How Identifying Your Values Can Help With Overwhelm And Simplifying Your Life
Simplifying your life is the answer to overwhelm. It may seem straightforward- overwhelm is when you are inundated with too many thoughts, tasks, responsibilities, goals, priorities, etcetera, etcetera.
So the solution is to cut the clutter, reduce the tasks, simplify the responsibilities, and actually identify the values that are most important to you.
But somehow this becomes so complicated because our brains themselves are OVERWHELMED with thoughts, questions, plans, worries, and fears.
How do you make it stop? How can we become present to who we are, what is most important, and what truly matters in this moment and our lives?
There are two ways to accomplish this:
- Have a balance between things that enrich your life, and things you have to do
- Identify your values and live a life that aligns with them
Identify Your Sources Of Overwhelm
I want you to take a second to think about the things that cause you overwhelm.
- Do you overthink everything?
- Do you put too much pressure on yourself?
- Are you living in anticipation of the future?
- Do you procrastinate too much?
- Do you feel like you never have enough time?
Sometimes we can become so blind to our lives and how we live them because things become routine. Patterns recur and repeat and we become accustomed to how things are. Most of the time, it is easier to live in the comfort of remaining static, than to risk the discomfort and chaos of change or progress.
Take a moment to reflect on your day-to-day activities on a typical day. Now, think about how you feel during those moments. Often, our emotions and thoughts are clues to whether an activity is nourishing or depleting.
Nourishing activities give you energy, make you feel good, or relax you. Depleting activities drain you of energy, frustrate you, or make you feel bad. Ideally, you should have a balance of both nourishing and depleting activities throughout the day. You can’t completely fill yourself with nourishing activities- because there will always be things that have to get done that you may not enjoy doing.
Identify Your Values
What is most important to you? Each and every person has different values in their lives.
I want you to focus on what truly makes you feel alive, happy and passionate.
Other people and society tell us our entire lives what we should want. For example: we should want to get married, go to college, have children, fit in, and have lots of money. But- is this what you truly want?
Take a moment to reflect on what you value and what is important in your life.
Is it having supportive friends? Living within a short drive of your family so you can see them often? Traveling the world to experience different cultures? Staying home and writing or doing something else creative? Helping other people?
The options are endless because every person is utterly unique- and that is priceless. Acknowledge and flaunt your uniqueness, because there is nobody else like you in the world. And that is essential to realize that only you can offer what you have, and only you can make the choice of what values are important in your life.
Regardless of what society says, or your parents, or your friends- you are the person that will be living with the choices that you made- and that is the most important factor to consider. This will help you focus on the journey to simplifying your life.
Choose Your Top Three
Take the time to reflect upon what values are essential, non-negotiables in your life.
See the list below for some ideas:
Achievement, Generosity, Dependability, Passion, Honesty, Travel, Diversity, Creativity, Nature, Nourishment, Power, Sincerity, Rest
Do Your Values Match Your Life?
Now take a moment to reflect upon your life. Do you have a family? A spouse? A job? Do you travel? Stay at home?
How do the values you chose match up with your current life?
This can be a complicated question. Sometimes people make life choices that do not match their values out of convenience, necessity, or for other reasons. It is up to you to determine whether you are satisfied with your current life choices or not, and if you are ready to make any changes.
Cognitive Dissonance Verses Consonance
Dissonance has its roots in musical terms. If you have ever played an instrument you may have noticed when two notes just do not sound right together, they sound harsh and/or unpleasant.
Similarly, cognitive dissonance is a psychological term encompassing “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.”
Cognitive dissonance can be very uncomfortable. It can also be very draining. The idea of essentially having to be inauthentic and in conflict with the values and beliefs you hold can be very difficult. It is hard to constantly be in conflict with your beliefs.
On the other hand, living a life that is in line with your beliefs and values can be truly liberating. You will feel as though you don’t have to pretend to be somebody you aren’t, and you don’t have to put up a “front” or alternate persona in different roles you play. You may also feel free to be more authentic and more genuine.
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
So, now you may have a few reasons as to why it is important to live a life that aligns with your personal values. So how do you make the change to simplifying your life without feeling overwhelmed?
Once you have identified your top three values, determine if there are any changes you have to make to live more in line with those values.
Take things one step at a time and don’t attempt to make huge changes if it feels too cumbersome. The most important thing to take into consideration is how it will make you feel if you are able to incorporate this value into your life.
The most important step in simplifying your life and not overwhelming yourself more is to either replace or remove a life component that does not align with your values.
For example, maybe a value of yours is the importance of creativity. If you are currently spending a lot of free time watching TV or shows on Netflix, replace the time you are doing that with a creative task. If it is too difficult or tiring to think about knitting an entire blanket, start small by getting some colored pencils and a coloring book.
Now take the list of nourishing verses depleting activities, and your list of values and review them. In general, try to make your nourishing activities align with your values, and aim to have a balance between both your nourishing and depleting activities.
The most effective way to do this is not by adding on more things to your day, but by replacing depleting activities with nourishing ones, or vice versa to start simplifying your life.
Focus On Enjoying The Process
A goal is not necessarily worth achieving if the entire process is atrocious.
Often, this is so much more so because many people reach that destination and are only briefly satisfied. Then, their next thought is often- what’s next? What more can I accomplish?
This satisfaction is so fleeting that you can become stuck in a “rat race” of achieving one goal after the next and not even truly enjoying your life if the process of achieving these goals is crappy.
99% of your life is the journey. This is where your focus should be.
If you want to be a musician, but you really hate practicing… maybe you should reconsider your goals. On the other hand, if you truly enjoy writing and are passionate about it, regardless of the outcome- then you should certainly start writing!
There Is No End Goal
I know, I know, this is so anti- every other goal setting narrative you have ever read.
But the truth is, life is not about accomplishing all of these successes and having all of these accolades. The majority of life consists of the everyday moments you experience by yourself or with the people you care about.
Pay attention to those moments and reflect upon whether you are putting your best foot forward, or if you are just thinking about some intangible goal or success you want in the future. Often, we forget to live in the moment because we are so consumed and overwhelmed by the future.
Only this moment is life- don’t forget that.