Navigating a Noisy World Using Your Values.

A few years ago I was overwhelmed with too many competing projects, too many potential opportunities, too much work, too many commitments and too little time. I was struggling with what to say yes and no to, with any degree of clarity. A generous friend introduced me to values mapping, with the proviso of helping me to go about life with more ease and sustainability. At first I didn’t see how this would help my stress. I was very focused on goals, and hadn’t even considered my deeper values. I was great at driving lots of short term action but not so great at thinking about the why behind my actions.

I went ahead and created a prioritised values list using the Steve Pavlina articles as a guide. As he says, because we each have limited time alive on this earth and have a low threshold for distraction, consciously knowing and living by your values is important. Values help us navigate back on course every single day, so that day after day, we’re moving in the direction that takes us closer and closer to what we define as a good life for ourselves.

When I did my first values mapping exercise, my values where:

  1. Creative freedom (space, time, emergence)
  2. Play (fun, humour, enjoyment)
  3. Openness (vulnerability, self-awareness, depth)
  4. Connection (quality, respect, mutual care)
  5. Growth (learning, flourishing, dynamism)

Little did I know how great a diagnostic tool values mapping would be! When I lined my values up against my actions and goals, stress points became apparent. I was working in a place where openness and growth were not valued. I was involved in some relationships where connection and mutual care were absent. I was taking my art making way too seriously, stifling my urge to play. And my media consumption was eroding the space and time I needed for creative freedom. No wonder I felt stressed and compromised.

I used my newly defined values to help reshape my priorities and my actions. In short, it helped me feel empowered to make clearer choices with what I said yes andno to. What I kept doing and what I stopped. After a few years of value mapping I now draw a distinction between mutable values (that I regularly reshape) and deeper intrinsic values that are consistent over time. Given that this newsletter is brief, I won’t go into the deeper intrinsic values right now. But to demonstrate how I see my values feeding up into my priorities, goals and actions, I made this model. It makes sense to me, but if it seems simplistic remember, as George Box said, “essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful” — so hold it lightly.

My other comment on using values to navigate a noisy world is, that life and circumstance are always changing. As Steve Pavlina puts it, your mutable values are your current compass, but they aren’t you. You can consciously change these values. I agree and since discovering values mapping, I now make an annual habit of revisiting and refashioning my values to make sure they align with my priorities, goals and and actions (and visa versa).

I hope some of you find value mapping as useful and enlightening a tool as I do. If you would like more information, or to share your experiences with me, feel free to email.

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I’m an award-winning comic artist, writer and graphic recorder. All words + images © Sarah Firth. Contact me www.sarahthefirth if you want to use them.

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