Design A Life That Aligns With Your Values

Have you ever been asked to do something that you value but can’t find the time to fit it into your busy schedule? If so, it raises an important question – have you designed your life in a way that your time commitments align with your values and goals? If not, it may be time to re-evaluate your values and how you spend your time. While it may sound like a simple solution, the reality is that few of us make changes to our time commitments or values unless we find ourselves in a crisis that forces our hand. Regardless of whether you’re dealing with a crisis, designing a life that aligns with your values is something we can all benefit from.

Where do you begin? The first step is to check in with yourself. Give some thought to your core values and how you spend your time (more about that process in the previous blog post here). Assuming you’ve done that using the practical approach I share in my previous blog post, take a look at what you’ve written down. Specifically, identify the areas that don’t match up. Do you have core values that aren’t getting much of your time?

On the other hand, is their one value that is proving to be the most time-consuming? Are you spending time on commitments that don’t really align with any of your core values? These are a few of the questions to ask as you consider the notes you’ve taken.

To design a life that aligns with your values, it’s vital first to understand what causes the gaps. Could it be a time commitment you previously made that no longer makes sense for you? Or maybe your values have been hijacked by others – and instead of staying true to your values, you find yourself under peer pressure to live by someone else’s values. Be honest with yourself about why these gaps are occurring to be more self-aware and intentional in future time commitments.

Speaking of time commitments now comes the challenging part – making changes. Change in this area doesn’t seem to come easily unless, as I mentioned earlier, you’re facing a crisis that forces you to reflect and/or gives you an excuse to get out of some of the things taking up your time. I get it. We hesitate because we often feel obligated or tied to our current time commitments – and having the conversation to bow out of those duties may feel awkward. Perhaps some of your time is spent doing something that came as the result of a co-worker, friend, or family member, and you don’t want to let him/her down. I’m not denying that making changes can require uncomfortable conversations – but I’m telling you that pushing through those conversations will show the discomfort is temporary. The impact it has on your life will be worth it.

Let me give you a personal example that I refer to in both of my books. Several years ago, I worked for Ernst & Young, and their annual training week always happened to be the week of one of my daughter’s birthdays. For those few years, I missed her birthday. Of course, we celebrated before I left or when I got home, but I missed the day. It never felt good not to be there for her birthday – a big hint that I wasn’t living my life in a way that aligned with my family values. It took a few years, but I finally decided I wanted to make it a priority to be a part of milestones, like birthdays, with my kids. I did, and that feeling in my gut that was with me those few years disappeared.

We are causing unnecessary stress by allowing conflict between our core values and how we spend our time. I encourage you to revisit my previous blog post on this topic and make an effort to think through your core values and then rearrange your time commitments accordingly. I’m confident you’ll notice a positive impact, as I have.

If you want to take an even deeper dive into this topic, check out my new book, “Lessons in Lifecircle Leadership.”