My dear friend and colleague, Amy Todisco, has just written an article on this very subject and I want to share it with you! Enjoy!
What are values?
One definition that makes sense to me is that they are activities and behaviors that we are drawn to, that really matter to us. They are something we need to be really happy.
My Story: An Example of Values At Work
Up until 2001 (shortly before 9/11) I lived in Massachusetts. I was really unhappy there. For years I had wanted to move to Vermont where it was more peaceful and beautiful, away from the coal-fired power plants, and the road raging drivers. I really liked the greater focus on health and an active lifestyle, even in the bitter cold temperatures of Vermont winters. The independent spirit of Vermonters also appealed to me. I wanted land and privacy (we’d been living in a variety of apartments with obnoxious neighbors who greatly impacted the quality of our lives), and a much different and healthier atmosphere in which to raise our daughter. I loved the idea of watching deer, fox and wild turkeys wander on our property. I wanted a big organic garden. The only reason I had agreed to stay in MA for all of those years was because my (soon to be former) husband had a son from a previous marriage that lived nearby and he wanted to be near hi m (totally understandable, but not what I wanted, and I’d already made way too many sacrifices over the years.)
So, long story short, I created a dream board of the life in Vermont that I wanted to live. In other words, I got really clear on what was important to me and I put it out to the Universe in a graphic way. It was on my wall for over one year. There were pictures of beautiful mountain views; open land; horses, dogs and cats; a wood burning stove, wood floors in an open floor plan type house, organic farms nearby, skiing, healthy people, and more.
When my stepson was a senior in high school, I knew it was time to move. Our daughter had an opportunity to attend a Waldorf school (an educational choice that was important to us at that time) in the Burlington Vermont area. In fact, there was one spot left in the third grade class, and I believed it had her name written on it. This prompted us to push through our fears and make the move. It was aided by the fact that we really couldn’t stand where we were living at that time, and the Waldorf School that our daughter was attending was losing most of her classmates to other schools, and was riddled with too many problems. After our daughter interviewed at the Vermont school and secured her place, everything else seemed to fall into place. I found an apartment in the area that we wanted to live, and a job working at an environmental nonprofit that seemed like a great fit for me. My husband initially kept his job in MA and commuted up on the weekends and eventually found a new job that allowed him to telecommute part of the week. The best part came when we were ready to buy a house. Through another parent at our daughter’s school, I found out about a house for sale that wasn’t even on the market yet. We went to see it and knew instantly it was the place for us. 10 acres of land, a mixture of open land and woods off from the main road, with beautiful mountain views, a wood stove, a fairly open floor plan, and wood floors. There were only three other houses up the private driveway with lovely people living in them. That meant tons of privacy without feeling completely isolated. The owners came up with an asking price that was just at the top of what we could afford. They even let me start creating my organic garden before we had even signed papers. I was in heaven. Eventually, we even got two horses.
So, what were the values that were at work in this situation? Definitely the beauty of nature and animals, a desire for freedom, the need for change, a healthier lifestyle, courage to make a positive change and put my needs first for a change (which ended up benefiting all of us immeasurably, as I knew in my heart that it would.) And, a big one for me was honesty. I told my husband that I had to move and that I hoped he’d join me, but I knew it was time to go to Vermont.
How does you determine which values are most important to you?
In my life coach training we were told that we could determine our values best by telling a story of a time when something happened where we felt wonderful, magical and powerful. Sure, you can look at a list of values and select the ones that you think are your most important, or have someone that knows you well choose them for you, but I like this approach best.
Okay, so here’s my magical story…I grew up in New York City and always longed to live some place like Little House On The Prairie or Walton’s Mountain. I was definitely a country mouse living in a city mouse’s life. So, I jumped at every opportunity to go with a friend outside of the City, especially if it was a country location, and it was even better if it included animals. I also absolutely adored horses. My mother, sister and I would go to the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden each year and enter the contest to win a horse. I remember having a conversation with my mom about where we would keep it once I won. Guess it wasn’t the right time then.
One summer when I was 13, I got the opportunity to spend an entire month with my friend, India, at her grandmother’s mansion down in Orange, VA. They had a ton of horses, it seemed like there were at least 20. India was a really good rider and competed in horse shows. As for me, I’d been able to ride maybe once a year. And though I was a good athlete, I didn’t have a lot of confidence with horses. But, it didn’t matter. Every day we got up and spent the entire day with these amazing beings, feeding, grooming, riding, swimming (yes, swimming) with them. The only time we saw adults was when we checked in with her grandmother each night, and when the staff fed us. Other than that we were on our own. It was a dream come true. As a mother, I can’t believe that we were left to our own devices every day for a month, but amazingly we never got hurt. We had so much fun. We pretended to be different characters on horseback, speaking with diffe rent accents and acting goofy, as 13-year-old girls are known to do. The values that stand out from that experience for me were: beauty, bravery/courage, communication, freedom, fun, joy and responsibility.
It took me another 27 years to get a horse of my own, but I finally made it happen. It helped to have a daughter as obsessed with horses as I was/am. We adopted and rescued a 4-month-old horse, but I’ll save that story for another article.
And, finally my career choice definitely embodies many of my values. No surprise, right? I’ve been considered a green living expert for over 15 years, and I’m also a professional life coach. I research and use organic and natural products and green lifestyle practices, and then share that information with others. I’ve had a webstore, www.greenlivingnow.com, for over 4 years, where I sell the best of those products. I also have a fre*e green living newsletter and over 70 articles on my site that I’ve written. In both the green living business and the life coaching, it is my passion to help others live their values more fully. It started by doing that myself first. It’s been working so well for me, so I feel compelled to share it with others with the hope that everyone I come into contact with will be inspired to live a healthier happier life. Oh, there’s another value–makin g a difference. And, leadership, education, curiosity, challenge, and a sense of humor (I try to add a touch of humor to my green living articles to make them easier to read. Doom and gloom with a sense of humor. Just kidding…I’m an optimist, so I inform and then present the various choices of what one we can all do.)
The next area to master is my love life…I’ll get back to you on that one at a later date.
So, what’s your magical story? I’d love to hear it. If you feel inspired, email me your story at email@example.com
And by the way…please visit Amy to find out more about her soon to be released, “52 Steps To A Greener Healthier You”