Clarifying values and setting intentions can help you enjoy a satisfying and successful spring season.
In my last blog, Clean Out The Clutter: Decluttering tips for mental, emotional and physical freedom, I was inspired by the change of season and natural inclination for spring cleaning to offer tips on how to declutter and create space in not just drawers, dressers and desks, but also in our minds and hearts. Much like our closets and junk drawers get cluttered and disorganized over time, so can our heads and hearts. And, what better time than the fresh and fertile spring season to take stock of the thoughts, feelings, behaviors and material objects that are no longer needed and/or serving us? If you missed the last blog on decluttering, you may want to check it out before reading on.
After taking the time to create space in minds, bodies, hearts and homes, what now? What is it that you’ve created space for, and how can you implement intentions and reach goals that are meaningful to you in nourishing and sustainable ways? As an acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) therapist and coach, I’m often asked questions like these, and the answer often comes down to values. Our core values, those pieces of existence that are most meaningful to us—be it curiosity, honesty, pleasure or belonging (to name just a few of hundreds)—are what give our life meaning. And, when we take thoughtful action (setting intentions and moving toward goals) to live in alignment with our core values, we’re best able to experience ongoing peace and joy.
A change in season, especially spring, is a wonderful time to check in with values. Some values hold true throughout a lifetime; however, values can be dynamic and change over time. For instance, a lifetime core value of mine is love—as a way of being in the world toward others and self. However, other values shift. Think back to November, at the onset of the holiday season. What held value for you then might not hold the same level of importance now. Or it might. Either way is fine, although it’s important that we stay flexible and agile with the values that inform how we live.
Domains are the main areas of life in which we infuse our values: family; leisure activities; education development; spiritual life; physical health; social life; work; intimate relationships. Not all domains hold the same level of importance to everyone, nor to one person throughout their life. For instance a single person might not put too much emphasis on family, but after getting married and having a child, family moves to the top of the list in importance.
Take a minute to rate (not rank, as some may hold equal importance) the domains in your life. Notice the one, two or three that hold the most meaning for you. The following Value Compass can help.
You can use this graph to rate what domains are most important to you, with one being of very little significance and 10 having utmost importance. Now, ask yourself how you’re doing in each domain. How are you showing up in the domains that you rated high? Reflect on the energy, presence and accountability that you bring to the areas of your life that are most important. Do you feel balanced? Have you created space by saying no to things that don’t really hold meaning for you so you can be present and energized to show up for the people and things in the domains that really do?
Setting Intentions And Goals: Find The Overlap
Once you’ve become clear on what core values and what domains in your life are of most meaning right now, take a little more time to access where they intersect. Accessing what values in what domains of your life are most important can help you clarify and subsequently simplify where energy spent (and it’s finite for all of us) brings you the most fulfillment. For example, with the warm weather approaching, the domains of leisure, intimate relationship and family hold particular importance for me. And, the values that fit into those domains include love, play, fun and connection. With the intention of fostering playful connection with those I love, I set a goal for myself—even in the midst of a busy professional practice—to make more time to get outdoors and spend time exploring and playing in the mountains of Colorado with my life partner. A hobby that helps me live with my values and intentions in the domain of nature and family is photography.
Now that you’ve identified what values and domains hold the most meaning for you right now, it’s time to ACT. How will you use this rich and fertile springtime to create goals and plant intentions that fill you with purpose, peace and joy?
Create a mantra for the season
At the beginning of the year, many people create a resolution, but others identify a word or mantra (“a word or sound repeated to aid in concentration in meditation” or “a statement or slogan repeated frequently”) to help them stay connected to intentions and goals. This can be something as simple as “financial freedom” or “play” or as profound as “you are therefore I am,” a mantra often affiliated with the practice of mindfulness and the loving teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Bring your mantra into your yoga mat, meditation practice or exercise routine. You might repeat it while taking a walk or post it on notes around your home and/or office. Write it down, revisit it often and share it with others.
Infuse values into your daily routine
Not one of us is perfect and we all occasionally stray from what holds most meaning for us. And, when we do, it’s important that we notice it, accept it, forgive ourselves and then ACT on it. It’s a new season. Every day is a new day. And, every moment affords us the opportunity to realign ourselves with our values and make choices that are in alignment with what matters most.
Though straying is inevitable, there are actions we can take and routines we can create that can help us stay focused on and accountable to our intentions and goals. Developing supportive habits, effective time management skills and thoughtful, intentional short-term and long-term goals can help us infuse values into our daily lives and stay accountable to what is most meaningful. In her blog, What Is Intentional Living?, Natalie Bacon, lawyer turned financial planner turned blogger, offers some helpful insights and tips on setting weekly and monthly goals and creating habits that can help you live an intentional, focused and fulfilled life.
Clarify and simplify
Sometimes too taking on too much begins to inform how we live our lives, which can lead to burnout. If that sounds familiar, it might be time to return to your values and clear the deck. If you’re really struggling to identify your top three, 5 or even 10 core values, Creating Your Beyond Value Cards, a resource I designed for coaching can be a helpful and effective tool to help you clarify the core values that honor and support who you authentically are. Value clarification can also help you learn what to say no to. Saying no, while scary to some people, opens the door to saying yes in the most meaningful parts of your life.
Setting Intentions: It’s Time To Plant!
What intentions will you plant during this rich and fertile time of year? What goals will you create? What actions can you take to reach those goals and live in alignment with what you most value? What is one seed—one word, mantra, intention, goal—that you can plant today, tend to over the next few weeks or months, and watch blossom as we move into the summer months?