Happiness is like a little pixie all of us like to chase. She can be elusive and sometimes even stubborn. In her absence she leaves our soul cluttered with emotional debris that we kick out of the way in our attempt to forge through life. We become bogged down in circumstances and relationships that seem absolutely absent of that sought-after, blissful pixie dust. Is it only me, or do you wonder why some of us do things like:
- Stay in a job we don’t like?
- Fret over social media posts?
- Get into financial trouble?
- Insist on being right, even at the expense of a relationship; or on the other spectrum, concede everything in order to keep the peace?
There are so many questions we could ask ourselves about why happiness eludes us, (and just to be clear, the unhappiness I’m referring to is that emotional discontent or unrest that can weigh us down, not the result of trauma, depression, or grief.) but, no matter what the question is, the answer will always be because we do what’s important to us, more than what makes us happy.
You may think, nah, what’s more important than my happiness? And that’s a fair question because indeed, everyone wants to be happy. America even has it written into our Declaration of Independence: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But, the reality is that, for most of us, there are many things we value more than our happiness. So, is happiness overrated? Not necessarily, it just so happens that we are wired and predisposed to do what we believe is important, even at its expense.
In the grand scheme of things, we will choose to do what’s important to us more than what’s pressing, expected, or even needed. For instance, you may choose to wake up extra early to drive a family member to the airport, (which is admirable) but on the other hand, you may choose to stop for coffee, even if you know it will make you late for a meeting (hmmm, maybe not so admirable). It boils down to what we value, because what we value strongly influences our thoughts and actions and can explain the maxed-out credit card, social media overload, being stuck, stubborn, or even late for a meeting.
Happiness is one of many values that we adopt that reflect what’s important to us. Values are highly personal and different for everyone. They are the factors that impact the decisions that shape our lives. Happiness may be on your list of values, but for most of us, it’s not likely our number one value.
The reason it’s important to know where happiness is on your list, (if it’s even on there), is because values have a pecking order. If you were to pick ten words that identified whats most important to you, you’d find that those values don’t walk arm in arm, rather they line up single file, with one main value directing the show.
I learned this during a time when I was caring for my father, who had had a stroke and was convalescing in a nursing home. My boys were young, and an already busy life now had me stretched way too thin. As I tried to be all things to all people, the happiness pixie was no-where in sight!
One day I was complaining about my situation to a friend when she said, “Sounds like you love your family more than you like your happiness.” Those words might just as well have been a cold glass of water hitting me in my face; I was stunned! I never thought of it that way. I had treated my misery as if someone else had sentenced me to it, rather than realizing I was unhappy by choice. But, hearing the truth that I would forfeit my happiness for my family, gave me freedom. This epiphany released me from a false belief that I wasn’t in control and that I didn’t have a choice in the matter. In actual fact, I did have a choice, and I chose to be there for my father because, to me, the alternative was never an option.
I share this example with you because I lived for almost a year afflicted with a bad attitude. I carried around emotional clutter that robbed me of a better experience. Sure, the circumstance and fast pace of my life didn’t change, but once I realized the truth, I changed. I didn’t feel handcuffed to obligation, and I was released from my bad attitude to love better. Knowing what you find more important than happiness can release you as well, because all of us are willing to give up something important, for something even more important. It’s just how it works.
This looks different for everyone. The person staying in a job they don’t like may value financial security more than their happiness, or as easily be biding their time for their next promotion, because they value success. The scenarios are plentiful for how our values impact our happiness, but the bottom line is that we will sacrifice happiness for many different reasons, some of us just don’t know that we will.
Happiness isn’t the only thing affected by our prioritized values, relationships are critically impacted by this ordered list. Friends, family, coworkers and the person driving next to us in traffic can all feel the effects of what we value, whether good or bad. It’s important to note that while there are no right or wrong values, all values are amoral. For instance: loyalty is a value that we associate with good, however, loyalty also happens to be a top value in gangs where illegal activities are known to happen.
We are responsible for how we live out our values, and God wants to play a big part in that. He wants to have an impact on how we define, prioritize and live out our values, because when we align our values with God, we look more like Christ.
So, would you like to know what your top ten values are? And would you like to know what order they line up in? You can do that right here! I have created an online Values Assessment that will list your values in a prioritized order and uncover the number one value that steers your decisions.
Hopefully as you look at your list you will experience your own epiphany and eliminate some emotional clutter that trips you up in the form of a bad attitude, fear, or a little pity-party. There’s a lot more to values than what I have written here, so I’ve created a free Values Tutorial that will give you more details about the powerful punch that values pack.
Knowing your values can also help increase your contentment when you recognize that the outcome matters more than the process. It’s why you will:
- Restrict your diet.
- Give up your piece of pie to your child.
- Choose healing and reconciliation after a betrayal.
- Peel yourself out of bed at 5 am to exercise.
When healthy outcomes become what’s most important to you, you can more easily move through reluctance, lack of motivation, or even fear to achieve them.
There are many layers to what makes us happy or unhappy. I don’t want you to think that knowing your values will perfect your world, but I can tell you that it can help you deal with it a lot better. Knowing your values is the work of self-awareness, which can open doors to your next steps and help you feel less frustrated, or stuck. At least that was my experience, and I know others who have improved their life, and walk with God, in the same way.
If you haven’t guessed already, pixie dust is not the ultimate goal. Your number one value will point you in that direction, but knowing that when you’re sacrificing something important for something even more important, it makes it all worth it! The best part is that by aligning our values with God our actions become marked by love, and this makes us resemble Christ more than ourselves.
After taking the Values Assessment, note any surprises. Think about major decisions you’ve made that confirm (or don’t confirm) your prioritized values.
Bring to mind people in your life who would be good witnesses to how you live out your values. Ask them what they think your values would be and see how their answers correspond to the results of your assessment.
Pray over your values and ask God to shine light on the ones He wants to work through the most, and the ones He wants to develop more.
(to align our values with)
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!
As a Christian Life Coach I can help you move from where you are to where God wants you to be. If you are interested in learning more about your values and how they impact your life, then let’s chat. I’d love to be your champion in what God is calling you to do!
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