One of the most damaging things to your mental and emotional health and wellbeing is living out of alignment with what you value most. Your overall happiness hangs in that balance of choosing what you value most, but it’s something most people don’t put a lot of thought into, at least not regularly.
We all have an idea of who we want to be and where we want to be, but many of us still constantly make decisions that put us on a trajectory away from our “end” goal. This leaves us feeling discontented. The solution lies in the small decisions we make day in and day out. It lies in choosing what we value most over what we want right now. But how do we make sure we always (or at least usually) do that?
Define what you value most
Value is subjective, no matter the price or importance someone puts on something, we each determine what things mean to us and the value of them individually.
- The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
- A person’s principles or standard of behavior; one’s judgement of what is important in life.
Choosing what you value most
Defining your values is typically easy. Choosing what you value most in a big, life-changing moment is also typically pretty easy. That’s when the choice and the result will be very clear. But choosing what you value most in the hundreds of small choices you make on a daily basis is much more difficult.
Every small choice determines the trajectory of your life.
It’s the right decisions throughout the process that bring us contentment, not reaching the end goal. While we might crave instant gratification now, it’s choosing what we value most over what we want right now that gives us contentment. Training your brain to deeply understand and believe that, to see the bigger picture of what you’re living and making decisions for, will come with time, prayer, and intentional practice.
Putting it into practice
Make shifts in your daily life to change what you want now to line up with what you value most
This is one of those simple but difficult things. It can be applied to any area of our lives – marriage, career, health, our spiritual journey. Thinking back to what I said about living out of alignment with what you value most, let’s take our relationships with God as an example. We’ve all been there (at least most of us), time and time again. We value our relationship with God, probably over everything else. Yet we still put off spending quiet time with Him, studying the Word, seeking Him in prayer, because we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Sometimes we would rather do mindless, relaxing things like binge-watching TV shows or sleeping late instead. That causes stress, guilt, overwhelm, and more awful feelings because we want to be doing those things and we know we should be doing those things if we really value that relationship.
Change your daily life, your environment, as much as possible to be conducive to the things you value most. Change your routine, the people you spend time with (if they are affecting your relationship with God), your daily priorities, etc.
Related: Setting Boundaries as a Christian
In order to honor what we value most in every area of our lives, we have to get down to business defining those values. Then we really have to fine-tune our lives to make space for only the most important things.
We tend to choose the path of least resistance, it’s a normal, human thing to avoid trouble and difficulty. So get ahead of those mindless choices by setting yourself up for success ahead of time. When you change your environment to make the choices you value into the easy choices, then you’ll begin to feel more content than ever.
Take Inventory Regularly
It’s easy to find ourselves off track in any area of our lives, on a trajectory away from what we really want and really value most. That’s why we need to take inventory of our status regularly. Once a week, once a month, whatever works for you. Take a little time to look at your current habits, evaluate what you need to change and what can stay the same. Always be on the lookout for warning signs in your life that point out a change in your direction. Confusion, dissatisfaction, restlessness, frustration, fatigue, even anger.
Simply acknowledge where you are and forgive yourself. Then realign your actions with your intentions and move forward. You’ll find that it will become easier to recognize when you’re getting off track and easier to bring yourself back. Contentment doesn’t come from perfection, it comes from growth and patience with yourself through the process.