Why we need to translate our values into choices so they can truly change how we live
I love delving into the meaning behind words, especially when discussing concepts like our values. Unpacking in a very specific, curious way how these terms inform our choices and thus our lives makes my brain buzz with joy.
And yet, as Alan Watts so neatly articulated, words are like coins — they represent something, but they are not it. As much as defining my values is important, doing so is not where their power lies. Instead, I need to live them, actively and — where necessarily — courageously.
It was this kind of thinking that led me to where I am right now, namely, sitting a small desk in a large airy room in a tall house in a tiny village in Umbria, Italy, where, gazing to my left, I have views across the wide valley to lush, densely green forest and folds of steep, rocky mountains. A cool breeze blows in and billows the curtains; The heat of the day is still masked by heavy morning clouds. I sip a coffee. I might be in heaven.
The moment of actively living my values — that is, making choices in alignment with them — happened a couple of months ago. A friend called and invited me, among others, to join him here in Umbria for a few days. My heart glimmered at the reminder that such things as a four-day trip to Italy are even possible. That’s right! I moved back to Europe!
I checked flights to Rome and trains to Terni while we were still chatting. Later in the evening, I made mental calculations regarding three potentially competing priorities I set for 2022:
(1) stability, including (without limitation) financial,
(2) connecting with people who are important to me, and
(3) savoring Europe.
As I held these three thoughts at once, the decision emerged: “This is too gorgeous an opportunity to overlook.”
In the days immediately after booking, this decision was validated: Something about having a ticket to Roma, Italia in my near future shifted my energy. And yet, this wasn’t escapism. I wasn’t living in a fantasy, leaning into my plans for the future; the present moment became more alive because I had made a decision deeply aligned with my values.
In the days before I flew here, the decision was confirmed again: three separate people reported me to be “glowing”. This comes down to the same thing: Deep alignment with self (of which I am even more aware after several years of fairly significant non-alignment).
This glow might come and go; seeking consistent alignment is a lifelong journey. And it’s a bloody fulfilling one.