Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Do You Value?

What Do You Value?
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

I want you to stop reading right now, go get a pen and several sheets of paper. Then I want you to turn off your judgments, thoughts and fears. Close your eyes and go inward to a quiet place inside you, to a calm feeling of wisdom, a place that just “knows” what is best for you. And from that place, answer the following three questions.
1) What would you have to do or accomplish between now, May 2000, and the year you are 99 years old, in order for you to sit back and say “Ah, that was a good life” ?
2) What would you like your friends to say at your eulogy? What do you want them to remember about you?
3) If you only had six months to live (active and healthy for all that time), how would you spend it?
This is an exercise I often give to my clients. It helps us clarify what is important to us, what are our values, what our goals are. Most people have specific goals in mind. They want to have satisfying careers and fulfilling relationships. Some know that they want to get married and have children. Many want to make the world a better place, to help others. Almost all want their friends to remember them as being generous, loving, caring, kind, a good listener, fun, having a sense of humor. For the last six months of their life, most would travel, take risks, have fun, spend time with loving friends and family.
In the 14 years that I have been treating women with eating disorders, not once did a client say: “I want to be on the cover of Cosmo*. I want my friends to remember I wore a size 2, and I’d spend the last six months of my life over-exercising and starving myself.” But to look at how we live our lives, that is what appears to be important, what we value most.
Usually these things become important because we’ve never stopped to think about what we value, deep inside. When we sacrifice our “selves” to please others we often lose a sense of purpose, meaning and direction in life. When we reclaim our sense of self, we can live each day according to our own beliefs, values and with a direction to achieve what is important to us.
When I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I had no idea who I was, what I wanted, what I liked or valued. I based my behavior on who was around me, often feeling like a chameleon, changing to fit my surroundings. My lack of direction made me feel out of control, at the fate of those around me. Because I felt so empty inside, I invested a lot of energy in my appearance, what I ate, how thin I could be.
During my recovery, I had to rediscover who I was, what I believed in. It was through this inner discovery process that I realized that I was good at helping others and I wanted to make a difference in the world. When I reclaimed these parts of myself, I felt my life had a direction and a purpose. I could then live my life mindfully, emphasizing what was really important to me. Rather than starving myself, I reminded myself that feeding my body was important so that it could do the things I needed to do in order to accomplish my goals. Instead of filling my mind with calculations of fat grams, calories or exercise reps, I filled my mind with knowledge about the things I valued. In place of worrying about whether I was the fattest or thinnest woman in the room, I decided to stop “competing”. I concentrated on talking to others on a genuine human-to-human level.
Look at what you wrote. How can you live your life according to your values on a daily basis? What can you do to become mindful of what is really important to you in the long run? What thoughts do you need to replace because they are not conducive to achieving your goals?
I encourage you to live each day to the fullest, mindful of what is really important to you.

1 comment:

  1. I am going to do this assignment. I like it. Great idea!