Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
That depends a good deal on where you want to go, said the Cat.
I don’t much care where, said Alice.
Then it doesn’t matter which way you go, said the Cat.
Do you much care where you are going?
I’m sure you do. If you’re reading this you’re probably much more interested in where you are in your life and where you are going that the majority of people I meet. Perhaps that rings of a bit of cynicism for the general populace – regardless.
Living your life with a certain care, a certain aesthetic or design requires a conscious choice of the values that will guide us. Otherwise we are asking for directions without having a sense where we should be going. We need not be as blithely unaware as Alice though.
So how do we determine our values?
There are many ways, but this is one way I find effective for myself.
Find a quiet space for yourself where you can sit and contemplate. This may be headphones in during your lunch break, in the park, in your favorite arm chair – whatever is truly comfortable for you.
Close your eyes (after you’ve finished reading this).
Take one, two, three slow deep breathes. With each inhale let your body relax and fill with calm. With each exhale let go of the troubles of your day, the worries and the practicalities. You can get back to them later.
Think about this question: What values do I seek to embody?
Turn it over in your mind, stretch it out, look at it from as many angles as you want. This question is about you. Not your work, your family, or your art.
Picture the person you are in five years – wiser, experienced, learned.
What values does that person embody?
Open your eyes, write down anything that came to your mind. Spend a few minutes writing these things down.
Now look at your list and determine common themes. Repackage them into groups by connecting them with arrows or circling them together.
For each group write out a sentence or two about what that group of kindred values means to you. By giving your value groups specific meaning clarifies what it is embody those values for you.
Words are merely jumbled letters unless meaning is attached.
In determining the meaning for each of your value groups you will realize some values are more shallow or less important than others. Select the top five or six value groups that you seek to embody. Clarify them further.
Repeat this exercise on occasion. At the beginning you may notice your values are material or connected to things in the world, as you repeat this exercise you will find that they become more about who you are.
If you want to see my values which I re-examined recently, click here.
Flickr photo by Kelsey Shay.