Practicing What You Preach
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. On Wednesday evening, my immediate family lays together entangled on the couch and shares what we love and appreciate about each person. On Thursday, we convene for Thanksgiving alongside cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and each share what we are most grateful for that year. It’s the holiday that embodies gratitude, family, love, community. As I get ready for a long weekend of togetherness and time to appreciate family and old friends, I wonder how we are living these values that we hold dear outside of the holiday season. Given that actions speak louder than words, how are we living our truth all year round?
It’s one thing to proclaim values from a rooftop, a divisive family meal, or a social media feed. But It’s another to hold ourselves and the ones we love accountable to those values that serve as the guiding principles for how we lead our lives and make decisions.
Whether it’s my friends, family or even celebrities, I’m constantly surrounded by noise and distractions; endorsements of causes or values that society behoves me to share. It is the time I spend alone, in self-reflection, that enables me to distill and crystallize my own personal values, without any outside influences. When there are multiple components of life that offer love and fulfillment, how will we prioritize how we spend our time and energy? For you it may be family, spirituality, stability, honesty. For another it may be adventure, learning, love, creativity. We each hold unique values, and it’s up to us to not only commit to them and live them fully, but to also respect the diverse values that others claim.
In order to live a life of meaning, we can’t just commit to doing so on certain days of the year or at certain moments when we feel guilty or obligated. Before we can fully live our truth, we must ritualize an ongoing practice of quiet, meaningful reflection to ask ourselves what moves us most. We must build in opportunities to apply these values from the moment we wake to the minute we rest. Without realizing it, by living our values through small behaviors and interactions throughout the day, we are making them an integral part of how we operate on a daily basis. Want to prioritize loving kindness? Smile at the man who runs you over on the Subway. Want to champion generosity? Show your co-worker you’re happy to go the extra mile by picking up the extra pieces on that project. Do you value gratitude? Practice identifying three things that you are grateful for each day-- even on the most challenging of days. Showing gratitude isn’t limited to Thanksgiving.
It’s human for us to fall astray at times from this plan, and when we do, we must forgive ourselves. When competing demands and expectations pull at us, it’s easy to lose sight of values that we hold, but we can acknowledge where we diverged from our values and then pivot. When that fall from our intended path inevitably happens, breath, recognize it, make a plan to do better, and forgive yourself.
As we grow and evolve, our values will change with us, too. When we are affirmative in our change, others will follow. These are our personal values, not theirs. If we feel guilt or waiver, others may push back. We may lose people in our life as we evolve our value set. That is ok. We are evolving into our truth. Change is a real and authentic way of responding to what we need. We are aware of, listening to, and diving into what our body is telling us that we need. Freedom lies within our true values and that’s something we can all be grateful for.