Infusing our Environments with Reminders of our Values

A painting of forsythia trimmings in a clear vase and a blue pitcher on a table
Still Life with Forsythia, Oil on Canvas, 2015. For purchase information, please contact Alexis.

You may have noticed that in each Monday’s Quote of the Week post, I usually include a link to an item bearing the selected quotation or other words of wisdom spoken or written by the same person.  I do this not because I want to encourage you to buy things (I am not compensated for these links), but because I like to surround myself with statements of my values and important lessons. 

On a shelf in my living room sits a little ceramic plaque that says, “Each day is a blessing unto itself.”  I bought it during a time when I was struggling with depression and uncertainty and was learning to live in the moment.  When I see the plaque, I’m reminded to come back to the present and be grateful just to be alive.

Perhaps the most important personal growth I’ve experienced began in the second half of my twenties, when I made a conscious effort to consider and define my own values.  Though most of them have solidified and are unchanging at their core, the process of refining and implementing them is, of course, ongoing.  I find that it helps to surround myself with reminders of what is important to me and how I want to live my life.

As we walk through the world, we are constantly bombarded with messages, many of which we internalize without much thought.  It is crucial that we balance these messages by choosing our own messages and repeating them to ourselves however and whenever we can, lest we be dragged through life thinking and doing what other people dictate.

Some of us re-center ourselves weekly or daily through religious services, devotionals, or meditation.  In addition to (or, for some, instead of) these practices, we can surround ourselves with triggers that will re-focus our reactive minds on what is important.  These triggers help me to keep things in perspective and to make decisions, big and small, that align with my values.

If you prefer to keep your messages private, one option is to select passwords for devices and websites that are meaningful to you.  I began using these password devotions when I was about fourteen, and I recently discovered that a dear friend does the same thing.  Another option is to tape messages to yourself inside desk drawers or cabinets or in other places that are less visible to others but where they will be seen by you.  If you find that the messages you choose today no longer serve you in the future, replace them with new ones that better reflect the state of your internal growth.

If you are struggling to define your values, my best advice is to begin meditating.  In time, it will enable you to observe your thoughts, reactions, and interactions in a more objective way than you ever have before.  You can then begin identifying and challenging your subconscious beliefs, unraveling some of the messages you’ve involuntarily and unknowingly internalized over the years.  It also helps to read–essays, self-help books, poetry–and take note of what speaks to you.  Think of the people you most love and admire, whom you wish to emulate.  Which of their qualities stand out to you, and why?  Imagine your own funeral–what would you like people to say about you when you’re gone?  For further inspiration, read my post on writing a personal mission statement.

We can all learn from each other.  Readers, how do you reinforce the values that are important to you?  What messages do you send to yourself, and in what ways?

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