When I first started Break the Twitch, I was very focused on the idea of aligning vision with values.
What that involved was taking a hard look at what a typical day in your current life looks like and then dreaming up a vision for what your ideal day would be. When you overlay the two, you’d then see what matched up and what didn’t.
Fundamentally, this approach works well because as Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
If the small ways we show up each day align with the vision of the life we want, we’re much more likely to look back on a life encompassing our vision over the years.
While researching core values, I came up with a new approach that provides a fresh perspective and greater clarity on where things stand. More importantly, this method will help you understand what kinds of things don’t align well with your actual values.
The exercise is simple and has a few steps, but the actual work is in the mental processing of thinking through it—in perhaps a 30 minute timeframe if done thoroughly. I promise the results will be worth the time you spend.
Here’s how to walk through this intentional living values exercise.
1 / Identify your most important core values
For this exercise especially, I’d recommend choosing five core values from this curated personal values list. As you look through the list, make sure to pick the five that you feel most reflects your current values. It’s easy to want to choose aspirational values but focus on selecting the ones that most reflect where you are right now.
2 / Create your intentional living values worksheet
Turn your paper landscape-wise, so it’s wider than it is tall. List each value horizontally across the top of a piece of paper, and make one final column at the very end for “N/A” which should leave you with six headings across the paper. The top of your sheet might look something like this:
Learning – Health – Kindness – Influence – Integrity – N/A
Feel free to use this downloadable PDF template to print use for this exercise.
3 / Fill out your day to day activities
Think through a typical week and every single activity that you do on a somewhat regular basis. This part might take some more mental bandwidth, so give it some time. You can close your eyes and walk through your day and list different items as you go. Put each item that you come up within your matrix underneath the particular value that it reflects.
For me, I might put things like, “Making YouTube Videos” under Influence. “Daily Reading” would likely go under my value of Learning. So on, and so forth.
“Picking Up Kids From School” could go under your Stability category, or perhaps Generosity, depending on the day (hah). There are many cases where something you do would fall under multiple values, and that’s wonderful! Put the activity under each value that applies, and make sure to circle or highlight any that show up multiple times.
4 / Fill in the N/A category as applicable
Here’s the kicker: there are likely going to be activities that don’t fall under any particular core value, which is why the N/A category exists. For me, these are things that usually fall into Twitch territory—phone checks, extended social media scrolling, news reading, etc.
More important things may land in that category, as well. While you might not categorize your entire job into any particular value, try to break down the different things you do at work into values that might fit. It’s essential to see both the macro and micro aspects of each activity in your life. If you can put aspects of “Work” into a single or multiple value categories, then you’re well on your way in living a life aligned with your values.
5 / Make small changes towards your intentional living values
Once you’ve taken a good look at your worksheet, find one of the smallest things in your N/A list and commit to making a change. Perhaps it’s setting a time limit for phone use each day, deleting a social media app, or cooking at home one additional day per week.
Don’t try to tackle anything massive at first. If something like “my entire job” falls into the N/A category, perhaps you can start exploring a career change. But maybe don’t walk into your job and quit tomorrow (that is, unless you’ve had a massive revelation and it’s time for a major change). Remember, the most reliable and sustainable lifestyle change is smaller, for longer. Every wall is built one brick at a time, and intentional living based on your values works in the same way.
Leave a comment if you work through this exercise and learn something new about yourself! Often, taking a broad top-down look at our lives in this way can create some pretty exciting epiphanies.