I came across this fun and easy process for clarifying your values when I was reading Susan David’s book, Emotional Agility (more on this next week when we share our Spring Read, Watch, Listen recommendations), when she presented the idea that we can clarify our values when we imagine what our future selves might say to our current selves. The author suggested that we compose a letter from our future self, a decade or two from now, to our current self, to remind us about what matters most. I have done a lot of values exercises, most of which include some sort of list of words that you circle, clearly this was a lot more interesting.

I was listening to the book while I was driving so I decided to hit pause, turn on my voice memo app and give this exercise a try. But, as soon as I hit record I realized that what I wanted to do first was talk to my younger self from my current perspective.

20 Years Back

Being that I recently turned 45, I jumped back twenty years to talk to my 25 year old self. What poured out of me was loads of encouragement. Confirming some of my hardest choices that were gut-wrenching at the time. And a big reminder that all the exploring I was doing into Ayurveda, yoga, and health would serve me well. At 25, I felt completely lost. At 45, I could reflect on that young self and see the seeds being planted of who I was to become. Little did I know that I was laying the foundation for a practice that would become my career and turn into Accountability Works. That the relationship that I was in turmoil about would turn into 22 years of marriage, two kids, and enduring love. If only, I could have enjoyed where I was at more!

20 Years Forward

Now I was ready to jump 20 years into the future. Putting myself into a 65 year old self. My conversation was much the same. Encouragement. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Remembering to have fun, to play and that some of the things that drive me nuts today, like endless laundry and cooking, will be things I miss. That health is everything. Taking excellent care of myself and those around me is number one. That I’m blessed to do my work, in the way that I love to do it. That everything is happening. That the seeds I’m planting today will grow with nurturing and time just like all the other ones. 

I felt relieved and happy and lighter. And totally clear about what matters most.

Before, if you’d asked me about my values, I would have said my values are integrity, commitment, accountability, and personal responsibility. But after this, different words came up entirely. Family, health, doing work that I love and value, playing, seeing things come to fruition and applying what I’m learning. That is what matters most to me.

I highly recommend you try this process for clarifying your values and see what comes up for you.