What a depressing title.
Okay, so I’m not saying that you might be too ambitious about your summer goals and yet also too lazy to actually make them happen, but actually, that’s kind of what I’m totally saying.
Mostly, I’m saying it to myself, but maybe you can relate.
After all, SUMMER is when LIFE happens.
It’s like June 13th, and I have already been high for weeks on the smokey barbecued scent of charred meat and the stench of really damp seaweed-y beach shorelines that are kind of disgusting but also oddly pleasant.
There’s nothing like meat and seaweed and also sometimes Michael Jackson’s greatest hits to inspire an “I should do things” mindset.
To be somewhat specific, this summer I would like to do:
- veggie/herb gardening without sucking real bad at it
- more vegan recipe experimentation without labeling myself as a vegan
- other styles of yoga besides the vinyasa yoga sequences I’ve done 3,000 times
- cake eating at a one-year-old’s birthday party
- swimming at a friend’s cottage even though the cottage is so old it might fall down
- budget planning for a more minimalistic type of lifestyle
- reading by the window for like five hours straight in the evening because it’s still light out
- meditation every day until my entire sense of self and time feels like it’s been squashed into a single tiny cell within my brain
- thunderstorm cloud watching with an “oh shit I freaking love this” kind of attitude
- an Amazon Kindle publishing project I’ve been putting off
- more of this type of blogging
- a bunch of other stuff
I will do some of these things, and I will start some of these things but not finish them, and I will probably just not do some of these things at all.
Chances are you probably have a mental list of your own summer activities and goals that you fantasize about doing.
The dumb thing about fantasies and the stories we tell ourselves about how amazing it would be to achieve X or do Y is that they pull us further away from reality while making us think we’re still living in reality.
On the surface, it feels like we’re lazy and distracted.
Truthfully, we’re just lost and confused in our own mental jibber jabber.
I’ve written quite a bit about habits and motivation and productivity in previous blog posts, and it’s easy to say “start a small habit,” or “get a tiny bit motivated,” or “do one little thing to be productive,” but then that wouldn’t make this post any different.
When we say to ourselves, “I wanna do all these things this summer (or whenever),” and then we find ourselves continuing to just not do any of those things, well, here’s what’s really at the root of this problem:
1. We aren’t conscious of the core value(s) that will drive us to actually want to do the thing
2. We are projecting ourselves into the future too much without focusing on the present
Core values are genuine, authentic intentions that serve as the basis for your behaviour and your identity.
Despite what’s common to assume, I’d say that core values don’t really come from our childhood upbringing, or social conditioning, or moralization, or religious beliefs, or even ego.
What’s taken me a long time to realize is that core values really come from a place of higher awareness and direct experience.
There is a deeply ingrained “knowing” here that is completely different from just logically understanding something that should be valued.
Have you ever tried to work toward something because on a totally logical, surface level of understanding, you know that it will produce a desirable result that can be visibly seen or measured?
But on the deepest level, you haven’t attached your intention to any core values, so you have to rely on willpower to force yourself to do it and to like it — which is never sustainable in the long run.
Without identifying and getting clear about your core values, you don’t really know your intention, so it’s really painful and difficult to put into action.
Let’s take my example from the above list of wanting to start planning my budget to fit better with a more minimalistic lifestyle, shall we?
Minimalism is so trendy now.
I mean, maybe it always was, but it seems trendy especially nowadays.
That’s not why I’m into it — I’m not driven by wanting to be be “part of the trend” and totally zen because it’s fashionable.
If I get down to the root of this desire, I know I want to embrace minimalism because I want to love life more.
The goal of minimalism, if you didn’t already know, is to live intentionally.
If I focused on the more shallow values that I may have attached to this desire, I might say that I want to stop spending money on stuff I don’t need, start saving money for something I really do need, eliminate clutter from my life, and be more organized.
Those aren’t core values though, and they just turn this goal into a bunch of hard tasks that I’ll resist doing because I don’t really want to do them.
Through living my life, however, I’ve become aware of the fact that owning a lot of stuff and doing too much stuff makes me love life a lot less, because it takes a lot of mental capacity to deal with those things, thus distracting me from being able to increase my awareness and appreciate the simple things in life.
Identifying this core value and keeping it with me will be the motivator for effortless action.
This is it.
This is what you need to figure out if you don’t want to get trapped by all the daunting tasks that you’ll undoubtedly resist in shallow value land.
To figure out what your core values are if you don’t know them, you can identify them by digging deeper through your more shallow values.
Example: I want to lose 30 pounds this summer.
Okay, so your shallow values might include wanting to look hotter, wanting to impress your partner/spouse, wanting to be accepted by society, and wanting to be more confident.
If you dig down deep, however, you might find that what you really want — your core value — is to love yourself, or to have a deep connection in your relationship, or to honour your health.
Another example: I want to find a new job this summer.
Shallow values for this one might include wanting to make more money, wanting to actually like the work that you do, or wanting to work with people you like to be around.
If you say you want more money, that may come from valuing freedom.
If you say you want a job where the work doesn’t suck the life out of you, you may deeply value purpose.
If you hate all your current coworkers and desperately want a new crowd to work with, perhaps what you really want and value is belonging.
When you uncover your core values that are at the root of your desires, and there may be multiple of them, you have EXACTLY what you need to start taking small actions toward progress without having to force yourself through the agony of doing things you don’t want to do and relying on willpower to get you through it.
You are in alignment with what you truly, deeply value as a human being living in this world.
If I want to start budgeting for minimalism, well then that can be made a lot easier by actively enjoying the simpler things in life a lot more.
If you want to lose 30 pounds because you don’t think you look hot now and you want to look hotter, start doing it out of unconditional love and acceptance of yourself.
If you want to get a new job because all your coworkers are so annoying that you have to resist grabbing a stapler and stapling their eyes shut, start identifying the qualities of the types of people who you know you belong with and go be/apply where those people are/work.
What happens when you focus on living in integrity with your core values is that life naturally and effortlessly begins to shift you toward what you truly want.
Now here’s the thing — you can’t put off aligning yourself with your core values until later and expect life to work itself out.
This has personally been one of the biggest holes I’ve fallen into time and time again for a range of desires I wanted to fulfill.
Consider this scenario: I want to do this minimalism thing, but actually, I have to do a bunch of other things first — like read the ridiculously popular Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, pay off my credit card, fix my car, reassess my current freelance writing client situation, finish that one season of that lame show on Netflix before I cancel my subscription…
And so on.
When all this crap is taken care of, THEN I can start living in integrity by enjoying life and all its simple wonders way more.
When my thunder thighs are smaller, THEN I can start loving myself.
When I’ve been hired somewhere else and tested the waters for a month or so, THEN I can start feeling and acting like I belong with good people.
We always, always, ALWAYS think we need to get our shit together first before we can feel what we truly want to feel and know what we deeply want to know.
But this isn’t how life works.
Life does not respond to futuristic projections of your ideal self, even if you’re frantically trying to force yourself to take on all these painful tasks in hopes of someday soon becoming this future ideal self.
Life only responds to what you are already embodying in the present moment.
This “law of attraction” stuff is often made out to sound super new agey, but the more observations I make about it, the more I think it’s really the simplest and most ordinary thing ever.
The real question you have to ask yourself is, how can you start aligning yourself with your core values right now?
I don’t mean making big changes right this very instant.
What I really mean is holding that value in your state of awareness and allowing it to guide you to do what feels natural.
Isn’t it absolutely mind-blowing how simple this is?
Sure it’s simple, but it’s not easy to keep it with you all the time — especially when you’re swayed and distracted by other people and their expectations and everything else going on in the external world.
Which is why I might suggest starting a daily journaling habit about it, or set alarms on your phone throughout the day to remind you of your core values.
Summer is the season of greatest potential and transformation.
And man, if you stuck to your core values and lived by them in the present, you’d be on fire by the fall time.
So maybe I won’t stop sucking at veggie gardening or get to meditate every day until I’m in that perfect state of oneness with reality, but maybe I’ll knock down this minimalistic lifestyle and budgeting thing I’ve been really wanting to do for a while now.
Because really, who wouldn’t want to start loving their life a lot more?
Photo via Tracey R
- 30 glorious snippets of wisdom worth knowing by the time you’re 30 (or any age, really) - December 31, 2016
- The divided self: Why we care way too much about what other people think - August 14, 2016
- What everyone gets wrong about “being authentic” - July 3, 2016
- 7 eye-opening ways to forget about your goals so you can let happiness flow - June 20, 2016
- Why you won’t do all the things you want to do this summer - June 13, 2016
- 50 everyday things you can give up to make time for more important stuff - April 30, 2016
- How to go from waking up miserable to exhilarated every morning - April 18, 2016
- How to align your mind to get exactly what you want - April 3, 2016
- Why we’re so bad at sticking to good habits (and what to do about it) - March 19, 2016
- 6 useful tips for dealing with an all-around bad day - June 30, 2015