Usually when we talk about values around here we are talking about the importance of identifying our values so we know what to spend our money and time on. We need to articulate the values that currently drive our lives so we know how to prioritize our resources, our effort, and our relationships.
However, it is actually JUST as important to articulate what you DON’T value.
I’m not talking about the negative things, though. I think we can all agree that we don’t value dishonesty or toxic relationships or debilitating stress. I’m talking about identifying POSITIVE values that you intentionally choose not to prioritize in this current season of your life.
Which positive values are NOT important to you right now?
Give yourself 90 seconds to look through the list below. What three things jump out at you that you could say “no” to in your life right now? Keep these words in your mind for a couple days. Walk around with them and see how these words interact in your life.
*List adapted from James Clear.
For example, if you live in a small efficiency apartment, then maybe this is not a phase of your life in which you want to throw large dinner parties every weekend so you put hospitality to the side for now. If you recently got a new job with more intense responsibilities, then maybe now is not the time to try to learn a language or train for a marathon (curiosity or grit). It’s healthy to intentionally put some things aside in order to focus on some other positive aspect of your life.
Of course, this is completely based on your own individual context. If you highly value hospitality through dinner parties, then push that bed out of the way and set up an eccentric group of tables for a cozy and welcoming time with friends! If you are energized by learning languages or long-distance running, then maybe your new job is a time to prioritize time management to create healthy balance in your life. It’s all up to you.
We led a workshop on spending your values at our church in DC a few months ago, and I was surprised at how many people chose not to currently value adventure. Many of the attendees were in their early or mid 20s, unattached, and working professional jobs in the city. This is the demographic that is often told they should be living life to the fullest, embracing the world, and traveling. But these folks all talked about how much they wanted to build a life and commit to a community in the city. It was powerful to hear them talk about focusing in on their goals and priorities. It reminded me that talking about our values and not-values can help strengthen commitment to and focus on both our daily choices and long-term goals. Don’t be afraid to share your values and non-values with your friends! You may be inspiring someone more than you can imagine!
There are a couple extremely important reasons for articulating your NOT-VALUES.
1. Let go of your guilt about not being perfect.
I always feel a little guilty when thinking about what I don’t value – how can I say that I don’t care about balance or community or beauty? Am I a monster?! But, of course, it’s not that I don’t CARE about these things, I’m just not prioritizing them in my life in this season. If I try to focus on every value I will do a terrible job at all of them. I don’t need to worry about what I think I SHOULD value – I should just focus on my values!
2. Give yourself permission to commit to a few selected values.
Identifying a reasonable number of values means that I can let go of the fluff in my mind direct my energies toward my current priorities. I have the mental space to think about all the different aspects of my values and thoughtfully plan out how these values should direct my actions, my spending, and my relationships.
And here’s what we currently DO NOT value. These are values that we have had to deliberately say “no” to at this point in our lives. Some values are not as interesting to us based on personality or situation (optimism, beauty, poise), while others are more compelling, like balance, community, and comfort. But these values are “in the pipeline” so to speak and when the timing is right we will likely embrace these more fully.
Balance – We just went through almost six months of travel, moving, transitioning job locations, and being present for family. Now we’re working towards opening a business. 2017 has not been a year of balance for us. But that’s okay! We knew that this year would be busy and that would we spend a lot of time focusing on work. So we set balance aside for now. While we try to keep up healthy habits, we don’t beat ourselves up if some days we work more than others. We dream about a future time when we play as much as we work – but for now – we’ve chosen not to prioritize balance.
Community – There are times in our life that we have worked hard to build community or to commit to being part of a particular community. But currently we have strong connections to family and friends spread across the country, and we are busy focusing on our business (see above). We have a small group of friends and acquaintances in Bloomington that we play ultimate Frisbee and board games with and see at church and around town. But for now we aren’t trying to build community with our new neighbors or international students (both of which we would like to do in another season!). So when I feel guilty about not throwing a house-warming BBQ for the neighbors, I remind myself that there will be time for that later because I am not currently prioritizing community.
Comfort – As much as we love sleeping in and ice cream and dream about lazy days on the beach, we have decided not to prioritize comfort in this season. We are interested in focusing on grit and determination instead. We are trying to build habits that help us focus – like eating healthy, waking up relatively early, staying active, and time management. We incorporate elements of comfort into our lifestyle, but we don’t focus on it. It’s also important that we actually articulate that we do not value comfort, however, because it is an easy one for us to forget. Framing comfort as a non-value helps us understand why we sometimes choose the more uncomfortable path.
Articulating what you DO NOT value at this time in your life helps free you to focus on what you DO value. You don’t have to feel guilty for not focusing on being more adaptable, or creating a hospitable home, or completely re-arranging your life so you can take that balloon ride through the Alps. Saying “no” to something (even if it is only in your head) allows you to say a more deliberate and confident “yes” to something else.
Let us know in the comments below - what are your three NOT-VALUES? How did it feel to pick out values to deliberately say “no” to?