Happy New Year, Wesley! The beginning of a new year always brings the feelings of anticipation, endless possibility, and excitement. I feel limitless and unhindered by the regular rhythms of life that tend to make me feel boxed in the rest of the year. It’s a blank slate, a clean start.
But the new year also makes me highly aware of the unknown that lies ahead and the decisions that are coming my way, whether I want to make them or not. Decisions big and small, life-changing and day-making—they’re all before me. And that can be pretty intimidating. Not only do our choices impact the trajectory of our lives in major ways, but they also reflect the things we value most and help show people who we are.
So the question that I asked myself as this new year rolled around was a simple one: What do I value?
Wesley has four core values— intimacy, community, mission, and fun. Every decision made for Wesley is in an attempt to live out these values. UGA proudly states its values in its logo of the Arch— wisdom, justice, and moderation. The company you work for probably has its own core values too—whether they’re posted on the wall when you walk through the door, or hidden in the hearts and minds of the employees. And when you’re a part of a school, company, or organization, knowing and understanding its values helps you learn what it stands for and where you fit in.
But the reality is that we all have our own individual values—the things deep within our own hearts that guide us. We may not know what they are, but they are there, influencing our decisions and interactions with others. The problem, however, is when other voices also begin influencing our actions and decisions. Those voices can be positive and affirming, like the voices of trusted friends and family, and Truth from the Word. But they can also be negative and condemning, such as voices from society, the critic in our own head, or the enemy— the Father of Lies.
When we live under a constant barrage of competing voices, things quickly become unclear, and it’s easy to forget who we are. But knowing our values gives us an indispensable tool when faced with a difficult choice. It allows us to voice what truly matters to us and make the decision that falls in line with that. Brené Brown in her book Dare to Lead says, “living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk— we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs.”
So what do you value? We can’t live into values that we can’t name. I spent some time this break reflecting on the things that matter most to me—the things that, when I’m making healthy decisions, my choices flow out of. Take a moment this break to think about what matters most to you. It can be anything from achievement, to faith, to excellence, to family, to humor, to wisdom, and everything in between. No value is better or more “worthy” than another. Be honest with yourself, and ask the Lord to speak into it. You can curate a long list of values, but eventually it should be whittled down to two or three values that all the others stem from. As it’s said, if you value everything, you don’t really value anything. Three questions Brown suggests you can ask yourself as you narrow them down are:
Does this define me?
Is this who I am at my best?
Is this a filter I use to make hard decisions?
And then once you have identified your own core values, begin to walk the talk. It isn’t always easy to make the choice that aligns with the values we profess— in fact, the one that aligns with our values is often the more difficult choice, the one that will stretch us and push us far outside our comfort zones. But making the tough choice that lives into our values shows the people that are impacted by our decisions that we value them, and it can show us that we value ourselves and our own integrity, too.
Celebrating the new year often leads to creating a list of resolutions, or actions that we will try and check off for the next twelve months. But most resolutions fail, simply because we make proclamations that, when faced with a challenge or difficult situation, we realize we don’t actually care about. Our actions are an outward reflection of something deeper within us— our values. So this new year, my resolution isn’t to pick actions I want to do, but to identify my values and then face each decision that comes my way head on, armed with a better understanding of my identity as a unique child of God and the values He has placed in my heart.
Let’s be courageous decision-makers in 2019.
Author | Erin Gilleland