You may think your core life values are completely unrelated to your wellness practice, but the two actually go hand in hand. If you don’t know what your core values are, you’re going to have a harder time making a strategic plan for your long-term wellness practice and a hard time doing a course correction on your current habits. I see people all the time separating their short-term diet plans from their values, and oftentimes, that leads to yo-yo dieting and feelings of frustrations during the dieting process even if short term success occurs. Same with workout plans. If only superficial goals are put in place, disconnected from your life’s core values, short term exercise plans will be just that, short term.
What Are Your Values?
What guides you on your life’s journey? Is your health a core value to you? Most people under age 30 will say “not really.” Maybe they feel invincible and don’t have any health problems beyond the occasional sickness or injury. Maybe they grew up in a house where health and well-being weren’t a top priority for the household and in their parents’ lives. You ask most people over age 35 and they’ll say that it is a value for them, even if they don’t know how to prioritize it. They likely have some conditions or health issues that have “awoken” them to how important their lifelong health is.
Don’t choose someone else’s values for your own. Make a list of what lights you up. What gives you energy to participate, what makes you feel your happiest, most alive?
Are Your Values Congruent with Your Lifestyle?
After we identify what moves us–what we find most valuable in our lives–we then need to look at our behaviors. This applies on the corporate level too when I perform corporate culture audits. A company or family can say that wellness is a high priority, but until we really dive into their day to day lives, it doesn’t mean that much.
Where are we putting our time and energy? Is it towards our values or away from them? For example, if you say that one of your core values is family time, and yet you work 60 hours a week and never put your phone down, that’s a great example of how out of agreement some of our behaviors can be from our core values. Unfortunately, no matter how much we SAY something is important to us, that we really believe in its value, actions always speak louder than words, and that rings true for our wellness practice as well. One of my favorite mantras is “I am actively taking steps towards my goals and dreams.” I use this during my meditation or mindfulness practices whenever I feel like things are spinning out of control. I use it to remind myself that even if my schedule or life feels a bit chaotic in the moment, my actions are always in alignment with my core values. If there’s a disconnect between what we believe matters to us and how our actions play out, we’ll never truly reach our goals or build healthier habits.
Mirroring Behaviors with Values
So we’ve done some self evaluation or corporate auditing to measure where are behaviors are after identifying our core values. Building those long-term healthier habits takes time. It’s not something we change overnight, but your long-term health is worth the effort every time! The tough part is dropping behaviors you love that are in-congruent with your core values. For this, I try to focus on what makes us thrive and I always find that adding in new behaviors is a less stressful, more sustainable way to drop the old ones. Still, there may be a behavior like smoking that needs a solid cessation program so don’t count those out. For example, if keeping a healthy heart is important to you, perhaps you can make time for a 20-30 minute walk over your lunch break or before work. Take baby steps and keep in mind the behaviors are like an experiment that you can tweak along the way. Don’t beat yourself up if that walk doesn’t feel good at first or if you need to make edits to that behavior along the way. It’s all about finding what works for you or your organization.
Strength in Numbers
The funny thing about aligning our behaviors with our core life values is it almost always attracts others to your cause. If you need help finding the motivation to walk daily, start a walking team at your office and get manager support to make it happen daily or weekly. Holding ourselves and our peers accountable for healthier habits can be a fantastic way to build a long-term practice. We always take ownership and responsibility for our wellness practice, but I’m all about finding your tribe to push you through the icky times. Stress happens. Sickness happens. But these don’t have to shove us off our wellness practice for too long or at all. Make your commitment to your long-term wellness practice a top priority and I guarantee you’ll develop healthier habits and find joy in most of the process. Be open about your efforts. Everyone is attracted to people following their truth and you’ll be surprised at how much support you get for doing what’s best for YOU.
Same goes for company wellness. Changing our cultures towards a healthier life is something we all owe ourselves and each other. We’ve talked about boundary setting before and how imperative that is for a long-term wellness practice. Be prepared to set some new boundaries as you navigate behavioral changes to align with your practice. Our modern culture is full of opportunities to indulge and slack off on those healthy behaviors. If going out each weekend and having late nights with friends is part of your routine, you may need to give some of that up in exchange for other activities that align with your core values and wellness goals. Instead of feeling deprived of what you love, building new connections with people that share your goals is the best way to kick off and sustain a long-term wellness practice. When we connect with others over our core values, we connect on a much deeper level and can even form lifelong connections.
Here’s a picture of me taking a picnic lunch break at Lake Whitney recently. I delivered a big client project earlier that morning and it felt great to relax my body and mind at the water’s edge. A big core value for me is “time freedom.” This looks like I’m on vacation, but it’s just a break to connect with nature, get some vitamin D, and celebrate that project delivery with one of my favorite activities. Find joy in your journey and you’ll never want to give it up. It’s not about depriving ourselves, it’s about living our fullest life and sharing that life with the ones we love.
I am not a licensed nutritionist or dietitian. You should always consult with a nutritionist and your primary care provider before changing diets in any way or your doctor before trying out any supplement or medication. This article is not meant to cure, heal or otherwise solve any medical conditions whatsoever. It is based on personal experience and research.