Who’s In Charge Of Your Life? – How To Stop Acting On Autopilot And Start Living YOUR Values
“Psycho.” That’s what someone recently called me when I finally decided to voice my values and act on them. Clearly, they were not being met in this argument either but the offender had a point. I had been denying my morals and beliefs around him and was even letting myself get scolded for expressing them now. And is that sane?
At times, we humans seem to be willing to go pretty far to experience excitement or pleasure, to get someone’s approval or to reach a certain outcome. Be it in a love relationship, a friendship, a family situation or something work-related. We sometimes even act in complete disharmony with who we are and what we stand for.
Are you consistently living your life according to your values? Not your parents’ values, your partner’s, your boss’s, or your friends’ values, but yours?
In the example above, I was trying to stay true to another but by denying my own values, I obviously wasn’t. Perhaps I wasn’t betraying him but I was certainly betraying myself. And which is worse?
We all have different sets of values and sometimes they just don’t add up no matter how much we wished they would.
It’s not about who’s right or wrong in situations like these, it’s about what’s right or wrong for ourselves.
Being the pilot versus being on autopilot
Your values and beliefs hold the key to your every life decision. Many (if not most) of our habits, behaviors, and relationships are based on them. But we’re not always consciously aware of what those underlying values are. And in our subconscious decision-making, we often make the most damaging choices. For ourselves, and our surroundings.
Doing things that aren’t serving us on the long-term is a collective subconscious habit that stretches into the far ends of our lives.
From limiting thought-patterns to more physically damaging behavior, such as drinking, smoking or overeating–there are many ways in which we hurt ourselves. Simply because the things that are harmful in the long run often bring us some form of instant gratification. And our brains love that. A lot.
If you want to make better, healthier or more sustainable decisions, frequently revisiting your values can help to keep yourself in check.
Every decision you make is either made on autopilot, at the mercy and influence of others, or by your own conscious and deliberate mind. When you’re consciously aware of your values in your decision-making process, it becomes easier to recognize self-sabotaging or detrimental behavior.
The values we inherit versus the ones we choose
If you don’t have a clear vision of which behaviors and attitudes you hold dearest, it’s easy to overstep your boundaries and act in conflict with yourself.
It’s easy to get caught up in your surroundings, trying to fit into a family, a social network or work environment taking onbehaviors and attitudes that are not actually yours.
We actually do it all the time. None of us consciously chose his or her habits and attitudes while growing up. Yes, we sifted and sorted here and there, but we grew into most of them unconsciously. So it’s not that unlikely we adopted some that aren’t a good representation of who we are (anymore) at all.
Who’s values do you adhere to?
Living according to inherited sets of values may have been working for some generations but only seemingly and to some extent. When we look at the states the environment and society at large are currently in, we should be able to recognize that something isn’t working here. We seem to indulge in and do a few too many things that are detrimental to ourselves, to others, to our immediate surroundings, and our planet.
We’re being called to become more aware of what we do and do not find acceptable for ourselves and others and to start acting accordingly.
The easiest thing to do is to point the finger and blame: “They are the ones that are wrong.” “He/she is the one not adhering to highest values here.”
But are you consistently acting according to your own (highest) values yourself?We never have the power to change anyone else but we can always change ourselves.
In relationships with others but first and foremost in relationship with oneself, it’s important to understand what your values are and respect them.
Which behaviors do you appreciate or admire in others? Which do like about yourself? And which do you find unacceptable?
Not to determine who is right and who is wrong but to discover what truly resonates with and works for you. And what doesn’t.
Taking back your power
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”
Do you often find yourself in doubt when confronted with options or repeatedly do things that you know aren’t right for you or your environment? Or do you frequently experience that other people are making your decisions for you, perhaps?
When you’re not choosing with your full awareness and your own values in mind, you’re at whims of your environment and subconscious programming. And when you don’t act intentionally, you’re not acting at all, you’re reacting. You’ll be inclined to repeat the same behavior over and over, good or bad.
If you’re conscious of the values you hold dearest, making choices becomes a whole lot easier. So today, I’d like to invite you to take a look at the list with core values below and select the five values that resonate the most.
Which of the values below are non-negotiable, uncompromisable, true to your core?
Download the Extensive Worksheet (.xlsx) with 566 Values here.
Keeping a list of values helps you identify the areas in your life that demand your attention; areas that require action instead of reaction.
How well are the values you picked reflected and being met in your:
- Love life?
- Work environment and occupation?
- Health and wellbeing?
Becoming proactive = taking charge
Although making decisions becomes easier once you’re clear about your values, living up to them can involve making some tough ones.
You may discover you’re better off ending a friendship that isn’t mutually supportive, for instance. Or perhaps you’ll find it’s time to break up with someone you know, ultimately, isn’t right for you. It can also result in taking a stance against what your family wants for you when that’s not what you value in life. Or quitting a job that isn’t aligned with what you stand for.
Of course, not every change has to be radical. Having a good conversation with the people involved can sometimes be sufficient too.
Besides, there’s a difference between the values that are non-negotiable for you and the “nice-to-haves.”
Primary versus secondary values
Whenever you go against any of your primary values, you will feel most resistance. This could be it in the form of a nagging discontent, an undeniable rage or anything in between.
If trust and honesty are two of your primary values, for instance, and desire is a secondary one but you’re in a relationship that only caters to the latter you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. And I speak from experience when I say that this can result in some serious self-sabotage.
If fun is one of your core values but you can’t find the least bit of that in your current job, sticking with it without trying to add elements of fun is a form of self-sabotage as well. On the other hand, if it’s just a secondary value for you, changing your job may not be your highest priority.
Train the muscle, parent yourself
Making the more radical value-based decisions is not easy at first but it’s like training a muscle: it may be painful at times but with time, you’ll gain power.
And although the people who suffer the consequences of your evolution may call you “psycho” in the beginning, one thing is certain: sanity can never be found when you’re giving your values the cold shoulder.
If you’ve discovered your routines do not match your core values, you’ll have to force yourself to be uncomfortable for a while in order to turn them around. And this may not be easy, because as Mel Robbins explains it in the Ted Talk below, your brain is either on autopilot or on the emergency brake.
“You have to parent yourself,” says Robbins. “Make yourself do the crap you don’t want to do so you can be everything that you’re supposed to be.”
Which “crap” are you avoiding?