by Maria Kwiatkowska
Our life is a sum of choices we have to make every single day. Some of them are big and profound, such as moving out, quitting one’s job, or starting a family. Then, there are those small, seemingly meaningless daily dilemmas: go out with friends or stay at home, keep my promise to someone or tell a “harmless” white lie, tell uncomfortable truth to your partner or keep it to yourself.
Ultimately, all these decisions boil down to who you are and what you believe in. At the very heart of these choices are your core values. They act as a compass, providing guidance in the right direction. Building them up and embodying them serves us as a blueprint for all of these choices. Read on to find out how cultivating core values can make your life easier.
Core values make us take a step back and look at our dilemmas from a different point of view. An absolute game-changer that redefines our life. Just like impressionism in the 19th century was (and still is) considered “the first modern movement in painting”. I fully grasped the significance of cultivating core values when I visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and saw “Water Lilies”, a series of paintings by Claude Monet, for the first time.
A quick reminder from an art geek:
Monet, who lived back in the 19th century, was one of the founding artists of impressionism. His intention was to express independence and break the traditional, academic painting style rules. Impressionists were initially mocked and highly criticized for their alternative take on art. And the rest is history.
So here I was, in front of “Water Lilies”, looking at this absolute masterpiece up close and personal. All I could see was a mass of small, chaotic dabs of paint that made little to no sense at first. However, it all changed when I took a couple of steps back and saw a choreographed dance of the brushstrokes forming a breath-taking landscape. I realized that these pastel-colored smudges were, in fact, coordinated and coherent from the very beginning. I just didn’t try to look at the painting from a different angle.
Impressionists knew what they were doing. They aimed to capture a moment, fleeting light, a play of shadows, and changing colors. From the very first stroke of a paintbrush, they had a bigger picture in mind. The sum of small, seemingly meaningless dabs of paint, when added up, created an art piece. What we all can learn from “Water Lilies” is the importance of taking a step back and making daily choices based on the bigger picture, on some kind of a personal blueprint, a set of private rules, if you will.
Embodying your core values:
and so much more. Let’s fully acknowledge their impact on the quality of our lives by taking a closer look at the benefits of cultivating core values:
We all have these extremely challenging days from time to time, when we jump from one chaotic situation to another, putting out fires and facing difficult choices. It feels as if we’re running low on supplies and are about to have a major meltdown. It’s called decision fatigue.
Humans have limited resources, our brains included. Crossing these thresholds drastically limits our mental bandwidth. That results in our inability to make a well-informed choice and, according to Stacey Colino from Washington Post, “depleted self-control, causing you to avoid making certain choices entirely, to go with the default option or to make ones that aren’t in line with your goals or values”.
“The more complicated a decision is, the more it wears you out”– Barry Schwartz
That’s where the core values come into play. They help us successfully go through a decision-making process by automating it as much as possible. Once again, it’s all about considering the bigger picture, the general context rather than small parts of it. Here’s an example:
You're in the office and have a lot of work ahead of you. Your friend comes in and asks for your help with her project past its deadline. Now, you can do two things: 1. You either consider all elements of the dilemma, picking it apart and trying to make the right decision, knowing that there's no perfect solution: => If you DON'T help her, she will face sad consequences. => If you DO help her, you will fall back with your responsibilities. OR 2. You take a step back and apply your core values in this situation. If it's your friendship that you value above reliability at work, then the decision is relatively simple and not so energy-consuming.
Sometimes we tend to go back and forth on a particular decision. We just can’t make up our minds, right?
And even after choosing a specific course of action, we tend to worry about tomorrow or dwell on yesterday. On an elementary level, core values put your mind at peace through:
When life gets hectic and chaotic, we can quickly lose touch with who we are the same way sailors can get stranded at sea in the middle of a storm. In these moments, core values act as a reference point that shows you the right way, just like a lighthouse guiding sailors in a safe direction.
Most importantly, thanks to cultivating core values we become our authentic selves. There’s no need to hide behind a facade or a mask. Core values represent who you actually are at your most genuine, unfiltered, and ordinary self. They bring us back to the essence of who we are and remind us of our dreams, priorities, and beliefs we want to live by.
“The major value in life is not what you get.
The major value in life is what you become.”– Jim Rohn
Core values are the magic element, the common denominator that binds every choice we make, no matter how big or small, together and fills our actions with meaning.
Just like the impressionistic style of painting, where each and every brushstroke adds up, resulting in a masterpiece – our core values connect each of us with their mission and purpose in life. They make life in alignment with your priorities easier, acting as a blueprint. When we live on purpose, we are more attuned with our feelings, which can guide us towards the things we enjoy doing and ultimately make us happier by realizing our potential.
Core values are not a set of fixed rules, though. They change over time, just as we evolve through different stages of life. Maybe you already know your core values very well. Perhaps you’ve never spent any time contemplating this matter. Maybe you feel pretty confused about how to discover them, or you feel like it’s time to reorganize your priorities. Either way, I wouldn’t leave you high and dry without any clue what to do next. Naturally, it’s easier to talk the talk than walk the walk.
Luckily for you, in her newest Youtube video, Cassie (aka Dwen-Day’s CEO) shares how to build your core values in a simple 5-step process:
Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments below or in our FB community group.
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