This article is part the How To Follow Your Yellow Brick Road Series a five-part series about living a meaningful life. Read Part I.
Conventional self-help is mostly a bunch of generic bullshit with questionable scientific credibility.
At least half of the time, the tasks on internet happiness-lists give you what a friend of mine calls low glycemic index (GI) happiness. I read a list recently that advised making small talk with strangers.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy startling unsuspecting strangers with my delightful jokes. But you’ve got to be careful. Say a friendly hello at the local rehab pool, and all of a sudden you’re privy to the entire medical history of someone you only just met (no, I do not want to know about your hemorrhoids).
Basically, you are unique, and the internet cannot decide for you what will make your life worth living.
The only person who knows that is you.
HOW TO FOLLOW YOUR YELLOW BRICK ROAD: PART II
If you did the exercise in Part I, you’ll have a general idea of what’s important to you.
General is good, but specific is better.
Today, you’ll be generating a list of specific values. You can use these to make up your own personalised “happiness” list. I’ve put bunny ears around happiness because the list you’re going to write today isn’t about making a goal to be happy, it’s about figuring out what is important to you.
WHAT IS LOW GI HAPPINESS?
Well-being comes in different forms 1. You can do things that give you high GI happiness or low GI happiness. Eating a piece of cake, taking drugs, and buying a new pair of pants give you high GI happiness. You get a big boost but it runs out pretty quick. To get those levels up again, you’ve got to eat more cake, take more drugs, and buy more pants.
Doing things that you value gives you low GI happiness. You might not feel happy, but living your values slowly fills up your well-being basket, keeping you satisfied for longer.
Basically, values are just like Kale.
WHAT DO YOU VALUE? (20 minutes)
In Part I you wrote down what you wanted people to remember you for.
There’s bound to be a bunch of stuff you’ve written that falls into one of two categories. It’s either a goal (something you can achieve), or a value (something you can do).
We want to focus on values.
Values are qualities or behaviours that you use to direct your behaviour 2.
You know when people say “when you’re going through hell, keep going”?
Well when I’m going through hell I get disorientated and start wandering around aimlessly. I also tend to gravitate toward quick fix, high GI happiness things. Like potato chips, and playing The Sims.
Luckily, I’ve got a list of values to keep me moving in my desired direction. At the same time, doing what matters generates low GI happiness, giving me the energy to keep on moving.
WHAT ARE VALUES?
Values are things you do. And they are chosen, by you, because they are important to you.
Values aren’t rules. You can’t achieve them. You can’t possess them. They aren’t about what you think you should do, or what your parents think you should do, or what God thinks you should do.
Values are what you want to do, and how you want to behave.
If you would do it even if no one knew about it, then that’s a value.
For example, I value creativity. I worked on this blog for about 18 months before I published anything. Every time I did something related to the blog, I was fuelling myself with low GI happiness. No one read it, no one knew about it, I just did it because I enjoyed it.
Go through your writing and highlight anything that represents a value.
That might be things like being supportive, adventurous, open-minded, learning, perseverance, self-development, loving, honest, being a hard worker. Or it could be something else.
If you’ve written down things like being rich, being thin, owning a big house, having a successful business – those are goals.
Goals are great, but we want to figure out what values drive those goals. What would accomplishing those goals mean you could do?
For example, if you want to be thin, why do you want to be thin? Is it because your health would be better?
Write out all your values in a big list.
That list you just wrote? That’s your menu. It represents things you can do that will give you low GI happiness.
I get low GI happiness from being creative, kind, connecting with others, learning, helping other people, and from challenging myself.
What gives you low GI happiness?
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Image Credit: BigStockPhoto.com. So don’t steal them or you might get sued!
- My amazing friend Hilary is responsible for this analogy. ↩
- You can read more about values in The Happiness Trap, or ACT Made Simple.Both are easy to read, and written by the ultra hilarious Russ Harris. ↩
- This handout was developed by Russ Harris to accompany his book The Confidence Gap. If you get stuck, open it up, and scroll down to page 3. ↩