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The Key To Living A Meaningful Life

If this past year has taught me anything, it has taught me that it’s possible to live your life not knowing what your core values are. Not the values that you convince yourself you should have or what everyone else thinks they should be for you.

I mean your real core values.

As it turns out, my top three-core values are not the things I thought they would be; they are adventure, sensitivity, and experimentation (as defined by Susan David author of the best selling book, Emotional Agility).

For me to feel like I’m living my authentic self, I must live out my core values. This isn’t to say that I don’t have other important values or that they won’t change throughout my life. However, these three values happen to mark where I am currently in life.

So what happens when you live your life without identifying your core values? You will live a life that feels unfulfilled, stagnant, limited, and unauthentic. You might live life wondering why things don’t quite feel right. You might live life feeling as if you have no purpose or meaning.

If you feel this way, I want you to know that you are not alone. To feel this way is to be human. Unfortunately we make the mistake of either getting in our heads too much or not reflecting inwards at all. Somewhere in between is a balance and in this balance you will find the answer to the question, “what do I value?”

A simple way to discover your core values is to ask yourself, “what makes life meaningful to me?”

What I would like to do is to break down my top three-core values and share how living them or not living them has affected my life. It is my hope that by doing so, you will discover your own values and begin living the life you desire to live deep down.

Up until last year when I went to Moab (Utah) for the first time, I had not really been on many adventures. In fact, if you had asked me to go on one, I probably would have made excuses for why I couldn’t go.

Why is that?

Because it could get uncomfortable and I would rather stay comfortable in my safe bubble rather than roam the outside walls of uncertainty. I created a wall around myself with things that made me feel comfortable, safe, and familiar and I did not want to be put into a situation where I could fail or worse…have my closest friends know that I couldn’t do something very well.

Now obviously it is no secret to everyone that there are things that I can’t do, but I sure as hell wasn’t about to admit it and make myself vulnerable. I mean no one raises their hands in class when a teacher asks a question just to say “I wanted to let you know that I don’t know the answer.” We like to be right because it feels good. It was my fear of failure that kept me from taking risks and exposing my ignorance to the world of adventure and the great outdoors.

By doing so I robbed myself of more than discovering our beautiful world. I robbed myself of discovering who I am.

I could blame it on my anxiety, but I would be misplacing the responsibility. Anxiety isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of the problem. Anxiety in my case serves as an alarm to warn me of problems that I have avoided facing. If anyone was to blame for my lack of adventure, it was me.

My first adventure in Moab changed me and now I know that I’m an adventurer. No, I am a badass.

I’ve repelled 200 foot canyons, repelled waterfalls colder than ice, crack climbed in one of the most sought after destinations, and up/down climbed some of the sketchiest terrain I have ever seen without a harness or rope.

As someone who used to run from adventure and desperately wanted to feel what it felt like to have confidence, I can now say that taking the first step in an adventure is the fastest way to building confidence. You get two for the price of one.

As I said above, my life was predictable and safe. If you asked me to try something new I would likely have said no out of habit. It didn’t even have to be adventure related. If it was something unknown to me, I simply wasn’t going to do. Living life this way affects your worldview and makes things very small.

Our universe is vast and ever expanding and hopefully so are our minds. Making the jump into becoming an adventurer has expanded the way I view myself and the world around me. I am more curious and coachable than I have ever been and it all started with getting uncomfortable.

Our world is too big and life is too short for us to have a small mindset.

Experimentation is an area much like adventure that I had been robbing myself of. I was allowing fear to hold me back from what I desperately wanted.

It was fear of asking dumb questions, fear of being judged for my questions, and fear of thinking/being different.

I have found that you cannot grow as a person if don’t allow yourself to challenge the status quo. You have to be willing to explore, to go on adventures and to do difficult things. All I want to do now is to learn; about myself, about people, about our world.

It is the questioning of things that creates meaning in my life rather than just the answer. It is more than just the answer or the destination, it is the question and the journey along the way.

For me, sensitivity is really one and the same with empathy. I have always been an empathetic person even if I haven’t always acted empathetic. This is why it is important to live life in sync with your values. Most of my regrets revolve around me not living up to this core value.

When I am empathetic and in tune with reading the room, I am most in tune with myself. At my core, I care about people. The main reason that I started this blog (and hopefully a podcast soon) was/is to help people. I am who I am because of people who have poured into me.

I have spent countless hours researching, reading books, watching ted talks, and having meaningful dialogue with people who are much smarter than I am. The only smart thing about me is that I absorb what they say and I apply it.

If I can help one person dig themselves out of the pit I was living in, then being vulnerable is worth it. If I can help one person become their authentic selves by spending time crafting blog posts, then it’s worth it.

My life isn’t perfect, but it’s complete and I am no longer the broken person I once saw in the mirror. The growth that has taken place in one year has been tremendous. I have been to Moab twice, gotten married, lost a job and started my own, and learned how to manage anxiety.

I like to believe that my life has purpose and it’s found through living life authentically. If I’m going to do that then I have to be adventurous, sensitive, and experimental. The other half of that is connecting with people and building confidence. Confidence that I am creating positive change in this world one conversation at a time.

So get to work and ask yourself the question: “What makes life meaningful to me?”

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