What determines how you live your best life?
Values. That's the short answer.
In 2010, I was working on my doctoral research at Harvard University. You would think that teaching graduate classes, publishing articles, lecturing at leading universities across the country and receiving accolades for my work would bring me great satisfaction.
But I wasn't happy. I was working 15 to 18 hour each day, trying constantly to prove myself worthy in the eyes of others. Harvard meant success to me and I always thought that success meant that I should be satisfied. Yet, the two couldn't be any more different. From society's perspective, I was successful. I was at the peak of my career. I was a poor kid who got into Harvard and was changing the world. But I felt miserable. How could this be?
I took a leave of absence from the University and came home to Los Angeles to figure out the cause of the itch that had been bothering me for the past two years. Surely, the hiatus was a mistake (and certainly those close to me thought the same), but I was following my gut on this one. Call it your 6th sense, voice in your head, instinct, vibe, etc. I knew that I was in for some powerful awakening, but not sure of how it would manifest.
After a few months of sleep-walking through life, I asked myself, What really matters to me? Silence came after thinking about the usual suspects of family, friends, career and the like. Journaling for the next few days provided the clarity I needed: Values. What really matters are the values I subscribe to, whether consciously or not, that drive the main decisions I've made in life: The friends I make, the job I take and the people I date.
Values are what matter most to us. They are the internal system that guides our behaviors and attitudes and may differ over time. Our innate desire to live purposefully comes to fruition when our values are in sync with the key aspects of our daily life: personal, career and relationships. Values, therefore, lead to authentic living.
Even if you are satisfied with your Self, career and relationships, taking stalk of your values provides great insight. Below is a list of some values. Choose 5 that matter most to you, at this moment in time, for your Self, career and relationships (and by all means, create your own values that may not be on the lsit). Your values may be different across the three categories or you may find that they are the exact same. Identifying your values is the biggest step in understanding where you ought to be headed in life. Notice how they may have been different 5 years ago or even during the Covid pandemic. Take a deep breath and be open to some surprises you might find from this exercise. Satisfaction awaits.