're at.