Inevitably, we all find ourselves in different circumstances at any given time and on any given day: be they in the form of minor details (for instance, what you wear or the weather forecast) or major events (like childbirth or the loss of a loved one, as examples), they all represent challenges. Although no human is able to (reliably) predict or foresee exactly when and where what will happen to whom, all of us are always able to do at least one thing: choose how we respond to those mountains or molehills in life. Ultimately, these decisions are of greater significance than the circumstances themselves.
Living a life consistent with your values and your passions is a way to get motivated and excited about embarking on a journey and feeling satisfied with having attempted the endeavour; let’s get real, though: it is just as likely for one adversity or another to get in the way of smooth sailing. Would it be worth it or important enough to you to make your way through the adversity for the sake of standing for something important to you or would it make more sense to just call it all off and wave a white flag in the face of the adversity? Getting in touch with and living a life guided by your values is a powerful way to help you feel confident about the choices you make.
Values basically refer to how you want to behave/act in any given situation and what you want to stand for in life; values are different from the skills or talents or abilities that might help you to manifest them. As they are guides for which qualities you most want your behaviours/actions to embody, it is not really possible to “complete” a value: if it is hugely important to you to treat others compassionately, there is not a definite point at which you could “cross it off your to-do list” or consider it complete. Values are ongoing whereas goals have a discernible end point. It is a goal to graduate from college; a value to study diligently. Another goal could be to get married and have kids; a value to be loving. Values give you a sense of direction whereas goals represent your final destination. As an example, think of planning a vacation: you pick where you would like to go (goal), then in which direction you would travel to get there (value). Whereas goals are set for sometime in the future, you can live by/get in touch with your values right now or at any time you want!
Values are freely chosen: no one can tell you that your values are good/bad, right/wrong, vital/meaningless; if it is important to you, it is your value. No ifs, and, or buts about it. Some people might not agree with what you value/the significance you place on something and that is okay! Different people place importance on different things; their values might differ some from yours. Diversity is the spice of life! Confidently holding a value does not indicate trying to convince other people it is right, it simply shows what is important to you.
When you find yourself in a difficult or tricky situation, getting in touch with your values can help to steer you in a direction consistent with what you believe in and a decision you feel good about. Even if there are challenges and obstacles ahead of you, facing the adversities in the name of a value (your value) is likely to render a sticky circumstance at least a little bit less intimidating and the outcome at least a little more satisfying.
An example might help: Paul just finished a degree program in Commerce at his local college; it took two years to get accepted to the program, four years to complete it, and now he wants to go on a long, relaxing beach vacation after all his hard work. When Paul got to looking online at what airfare and accommodations would cost him for the holiday he was imagining, he was shocked. After paying off student loans and dorm fees, his financial resources would not cover the cost. He was so upset and disappointed!
To help put thing in perspective, Paul spent some time clarifying his values and goals: he had long wanted to go to college and get a degree (his goal, which he achieved); it is also important to him to behave kindly toward himself and others, to contribute to his community generously, to relate to people supportively (his values). So even though he achieved his goal and crossed it off his list of things to do (graduate from college), Paul was upset and dissatisfied that he could not afford to go on a beach vacation at the time; however, he did have the option of acting in line with his values at any moment: he could volunteer at a neighborhood house in his area and spend time with young people in need of a mentor, spend time with his grandfather and his friends, support local charities, start a fundraiser for at risk youth in his community, etc. By acting in line with his values, Paul could still feel satisfied, even while he could not go on vacation at the time. It might be likely that he could save up enough to go on the vacation at another time; it just would not be fair to him to have wait until he had a certain amount in his bank account or get hired for his dream job (another goal) in order to feel content and satisfied. By choosing to act consistently with his values, he could feel satisfaction and contentment in the present moment. Albeit not exactly the same experience, it is likely to amount to a more pleasant experience than just brooding over not going on the trip at this time. Whenever he does go on the vacation (reach his goal), he could still act on his values while on holiday.
So even though circumstances may not always be pleasant, getting to know your values helps you to get in touch with what is important to you and what you most desire to stand for in your behaviours/actions. Would it be worth it to stand strong in the face of adversity, if it would be in the service of something you believe in/feel strongly about? It’s your choice