Happy New Year! It’s a simple statement, but happiness is an emotion that we don’t always feel.
As a younger man, all I ever wanted was to simply be happy. The problem was that I was usually looking for some person, place or thing to make me happy — from a new car to an upcoming vacation to receiving recognition from another person.
More than two decades ago, my professional mentor, Bob, suggested I adopt what he called a value-based lifestyle. I told him things weren’t that bad and I didn’t feel that I needed to change my whole lifestyle.
Several months later, I happened to hear a recording of a famous motivational speaker and author by the name of Earl Nightingale. Earl was speaking about happiness. As I mentioned, this is a topic of great interest to me for all I’ve ever wanted out of life is simply to be happy!
Nightingale said, “Happiness is a byproduct of living your life consistent with your core values.”
Hmm. Core values?
I asked Bob about core values. He said it was simple. They are the things that were important to me. He asked me to list the things that are important to me and then prioritize them.
After another bout of procrastination I eventually made that list.
Bob asked me to show the percentage of time I was spending on each of these areas.
Turns out I was spending far more time on the things (values) that were supposedly not as important to me as others I had written at the top of my list.
While I said family and my health were two of the most important things in my life, I was devoting far more time to work/career, fun and accumulating new possessions rather than t0 family or health. Interestingly, I hadn’t really realized this until it was sitting right in front of me in black and white.
Bob then asked me to write a series of actions or goals for each of the core values that I listed.
I listed as many as six to twelve weekly actions that would demonstrate the importance of my core values. Below are examples of what I wrote:
Core Value: Family
- Attend all of my children’s activities and events
- Call my grandchildren each week
- Write birthday and anniversary cards to my extended family members
Core Value: Health
- Work out three times per week
- Walk three times per week
- Get annual physical
I learned the key to this process — weekly journaling! Bob repeatedly told me to focus on the actions I take instead of what I am feeling. Bob has convinced me that we act ourselves into good thinking, we don’t think ourselves into good action.
So now I have a list of core values with a half dozen to a dozen actionable weekly goals that demonstrate the importance of those goals. I review these values and goals on a weekly basis and rate my achievement on each core value on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest.
If I fall short one week on accomplishing my goals for a particular core value, I don’t beat myself up. I simply acknowledge that this week my actions received lower ratings and I need to focus more attention on this core value.
This process of completing a journal and scoring my achievements enables me to adjust my actions on a weekly basis and offers a better balance in my life.
But the true benefit of all this? Real happiness!
Because what Earl Nightingale said is absolutely true: “Happiness is a byproduct of living your life consistent with your core values.”