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Let your values drive your choices for healthy lifestyle

WE are enveloped in a wave of wellness in that it’s hard not to feel the swell-up. Everywhere you look, someone is promoting exercise videos, healthy foodstuffs, weight loss routines or the newest trend diets.

Many of us have goals of living long and healthy lives since we want to be able to enjoy our children and grandchildren when we get older and not to be a burden to our families.

These day-to-day choices you make influence whether you maintain vitality as you age or develop life-shortening illnesses and disabling conditions. Note that nearly every problem you face is temporary. But these temporary problems cause immediate pain.

We often let this pain drive our choices and actions. For example, an individual suffering from the pain of feeling unloved or unappreciated or misunderstood might try to resolve that pain by cheating, overeating or drown into alcoholism and other drugs.

On the other hand, an entrepreneur suffering from the pain of a faltering small business might resort to using questionable marketing tactics to try to drive more sales and so on.

This is how you make choices you wouldn't normally make. When you let the problem drive your decisions, you make exceptions and “just this once” choices to resolve the pain, annoyance, or uncertainty that you're feeling at the moment.

Whether you are conscious of them or not, you have values for every part of your life, for instance, parenting values, investing values, work values and health values as well as other overarching life values.

Our values are important because they inform our thoughts, words and actions, thus helping us to grow and develop which later helps us create the future we want to experience. Every individual and every organisation is involved in making hundreds of decisions every day. 

The decisions we make are a reflection of our values and beliefs, and they are always directed towards a specific purpose.

That purpose is the satisfaction of our individual or collective needs which in the long run affects our spiritual and health wellbeing.

Note that when we use our values to make decisions, we make a deliberate choice to focus on what is important to us. 

Therefore, don’t prioritise your schedule, but rather schedule your priorities since in today’s world, it’s easy to let others’ requests guide our time and efforts.

If you check your email first thing in the morning, you probably know how quickly others’ priorities begin to overshadow your own.

However, recognising what’s important from a value perspective can be incredibly helpful to guide our decision-making and ensure we’re scheduling our personal priorities.

While our personal values form the basis for many of our decisions, it’s critical to pay attention to the impact at group and company level as well, or we’re at risk of focusing on things that don’t make an appreciable impact across the board.

How can we avoid making wrong choices and focus on better long-term choices while still resolving short-term pain? Here's an approach I've been trying recently.

See if it works for you. One of the solutions I've been trying out is to let my values drive my choices. That doesn't mean I ignore other aspects of my decision-making process.

I simply add my core values to the mix. For example, if I'm working on a project in my workplace, rather than just asking, “Will this make money?” I can ask, “Is this in alignment with my values?” And then, “Will this make bring a positive outcome?” If I say no to either, then I look for another option.

The idea behind this method is that if we live and work in alignment with our values, then we're more likely to live a life we are proud of rather than one we regret.

Remember, every decision is made within some type of a constraint. Maybe it’s how much knowledge you have, how much money you have or even the resources you have.

Why not what values you have? Making better choices is often a matter of choosing better constraints.

By limiting your options to those that fit your values, you are taking an important step to ensure that your behaviour matches your beliefs. 

Basically, identify your principles and you can choose your methods. Most people never take time to think about their values, write them down, and clarify them.

Maybe it sounds too simple or unnecessary, but the bottom line is,  if you never sit down to think about your values, then you'll be more likely to make decisions based on whatever information is in front of you at the time or what the people or society dictates  which can be a recipe for regret down the road.

Life is complex and we are all faced with moments in our personal and professional lives that require us to make a choice without as much information as we need.

The default assumption is that we need more knowledge or research in these situations, but often we just need a clear understanding of our values.

If you don’t know what you stand for and where you’re headed, then it’s far too easy to get off course, waste your time doing something you don’t need to be doing, or make an exception (“just this once”) that leads you down a dangerous path.

There are brilliant men and women with decent hearts and families they care dearly about spending a long time in regret right now because they made decisions that were based on the spur of the moment and not the values they believed in.

Remember he that gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own. So, let your own values drive your decisions!

The author is an assistant lecturer at St John’s University of Tanzania (SJUT) School of Nursing PO Box 47 Dodoma, Tanzania. Email:  HYPERLINK "mailto:rackelmasibo@yahoo.com" rackelmasibo@yahoo.com, 0717513598

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Author: RACHEL MASIBO

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