In Search of Eudaimonia: Why Values Matter
The topic of values has been coming up for me a lot lately. I'm big on intentionality and being clear about what we want to create in our lives, so as I'm focused on the development of major areas of my life, consciously reflecting on my values has been a grounding practice.
In a recent session, I was reminded of how little awareness many people have around their greatest values.
If you were asked right now to highlight the five greatest values in your life, could you rattle them off? And furthermore, if you were asked to explain how those values are reflected in the various areas of your life, could you do so with ease? (If yes, great! Read on...)
In order to live an authentic and meaningful life, there needs to be congruency throughout it. This means that when we examine the various aspects of our lives, we need to see a set of our highest values consistently reflected back at us.
Furthermore, if we want to be intentional creators of our lives, we need to be aware of our values so that we can create in alignment with them.
This includes the nature of our relationships (especially partnerships), how we spend our leisure time, what our careers evoke from us, and what we naturally prioritize.
At first, we might be inclined to define our values as what we believe a typical "good/moral person" looks like. But even though we can all agree on things that are "good/ideal/desirable," we each naturally tend to prioritize some of these things over others to the extent that we may sometimes even dismiss values that we had thought were important.
For instance, while we may believe empathy to be an important quality in ourselves and others, we may actually focus more on delivering honesty and being direct, and as a result more highly value the latter than we truly realize. (Yes, I'm describing myself here). This doesn't mean that both aren't possible to embody, it's just that we often naturally gravitate towards some values more than others.
And of course, the reverse is possible - such that we forego being honest with others in circumstances where we could hurt that person in some way.
We unconsciously express our values on a regular basis, and particularly so when others behave in ways that we are inclined to criticize. But this is why being truly aware of the values that drive us the most is so important - because if we have no awareness of what motivates us to begin with, then how can we develop the awareness that others are motivated differently?
In my coaching degree, I was recently introduced to the concept of eudaimonia. This word is defined as human flourishing, and it is used in the personal growth realm to imply that every person has a natural inner sense for what they most desire and what will bring them personal fulfilment - and as coaches it is our job to help individuals identify and follow this inner sense.
I believe that this inner sense is particularly guided by the values we hold the highest. Our sense of fulfilment and "human flourishing" is shaped by how much congruence there is throughout our life.
"Is my life a true reflection of who I am, as defined by my values?"
This means honestly assessing the quality of your relationships, your career aspirations or current path, and how you spend your time.
It should come as no surprise that the level of congruency among your values and the various areas of your life will strongly relate to your sense of fulfilment, connection, belonging, and purpose.
So if you are feeling disconnected - ask yourself, do the relationships I am investing the most in reflect my highest values?
If you are feeling purposeless - ask yourself, am I spending my time or investing in a career that allows me to effectively express my gifts and what I value most?
If the answer is no or somewhat, then that's a clear message that some part of your life is lacking congruency with the deepest parts of you and what you value most.
Being intentional about creating a life of meaning and fulfilment begins with awareness. In this case, awareness of your highest held values that ultimately shape your goals and desires in life.
It involves the question of how honest and real you want to be with yourself in assessing the congruency between who you are and whether your life reflects that to the extent you want it to.
It also involves asking how accountable you want to be for creating a life that reflects those things.
For me, it's been a journey of continuously straying, exploring, and coming back to the values that truly drive and satisfy me. It's a continuous process of self-reflecting and deciding how I want to intentionally align my life with what fulfils me most.
I'd love to hear from you, in what ways do you create a meaningful and congruent life?