What We Measure Matters: Clarity of What is Important to You is an Excellent Roadmap for Making Decisions
It’s a rainy morning in Indiana. Billy and I went on a walk early and just let the rain fall on us as if it was a magical substance that would give us energy! Rain infused hair + wet puppy = happy morning.
This is the sixth post in the Cleaning Out Your Stuff series. To start the exercise at the beginning go here.
Last week I talked a bit about how what we focus on expands. You have probably heard this before and understand it at a higher level. Let’s break it down; The thoughts you think, lead to the feelings you feel, lead to what shows up over and over again in your life. If you think negative, sad and icky thoughts, you will feel negative sad and icky. Simple, right?
The next layer of this is in what we measure. Of course it is important to recognize our thoughts and become aware of them so we can actually shift them. But deeper than what we think is what we are measuring.
Think about any job you have ever had. Now think about the goals aligned with your job—what did your boss expect of you? What were you truly measured for? Was it sales goals? Monthly reporting? Number of events hosted each year? Maybe you worked in a hospital and it was how many patients you saw each day or how quickly you got each patient from the waiting room to the hospital bed. And how were those things prioritized? Now think about how you behaved. Did you make sure you met those sales goals each month? Did you rapidly get patients out of the waiting room and in to see the doctor? You can quickly understand any system or organization by evaluating what they measure. If you want more diversity at your company, you are going to need to measure diversity. If that isn’t something you are measured by, then you are less likely to pay attention to it.
So how do we figure out what to measure in our lives? And why is it even important to do this? You might think to yourself, that’s a lot of work—I don’t need to understand what I am measuring in my personal life to make progress in my career or relationships or that creative project I am stuck in. I beg to differ.
When we first started cleaning out our stuff—my measurement for you was how much you were learning about yourself. How much more aware are you of your habits? Of your addictions? Of how your emotions are related to your thoughts? Any progress here is progress—if while standing at the coffee machine at the office you catch yourself thinking about an old memory that doesn’t make you feel good—and you shift the thought—that is massive progress.
One way that we can clarify what we are measuring in our lives is by identifying our values. I am sure you have thought about this before or someone may have asked, what is important to you? And you can quickly rattle off; family, my health, financial security, golf. They come up pretty easy right? But what if I callenged you to rate them? And beyond rating them, I challenged you to further define the value and then tell me why it is meaningful to you. This type of clarity of what is important to you is an excellent roadmap for making decisions. It can be applied to anything that you are doing in your life—evaluating a relationship, accepting a job offer, quitting your job, making an acquisition. Anything you are deciding to do or not to do in your life—your values are always at play.
AND you better believe that your values are tied to the narrative in your brain. When you are not clear on what matters to you and what you are measuring you have more chatter in your brain than you need. So let’s get started.
Grab a piece of paper and a pen—if you have a journal you have been using for other exercises that’s great! Use the journal :).
Write down what values come up for you when you think about what is important. If you are having trouble identifying values refer to the values list and see what jumps off of the page.
Once you have your values identified (5 is a good number to start with, if you have more or less that is ok try to have an odd number (3, 5, 7, 9) I want you to ask yourself, What does this value mean to me? For example if my value was wealth I might say, Wealth to me is the ability to provide for my family, move my business forward, contribute to causes and individuals that I care about and invest in ideas and people who’s work and mission I want to advance.
Once you have identified what the value means to you I want you to ask, What does it look like specifically when this value is in place? For example: When I have what I consider wealth I have a house and vehicles that are paid for, I have enough money in savings for my kids to go to college, I have retirement accounts that cover 30 years of retirement, I have an investment firm that yields 3X return and I can afford to contribute 10% of my income to educational programs, cancer research and women’s health issues.
Then I want you to rank the values in order of importance. Does family come first? Health? Spirituality?
Now I want to think about your life and how you spend your time. Wherever you are spending your time I want you to see if these values apply. Are your decisions considering your value of wealth and family? Are the choices you’re making keeping your values in mind or do they lack representation of your values? For example; I am tracking toward my value of wealth but I go to starbucks three times a week, how does spending $45 at starbucks each week help me live out my value of wealth? Perhaps it doesn't!
As you begin to evaluate whether your choices are leading you toward your desired value outcomes what comes up for you? Are you surprised by anything? What is your biggest takeaway from engaging in this values exercise and what is one thing you can adjust to better track toward your values?
I find this exercise so fun and also very refreshing. Each time I sit down and take a deeper look at my values I gain so much clarity on how I am spending my time and where I can begin to make shifts to feel more like myself and more aligned with what I believe.
I love hearing how you are doing with cleaning out your stuff! Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!