Most of us measure a life worth living in terms of attainable outcomes.
Outcomes such as a college degree, a partner, a house, a career or even a child, decree the focus of one's life. Many of us wish for other things too, such as more money, more status or a better body. And to attain these outcomes, we set goals.
These goals make our destinations.
But then there are times, like in today's political turmoil, or during a certain stage of life - that we are drawn to take a closer look at the longings beneath our destinations.
Times of transition compel us to sit still and assess our values.
What are values?
Put simply, values are what really matter to us.
Values can shift with time. They can also lie buried while we strive to survive or achieve. Sometimes the values of others scream loud in our ears, blocking access to our own. Many societal values are reinforced by the media and by our various affiliations. Knowing our own personal values can be a challenge. This knowing requires sitting still, listening within, and asking oneself "Is this value mine? Does this value come from within me or from somewhere or someone else?"
Values assessment demands discernment. It's a kind of mindful inner questioning that we don't often do.
For many, assessing values can cause anxiety.
Why is this?
One possible answer is that outcome and destination are linked to certainties. Values are announced with uncertainty.
Most of us come face to face with our core values when we lose something or someone that we love.
This is one reason values become crucial as we grow older. They can anchor us when the seas of change begin to change.
But it's not necessarily a despairing scenario. Letting our core values inform our direction provides a sense of coherence that begets a satisfying fullness of living.
For me, I was busy achieving well into my forties. I had quite a checklist for myself. Degrees, awards, certifications and licenses made up my destinations and daily activities. In addition, I had checklists for my child. And I had checklists for my clients.
But I was losing my steam. I was feeling burdened by responsibilities. At first I decided that this was just a part of aging, and I subscribed to the notion that aging was bad, so of course I would be unhappy. I blamed menopause. I was tired and depressed.
Then I started practicing mindfulness. I started listening to my inner self. And I discovered that something new was trying to emerge from inside. I desired a deeper, more connected and creative place in which to center my life. I made some changes, and set some goals that aligned with these new inner values. And along the way, I began to feel joy.
It was a revelation.
Or, perhaps a flash of wisdom.
Wisdom is associated with growing older. Maybe this is because as we grow older, we are invited to let go of outcome and live more in process. Values are a part of process. They speak more to who we want to be than what we want to do.
This satisfying coherence of destination and value lead me to more energy and a new burst of determination. Letting my values inform my outcomes made me feel more alive. I have more energy and focus now than I did fifteen years ago.
It makes me wonder about the untapped potential for other women in their later middle and even old age. What about you? Are you telling yourself that growing older has robbed you of your vitality and purpose? Have you signed on the ageist notion that growing older only provides loss and diminishment? Are you wondering what the point is really?
If so then its time to pause and look inside.
Time to acknowledge the things that matter, no matter what else.
It's time to ask: How are you navigating your deeper self through the shallow waters of the time?
What matters to you now that you are 45, 59, 64 or 75?
How is your story unfolding?
What is your process?
Who are you becoming?