by Megan McDonough

Life serves up plenty of difficult choices. The hardest ones we face are those that offer two equally valid, important, yet conflicting options. Choosing can be excruciating. The rational mind keeps trying to weigh this versus that to gain clarity.

Instead of making a list of pros and cons, look through the lens of your values to discern your path.

When it comes right down to it, how you decide to be is just as important as what you decide to do. Consciously crafting your values orients your action, helping you make that big decision—and the many small, day-to-day decisions that create a life.

In sociology and psychology, values are defined as principles that guide our behavior and give our life meaning. Through acting on our values, we author the story of our life. As Anaïs Nin writes:

There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.

What freely chosen value do you hold near and dear for its own sake, not because it was instilled in you by someone or something else?

I went through a period in my life, some 15 years ago, when I spent considerable time honing my passion statement: three values that I would live by. Still today, they guide my actions and warm my heart, as you can see in this video from the 30-Day Practice.

The values you want to live by are the ones that resonate in your heart. This is not an intellectual exercise, it’s an embodied experience. When you engage the whole body in value-based decision-making, rather than leaving it up to the brain to figure things out, the experience is so much richer and more true.

I shared my values in this video. Share yours, too. The more we explicitly state our values, the more we remind ourselves of what’s really important.

Megan Megan McDonough is CEO of Wholebeing Institute, an educational organization co-founded with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar. WBI is committed to spreading ideas and practices that can help individuals and groups live life to its fullest.

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