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  • Neil Dolan

Living Aligned to Your Personal Values, Creates Intentional Decisions & an Abundance of Inner Wealth


A couple of days ago, a friend got in touch for some advice, and we met up.


He stated to me, “I’m not sure what to do about a new career, because what I’m currently doing just isn’t working for me anymore, I’m not getting anything from it!” To which I replied, “If you’re not getting anything from it anymore, then what is it that you do want?”


He looked at me bemused and said, “I’m not sure, I suppose I want that sense of achievement, satisfaction and success again”. To which I then replied, “How do you define success?”


You see, we are all conditioned from a very early age through agents of socialisation, such as schooling, to hold a societal perspective at large. Whereby, we define success as the monetary value of our net worth. But I don’t. When it comes to defining my own success, it all depends on whether or not I am stepping into, and fulfilling, my own top values each and every day.


And this is why, lots of people have a sense of feeling a bit lost, a bit unsure, and are constantly searching for certainty. However, they are searching for certainty in the wrong direction, from the external world, instead of searching in the right direction, from within their own internal world.


This is quite natural though, as we are conditioned to chase socially prescribed values which in themselves, hold no inherent value.


I know this because I’ve been there myself.


A few years ago, I found myself in academia heading towards the wrong career, for all the wrong reasons, attempting to fulfil all those socially prescribed values. As a psychology undergraduate, I had won a fully funded research scholarship to complete a master’s degree in Psychological Research Methods (Clin. Psych). This route was in preparation for starting a doctorate in Clinical psychology.


However, by this point I was quite burnt out as a mature student, with all the years of studying full-time whilst at the same time working part-time to support my family.

Then the burnout it hit me like a freight train that Christmas. I totally shut down and barely spoke to anyone as I started to reflect on a profoundly deep level.


I asked myself the following questions and got the following answers:


“What is it that am I chasing?”

Becoming a Clinical Psychologist, a Dr of the mind.


“Why am I chasing it, really?”

To help people of course. But when I looked even deeper, I found that I was chasing it on a far deeper subconscious level. Why? Because it would fulfil those socially prescribed values of status, prestige, a high income, a large house, a nice car, security etc.


Why was my thinking like this?

Because I had been pre-programmed with a strong bias towards status and prestige, and as such, the accompanying pre-programmed behaviours that followed drove me on towards fulfilling those socially prescribed values and ideals, with no after thought about actually looking after my own wellbeing.


"Wheres was my free will in this?" "Where were my values?"

So, a major driver was in fact societal values of status and prestige (Not my Values).


“What will it do for me?”

Make me an expert in helping people to resolve their mental ill health. But will it?

I then went on a deep exploration of what the 3 year clinical psychology doctorate entailed. And was shocked with what I discovered. Over the whole 3 years of the course, only 15% of the course time is actually spent learning CBT etc and practising whilst working with patients. The other 85% of the time is filled with modules such as, ‘The Political Climate of the NHS’, ‘The Financial Climate of the NHS’, ‘The Social Climate of the NHS’, ‘The History of the NHS’ etc, etc, etc.


So, NO it will not give me what I really want – in depth knowledge to work with people – instead it will make me an expert on the NHS system.


“What will it give me?”

This was easy – dissatisfaction and feeling unfulfilled as I hold no values around understanding Political, financial, or Social Climates of the NHS.


You see, even I had been blindsided by all those societal values, and ideals that were in fact taking me in the wrong direction – chasing externals.


So, it wasn’t that I didn’t know what I want.


It was that I didn’t know what kind of person I wanted to become, nor did I know type of lifestyle that would suit me best.


Why? Because I had no internal value compass to guide me – I didn’t know what my values were. I didn’t know what my real purpose was, nor did I know how to create a deeper meaning in my life, and as such, I didn’t really know how to show up in my daily life or what opportunities I should pursue.


What are Personal values and Why are They Important?


According to other psychologists, “Personal values are subjective in nature and are broad desirable goals that motivate people’s actions and serve as guiding principles in their lives, predicting a large variety of attitudes, preferences and behaviours.”


Our personal values are subconscious motivators that drive our behaviours towards goals.


So, whether we are conscious of them or not, our personal values inform what is really important to us. They’re deep seated beliefs that guide our decisions and direct our actions in all aspects of life, relationships, careers etc.


And that’s why when I asked my friend how he defined success, he replied, “I suppose, someone who’s really well known and has made lots of money!”


And I thought to myself, “No surprise there then”, as he’s just chasing what he’s been socially conditioned to value and that’s when I noticed just how different our value systems were. He highly values money above all else. Personally, I value Passion, Connection, Freedom and Joy, and the thought of financial success is way down the list of my personal values.


Why? Because I have worked with some very wealthy individuals who were totally miserable, unhappy, and conflicted as they had to take advantage of so many people in pursuit of that wealth?


The Take Home Message here is:

When you don’t uncover and set your own values, you will always end up losing yourself in the values of others. Your identity, self-worth and self-esteem, and the way in which you lead your life will then become totally dependent upon the value system of others.


That’s why you might find yourself quickly drifting into that same place I was in some years ago: Leading a life of pursuing what looks important and prestigious on the outside, but incredibly unfulfilling on the inside.


You know the truth is, if you don’t know what your personal values are, you will have no internal compass to guide you to what’s true to you, and thus, you won’t have the chance to experience the abundance of inner wealth that comes from living aligned to your values.


What is Living Aligned to Your Values?


Put simply, living in alignment to your values means that you are living your life in an intentional way, that is TRUE to YOU.


It doesn’t matter what your friends think you should do, or what society thinks of you, or what your parents advise you to do. What really matters is how you feel inside yourself and what you decide to do for yourself. Because at the end of the day it’s you that has to live with Your Self, go to bed with Your Self, look in the mirror at Your Self, and be happy with Your Self, that’s it.


Fundamentally, living aligned to your values in an intentional way is all about uncovering your personal values and then actively living your daily life in a way that fulfils those values. So, it’s about being deliberate instead of aimless. Because living in this intentional way guides you towards what you genuinely desire and moves you away from what you don’t want. And that’s how you finally begin to really connect your inside world with the outside world.


When you live your life in such an intentional way you will notice that you really start to put yourself first, slowing down and building more self-appreciation. You will start to say “no” more often than “yes” and find that you are in fact sculpting the space to create more then you consume, sharing progress instead of goal attainment, and starting to question what kind of lifestyle you want to lead, so that you really understand how you want to live your life.


How to Uncover YOUR Values


WARNING: Do not use values exercise worksheets that have lists of values already on them, such as the Values Clarification Technique that is all over the internet.


WHY Not? Because it’s important to find your own inner values, and not juts cross reference values that are in front of you in conscious awareness. Your own personal values reside in the unconscious mind, and you just have to be patient so that they can be brought back into conscious awareness.


This can be done with simple questions that relate to goals. Be aware though, that a chain of values will be context dependant to the goal. So, to get a better understanding of your overall Personal values, I recommend that you explore what Values are behind a number of different goals.


What are Personal Values?


The easiest way to think about values is like this.


A value is a generalisation of an experience.


If you’re unsure about what values are, then do have a look at some lists from the internet, but then put the list away and wait a while before you complete this Values Elicitation Exercise that I have designed for you.


Once you have completed the exercise, identified your personal values, and created a hierarchy of their importance to you, you will then have your own value system as an everyday guiding compass towards making decisions, assessing options, and improving the overall quality of your life.


So, to help you out a little more, here is a list on my top 10 personal values and how I define them.


Now we have all lived very different lives, and as such, this shapes the way in which we interpret things. So, what a value might mean to me, might me something a little different to you.


  1. Joy. Experiencing calmful pleasure and serene happines.

  2. Freedom. Having the ability to be me and control my own destiny.

  3. Connection. Having deep and profoundly meaning connections to other people.

  4. Passion. Using my passion for the mind to help others cultivate new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

  5. Authenticity. Staying true to who you are at all times, no matter who with or what they think of you.

  6. Curiosity. Always wondering about things and the potential inner workings of people.

  7. Growth. Be in a constant flux of personal, professional, and emotional growth.

  8. Experience. Absorbing new experiences so that my perception of life is way more expansive.

  9. Spirituality. Taking a break from the mind, practising Vipassana Meditation, and exploring the imaginatory landscape of the mind

  10. Simplicity. Keeping things as simple as possible, to avoid unnecessary stress.


Once I had uncovered my personal values, I used my top 4 values, Passion, connection, freedom, and joy to create a lifestyle that allows me to fulfil all the other values.


Here’s how it works for me:


I use my passion for understanding the mind to help other people gain clarity and new perspectives in their thinking, dissolving negativity and promoting a fresh positive outlook on life.


Using my passion for the mind, allows me to connect with people on a deep and meaningful level.


When I’m using my passion for understanding the mind, and connecting with other people, helping them resolve negativity and stuckness, I see them transform and experience a sense of freedom – which also reminds me of my freedom from my own past mental ill health stuckness.


When I see clients experiencing freedom and it reminds me of my freedom, then I experience that wonderful sense of Joy.


So, for me passion gives me connection, connection gives me freedom, and freedom gives me joy. It’s really that simple.


And that’s not the best bit, the best bit is that when you live a life that is aligned to your values, and you step into your values all the time, then your self-esteem becomes extremely robust. Because self-esteem comes from fulfilling your values – fulfilling what is truly important to you.


So, for me, just as my friend, achievement, satisfaction, and success are important, but I simply get those values fulfilled as a by-product of living true to my own personal values, True to myself. Living your life this way creates an immense amount of personal satisfaction and abundance of inner wealth.


I would love to hear what values you uncover, so simply leave a reply in the comments.




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