I have been working in the creative industries for the past five years and the thing that has constantly surprised me is the amount of people who are unfulfilled with the work they do. It’s a surprise because the creative industries are difficult to break into and make a successful career from. Therefore you would think the ones who did make it would be happy and fulfilled with the work they do. However in my experience this often isn’t the case.
I have always had a keen interest in personal development and psychology and have become fascinated with how so many people could be unhappy with the work they are doing. In this article I will propose several ways in which you can do more of the work you love simply by identifying your core values.
Part 1: What are values and why are they important?
Your values are essentially the things you perceive to be most import to you in your life. Most people know when something goes against their values but rarely take the time to fully explore them or understand why it’s the case. As humans we all have wants and desires as well as core beliefs that dictate our direction in life, usually if we are not getting the results we want or are experiencing negative emotion, it is because our values are being compromised.
In Psychology self determination theory states that we all have psychological needs which can be broken down into four main categories:
- Certainty / Security
- Connection / Belonging
Abraham Maslow referred to these as deficiency needs, this is because we only notice them when they are not being met. We then have what are referred to as growth needs, these are needs that are more inline with our values and how we achieve fulfilment. For me creativity is one of these needs, it’s something that I feel I need in my life in order to be fulfilled and I believe that many people share this need.
The second thing to consider is the order in which we prioritise these needs, this has a profound impact on the direction we take in life and whether we feel happy and fulfilled or sad and frustrated. The reason these needs or values are so important is that they dictate how we feel on a day to day basis and ultimately if we are happy and fulfilled or sad and frustrated.
Often we have conflicting values that cause us to feel negative emotions and can lead to us feeling frustrated or even depressed. By identifying the things that are important to us as individuals and ensuring that we live our values on a day to day basis, we can drastically improve the quality of our lives over a short period of time.
I believe it is extremely important that the work we do in our life is intrinsically linked to our values on every level, otherwise no matter what we achieve or how much money we earn, we will never feel fulfilled and we will be left feeling empty. How can we ensure that our values are aligned with what we are doing? The first step is to identify our own values and then find ways of living them on a daily basis.
Part 2: Identifying your core values.
Identifying your values essentially comes down to working out your desires beyond the restraints of social expectations and pressures. The idea is to let your mind run wild and force yourself to look at things from a different perspective. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous it sounds or how scary it might seem, this is about identifying what you truly want out of life and then finding which values these link to. Once you have identified your values, you can make sure everything you are working towards in life is in line with these values and from this point onwards you will start to feel more fulfilled in everything you do.
Here are some questions that will help you identify the things that are truly important to you in life. Take five minutes now to jot down the answers to these questions. You don’t have to show anyone else, so don’t worry if they feel stupid or egotistical, this is about identifying what you truly want.
In order to get the most out of these questions it is important that you fully visualise each scenario and imagine that it is the situation you are in right now;
- If you were told tomorrow that you only had two years to live, but money was no object what would you do and where would you go?
- Why would you do this?
- Why is that important to you?
- Imagine you are at the end of your life – what are the three most important lessons you have learnt and why?
It is really important to keep asking yourself why the things you have identified are important to you. What feeling would it give you? Why is this important? We are looking to get past the surface wants and desires and identify the deeper value.
For example in my life my answer to this question was “I would travel the world and experience new things whilst connecting and adding value to as many people’s lives as possible”
Why would you do this? What feeling would this give you?
I love travel because of the freedom it gives me. It would make me feel as though I was making the most of my time on the planet by experiencing lots of new things. I would feel as though I was making a difference and contributing beyond myself and creating value within society.
Keep asking why until you can link it to a feeling such as “freedom”, “respect” and “giving”. Once you have identified these feelings you can link them to the values that are important to you and then strive to find ways of living these values every day which will change the way you feel about everything you do.
Whatever your answer is to these questions, it doesn’t matter, the important thing is to identify what these things will give you, what feelings and emotions will they create within you that fulfils a desire or need.
Maybe you would buy as many supercars as you could get your hands on and have sex with as many beautiful women as you could find. Whatever it is, the most important thing is that you dig down into why and what feeling this would give you.
Ask yourself if there are any things here that cause contradiction? i.e: I want freedom but I am afraid of taking action or I want certainty but I’m bored of my daily routine because it is too predictable and repetitive..
Part 3: Moving towards doing work you love.
- What are your current challenges? What are you struggling with? What negative emotions do you experience on a regular basis?
- What do you believe about attaining the goals you outlined in Part 1? How do you feel when you think about each of these scenarios?
- List five reasons that you think may be stopping you from achieving your goals.
- Are there any feelings or emotions that are contradicting each other? How can you resolve this conflict?
Part 4: Finding your purpose and identifying your passion
This is a section that I have modified from a book called “Key person of influence” by Daniel Priestly. Out of all of the books and articles I have read on identifying your purpose and living in line with your values, this one just struck a chord with me and allowed me to identify the links between all of my interests. This book lead me to start Creative Life.
Write down the significant lows and highs in your life as far back as you can remember, what are the themes of when you were happiest? What were the themes you can identify when you felt negative emotions for a consistent period of time?
- Which themes keep recurring?
- What do you love so much that you would do it even if you made no money?
- What would you do every week if you couldn’t work.
- Where would you like to spend more time this week?
- If you had an unlimited amount of resource – such as money, contacts and freedom, no commitments or restraints what would you do?
- Why would you do these things? What would you want to do everyday? Where would you want to be in the world? What possessions would you want to own? What people would you want to spend your time with?
- Let your mind fantasise as much as you want here and spend a good five minutes writing down all of the things that come into your head.
- Which feelings would all of the above give you? Write down some dominate emotions and feelings that occur when you imagine each situation.
- Why do you want these feelings? What are their aims?
Part 5: Creating a road map to a fulfilling and creative life on your own terms.
The final part of the jigsaw is about creating a vision of the future that is compelling and that aligns with your values. I find it best to imagine this is in two ways:
- Vividly describe what it would look and feel like when you are living the life you truly desire.
– What are the sort of things you will do on a daily basis? Who will you meet? How will you know you are successful. Take five minutes now to fantasise and visualise your dream but this time based around your values. What things will indicate you are living a fulfilling, creative life?
- List six goals and give them a time frame.
– This could be things like: have 500 people subscribed to my email list, be invited to talk at an event, the more specific they are the easier it will be for your mind to focus on ways of achieving them. Another method I like to use is called ‘backwards planning’ where you start with a goal and work backwards in order to determine the steps you need to take in order to achieve that goal. I outlined this method in my post “3 simple steps to achieving your goals and ambitions”
Ask yourself a better set of questions to identify your priorities.
- This isn’t about what you think you should be doing, it is about doing the things that will get you closer to your goals whilst living your values. If you feel dissatisfied or are experiencing any sort of negative emotions, the first thing you must do is to make sure your activities are in line with your values.
- For example: If you had to choose three things to achieve in the next year, what would they be? What are you going to focus on?
What meaning are you going to give to new challenges you face when following your passion? Is every obstacle just an opportunity in disguise? Is it moving you further away or closer to your goals?
Your five day challenge
Starting today for the next five days I challenge you to do something everyday that is in line with your values and that creates the feelings you have linked to these values. They don’t have to be big actions, they can be simple gestures as long as they create the emotion and feeling that you identified in Part 1.
For example my values are:
- Health and vitality
- Love and connection
- Financial independence
- Making a difference and contributing beyond myself
- Intelligence and learning
How can I ensure that I am living these values day-to-day? How can I get the same feelings that these values produce? Some are obvious so here are examples of the more complicated ones:
- I could play my guitar, write a song take some photos, the list is endless. Nonetheless, it is extremely important to me as being creative puts me in a flow state and gives me a feeling that I can’t describe, but is unlike anything else I experience.
- This is more about appreciating the true freedom we experience on a daily basis. The freedom to travel wherever we want in the entire world, or the freedom to express ourselves and not be under oppression. If we look back throughout history, I feel incredibly privileged to live in a time and place where freedom is ubiquitous and where opportunity is rife.
- Love and connection
- How do you define this? When do you get the feeling of connection? For me this is about simple things, the most important people in my life; family and friends. I ask questions such as how can I express my love for someone today and make them feel special? How can I make an effort to connect with that person on a deeper level? This may sound a bit airy fairy I know, but we all crave love and connection on some level. As Mother Teresa once said “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread”
- This is slightly harder to achieve as you can’t force people to respect you but what you can do is create a mutual respect by respecting others. Respect someone’s opinion and take it on board, think about it rather than just dismissing it straight away. Do something for someone else and ask no favours in return. Don’t lower your standards and stick by what you believe to be right. All of these things are about mutual respect and not just people respecting me.
- Making a difference and contributing beyond myself
- This is about doing things for a higher purpose than my own self interests. This could be achieved by giving something back to the community or society, helping someone less fortunate than myself or as simple as making a difference to one person day without any hidden agenda. Although this is fifth on the list, it is a value that makes a huge difference. I don’t really see myself as a philanthropist or feel like my life purpose is to help starving orphans in Africa but I do feel compelled to give something back and to help people just for the sake of helping them. Not just because they are human and we are all here together, but because it aligns with my values and gives me a deeper sense of connection and meaning to the world around me.
I challenge you to find a way to live your values every day over the next five days and see how it makes you feel. The best way to stick to this is by having a checklist and making sure you tick one off each day.
If you can do this for five days in a row, I promise you will feel exponentially more fulfilled and happy every day.
I find it useful to keep a list of my values and how I will achieve them in Evernote so I can refer to them every morning.