The ebb and flow and persistence of values

Although I have been thinking about my core values a lot during the past 10 days or so (yes, I am very late with this post), I have been putting off writing about them. But this afternoon I decided I just have to do it – before the end of the day. Hmm….. I have 2 hours til midnight and a baby who is sure to wake for a feed any minute. Never mind, I’m not about to give up on Deb’s challenge in week 2!

So why have I been procrastinating so much? I’ve been reflecting about that too and I think it is simply because putting out a list of “my top 5 core values” seems so definite and final and hard to do. I have been reading some other posts for reassurance that it is possible and it seems many people have found this challenge similarly difficult. But I know Deb made the point that values are not permanent so the time has come to define my values and accept that if I were to do this exercise again next week or next year the list would probably be different. And that’s fine.

Identifying a whole heap of values that are really important to me is easy. In no particular order, all of the following are values I hold in high esteem: respect, compassion, wisdom, resilience, learning/growth, connection, family, honesty, love, loyalty, empathy, commitment, patience, kindness, balance, mindfulness, optimism, generosity, perseverance, reliability, courage (the ordinary kind; fans of Brené Brown will get this distinction), authenticity, trustworthiness, enthusiasm and versatility. These are all values that I hope my kids will grow up believing in and aspiring to. But there are way more than the suggested 10 – 15 there!

And how to narrow it down to 5? Therein lies the challenge.

As I write, I have suddenly remembered that I have been through this process before. Some time ago I was given one of Paul Wilson’s “Calm” books. With it came a mini-book called “The Life Priorities Calculator – the calm way to get your life in order”. I now vividly remember sitting on a plane in 2003, returning home to the grind of my PhD after visiting my then new boyfriend (now husband) who lived interstate. I was newly madly in love and full of optimism and joy and had decided on a whim to pack the book. It was the freedom and autonomy that comes with a plane flight (pre-kids!) that led me to work through this book.

I have just pulled the book down from the shelf (after writing the first half of this post) and voila, I have a record of the values, goals and priorities that were important to me almost a decade ago. Even then, in the first round I selected 32 values (at least I am consistent in my indecision)! Following the process outlined in the book, I then narrowed the list down to 20 and finally to 5 core values.

I am fascinated by the fact that every single one of the 20 values I identified in 2003 can be found in the list of 25 values I made today. Who knows if that would have been the case another decade earlier? Probably not (20 years ago I was only 17). So I wonder at what point I became able to identify these values that form the foundation of who I am and who I want to be? Again, I’m sure that is another post but makes the point very well that while values may change, they also may not.

For now, I want to explore my two lists of top 5 values. Because they are completely different. Not one shared value.

In 2003, from # 1 – # 5, I had Love, Wisdom, Integrity, Passion and Balance. All values that I continue to feel very strongly about. No prizes for guessing why love was at the forefront of my mind 😉

But prior to finding my 2003 list, I had finally sorted out my current ranking for core values.

In 2012, from #1 – # 5, I have Connection, Family, Respect, Learning/growth and Gratitude.

Of course, as soon as I found my 2003 list, it made me question my 2012 list, but I am sticking with it. Another day I might analyse the differences but for now I shall focus on my current list.

Today, Connection has to come first. To me, this is what gives my life meaning. Connection with myself allows me to be mindful and to live an authentic life and connection with myself enables me to truly connect with my family and friends. Genuinely connecting with people is quite simply everything to me. And this comes ahead of family in my list (if anything really can) because connection encompasses everything that I hope for in my relationships with my husband and children.  True connection means being there for one another no matter what, being true to one another, being truly available and loving one another unconditionally. For me, connection is also about respecting the earth and feeling connected to something “bigger than just us” when I am in nature. Call it mother earth or whatever you will but natural places are spiritual places for me.

Next is Family, no explanation needed. Both my immediate and extended family. My husband and my kids are my life.

Third is Respect. And by this I mean both self-respect (looking after my body and my mind) and respect for others. To me this also encompasses compassion, empathy and kindness. This is about treating myself and others right and doing whatever I can for us all to flourish and thrive.

Fourth is Learning/growth. It seems to me that without constant learning, personal growth and development, life would get pretty dull. I just can’t imagine not having multiple books on the go, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, talking to people, travelling and doing a multitude of other things to expand my mind and broaden my experiences.  Perhaps with enough years under my belt I may even have something resembling wisdom. I naively assume that given how they are being brought up, my kids will also have this thirst for knowledge and understanding as well as a love of learning. Hope I’m right!

Finally, I have Gratitude. I think this is reasonably new for me, realising that my natural tendency for optimism, the fact that I almost always look on the bright side (except for when very sleep-deprived) is vital to my happiness and that of my family. Being mindful of the myriad blessings in my life and being genuinely grateful for those blessings enables resilience, perseverance, generosity and courage.

Phew…. nearly kept it under 1000 words. Maybe next time!


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deb @ Home life simplified
    Jan 29, 2012 @ 11:40:43

    Definitely write as it flows (i also struggle with brevity in case you did not notice LOL). It was awesome to see you compare two different experiences on the same subject…it makes sense to me that you are in a different phase of life and your top 5 would reflect that.


  2. Madeline
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 09:28:24

    I loved reading this! How great that you kept the 2003 list and could compare.


    • buildingwings
      Jan 25, 2012 @ 09:30:27

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting Madeline. I’m just so glad I remembered about it! Small children and years of sleep deprivation have done crazy things to my memory!


  3. Vicky
    Jan 23, 2012 @ 01:58:47

    I so hope you don’t try to keep your posts under a 1000 words… and instead let them just flow like you have here.

    This exercise provoked a lot of thought and reflection for me too. I’m enjoying getting to know the new “village” I have found. The support will be most welcome.


    • buildingwings
      Jan 23, 2012 @ 02:52:58

      Thanks so much Vicky, it is really lovely for you to make that comment because I was fearing that any potential reader would run a mile from my long posts. Brevity just isn’t one of my strong points, particularly when I’m writing about stuff that matters to me.

      I agree, the support is wonderful!


  4. Kirri White
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 09:20:16

    I love the wee journey you just took me on, reviewing your values and being triggered by the memory of an old book! I think you have some beautiful values there Jen (okay, I’m biased because half of them are the same as mine!).
    Great job.


  5. lyndal
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 09:22:59

    how awesome is it that your ‘old’ list and ‘new’ list have all of the same values in there somewhere! it makes sense that the ranking may change as your life does and you grow and evolve and relax into new and different roles… 🙂


    • buildingwings
      Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:24:19

      I was seriously amazed that the full lists are so similar but at the same time not at all surprised. After all, our values are pretty fundamental to who we are and I guess I really haven’t changed that much in that time. Thanks so much for reading 🙂


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