There’s something I’ve learned through studying many successful and highly resilient people over the last 13 years and, from observing myself when in my most resilient state. It is the immense power of living in accordance with your own values and therefore by default, not living to other people’s values instead of your own. Whether at work or in our personal lives, if we don’t live a life that aligns to our core values – that is, things that are truly most important to us – we soon become the weakest version of ourselves. You can do all the personal development work to build resilience like taking care of your body, building healthy relationships, healing past emotional wounds and fostering an optimistic mindset; but, if your life is out of sync with your true values, I fear you’ll always be chasing your tail.
What happens when we do things we don’t value?
If we define values as things that are most meaningful and important to us, then being out of alignment with them would simply mean spending lots of time, effort and energy focussing on things that are not meaningful or important to us. This might manifest as working 80 hours a week when what you value most is time with your kids. Or, sitting in accounts all day when what you value most is art and creativity. Or, being a stay at home parent when what you value most is your career. It may manifest as being in a relationship with the wrong person, living in the wrong place, hanging out with the wrong social group. Anything that creates a discord deep inside you is usually something that is not aligned to who you truly are and what you truly value.
This discord, this misalignment, may be experienced as feelings of dissatisfaction, lethargy, confusion, restriction, hopelessness, unfulfillment, boredom and resentment – just to name a few! The longer we stay in these states, the longer we wake up each day and force ourselves to do things that have little meaning to us the more out of sync with our core selves we become. The more out of sync we become, the more stressed we become because, we’re not meant to live out of alignment with our truth. We are here to express our unique and authentic nature otherwise, why aren’t we all built as carbon copies of each other? We are different and we value different things. That is to be celebrated, honoured and lived.
When we experience chronic stress caused by chronic negation of our values, we become governed by the most primitive part of our brain that elicits anger and resentment, anxiety and escapism, depression and avoidance. The pain of ignoring our own values not only makes us miserable, but it makes us rigid, closed and resistant. This is the opposite of the openness and adaptability that signifies resilience.
What happens when we do things that we do value?
When you are living authentically, when you are doing what is truly important to you, you reduce the inner turmoil and discord mentioned above. Therefore, you also reduce the chronic stress. When your brain is no longer in a state of chronic stress, the primitive part of your brain that was in control can now relax, opening your mind up to activate much more advanced cerebral faculties.
These faculties governed by the prefrontal cortex enable you to do many of the things that resilient people do such as being creative, hopeful, flexible and optimistic. You can come up with new ideas, solve problems, plan and think strategically. You can regulate your emotions and you can respond to life in new, considered and expansive ways. These are all skills and behaviours that are essential in bouncing back from life’s challenges, adapting to change and being resilient. You physically and mentally cannot access these sophisticated capabilities when you’re in a state of chronic stress.
Living to your values might not be easy but, it’s worth it
I can imagine many people reading this might be thinking: ‘Well, just because I value travel and exploration, that doesn’t mean I can quit my job and go and do that full time, I’ve got bills to pay!’. Or, ‘I value my career but, my partner will be unhappy if I don’t stay at home with the kids!’. And such similar thoughts.
I get that. Totally. I come from a strict, traditional Indian family who expect a million and one things from me that I have not, and will not adhere to because, those things don’t align with my values. It’s not easy to go against the grain, to switch up the game. To live to your values, you may have to break some rules, upset some people, face ridicule and judgement from others. You may feel guilty and ashamed. You may have to face change and upheaval, loss and fear. You might not win straight away, in fact, you may fall flat on your face a few times! I know I have. The path of living to our values is not always lined with roses. It’s a warrior’s journey and it’s up to you if you want to take it.
One thing I can attest to though, from my own experience and observation is that as soon as you begin to take this journey, you will start unleashing the resilience required to get through such a brave move. You will start to find an inner strength and adaptability that enables you to handle the negative judgement or rejection by others and, overcome the fear and challenges that come your way. When you step off the path of extrinsic values – things that other people made you think are important – and step onto the path of your own intrinsic values, you are developing deep courage. You are putting yourself in sync with something very powerful – your soul, your spirit, your true nature. And now, life starts to open up, almost as if by magic. Your mind, body and soul become fortified and you realise you can do things that you previously thought impossible; because, you are now much more resilient. Furthermore, you experience greater wellbeing and happiness, you experience flow instead of force, energy instead of lethargy, inspiration rather than desperation. It’s a beautiful place to be!
The catch 22 however, is that you won’t see proof of any of that unless you take the first and often scary step to do what’s important to you, say what’s important to you and choose what’s important to you. But as the old adage goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I hope you take that step today.
About the author: Pinky Jangra