Hi friends, welcome to 2019! I hope everyone enjoyed a beautiful holiday season with family and friends, and that you were able to sneak some moments of peace and quiet along the way. For the first time ever, Dave and I decided not to travel and celebrate both Christmas and News Year’s in Houston. Although I missed my family dearly (FaceTime helps but it’s just not the same), I admit I did enjoy the freedom of being on our own.
Ah yes, sweet freedom.
I’ve had people-pleasing tendencies ever since I can remember. This isn’t always a bad thing (and I certainly prefer that to being inconsiderate) but it has taken me focused work over the years to allow myself to make decisions and spend my time out of want vs. obligation. One of my favorite things about getting older has been the confidence I’ve developed around setting boundaries and respecting my need for ample space, sans guilt. At 35, I can tell you that freedom is at the very top of my core values, and I have to be especially mindful to honor it as I plan for the year ahead so that my business ambitions don’t sabotage my personal happiness.
Brene Brown (my lady crush, as you know) defines core values as “a way of being or believing that we hold most important.” She says that “living into our values” means that “we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with these beliefs.” We all think we know our values, but when was the last time you really gave them some thought? Now, before you start ratting off all the things you hold dear, consider that you can’t really have more than two core values. Yup, you read that right, you only get two. A core value is like a North Star that helps us make the right decision when things get sticky and keeps us focused when the world gets noisy and we get distracted (like Dori, for any Finding Nemo fans out there). That being said, imagine how hard it would be to navigate through life if we had 10 of them! I know freedom is a core value for me because I chose to leave a well-paid corporate job to be my own boss (and trust me, that was not an easy decision at the time.) I also know that I get resentful and impatient when I feel stuck, trapped, or constrained. A good clue into what your core values are is the somewhat overreactive and visceral response you have in situations where that value is violated.
I know that we traditionally spend much of January setting goals for the year, but I invite you to consider spending time establishing what your core values are instead. For the items on your short-term to-do list, specific, measurable goals are great. However, when it comes to the much bigger, longer-term game of life, I think planning for such specific outcomes can be limiting. When we focus only on the end result, we don’t give ourselves much wiggle room to try new things, to make decisions in the present, or to learn from the lessons along the way. Core values, on the other hands, serve as guardrails that keep us from wasting time chasing things that won’t bring us joy but keep a lot of doors open so that we can craft our future as we live it, moment by moment.
Research shows that we tend to think we will change a lot less than we actually do over the years. That’s why we so confidently set goals for our future selves to enjoy achieving…only to find ourselves in that future wondering what the heck we were thinking when we chose that career, that big ol’ house, or that spouse (just kidding on the last one!). Our values can change over time, sure, but certainly not at the same rate at which we change our minds about what will make us happy. Had I stuck with the goal I set at 23 of becoming an ExxonMobil VP, you wouldn’t be reading this newsletter and I wouldn’t have thoroughly enjoyed getting the chance to write it!
As we enter this new year, I hope you take the time, either on your mat or on your favorite cozy couch at home, to dig a little deeper and uncover the fundamental principles that guide your life today (I liked the list of values I found here to work with). In the end, our only real goal should be to think, speak, and act in integrity with our core values.