18 December 2008

Life Styles ...

Wednesday, author Patti Digh tweets, "In life, we are either circumstance-driven or values-driven. Which are you?" This little question has been nagging me since I ran across it. Which style of life do I live? Since I spent much of Wednesday afternoon and evening waiting for UPS not to come -- and getting highly frustrated at the same time -- I'd have to honestly answer that currently, as least, my life is circumstance-driven. But is that what I really want for my life?

Tammy and I talked about this a bit this evening. Living a circumstance-driven life would tend to make you feel less in control of your own life; you'd be too busy being a reactionary to take 100% responsibility for your actions and responses (which leads me to wonder about my frustrations at the UPS man, but that's another blog post). You'd probably have more than your share of drama in your life, as much of your energy would be spent putting out the fires that are inherent in merely reacting to the world around you.

There's no doubt to me that a value-driven life would be much calmer and much more my own. None of that "waking up at the end of my life to find I lived someone else's idea of what life should be" angst. Decision-making would be easier, when you come from a value-driven place. Carrying out the decision, actually acting on it, may not be any easier, but making the decision itself should be. Being value-driven means that you always have a compass, a center, to compare the path ahead of you to; it's easier to know when you're on track that way if you have a map.

But how often do I actually live in a value-driven place? Not, I'm sad to say, as often as I'd like to. More often than I care to admit (even to myself), I react rather than respond. I get caught up in the flow of schedules and to-do lists, and become a slave to daily circumstances. I long to have a life that exemplifies my personal values.

Of course, someone could make the argument that life always reflects our values -- our truest values rather than our professed values. We give time and credence to those things in our life that represent what is truly important to us. If I say I don't have time to list my gratitudes each night, what I'm really saying is that I'm not taking the time to do it; I'm not making it a priority. Instead, my husband/family/art/cats/naptime book/unwinding time/etc is more important to me than taking 30 seconds to nourish my connection to Source Energy. Ouch.

The little decisions that I make on a daily basis -- from the phone calls I chose to return to whether I eat right and get enough exercise -- are my life, and in this sense, an unwitting reflection of my values. It's this seemingly mundane collection of daily activities that really flesh out the framework built by memorable moments -- life is not made up of just the highs and lows, but rather, of all the time inbetween them. So, it's not just how well I held up through the crisis of my father's transition that is me living a value-driven life, it's how I respond to life in the moments when no one (maybe not even myself) is watching ...

I know that I have mixed my verb tenses and gotten sloppy about point-of-view, but I'm thinking off the top of my head. I'm having an idea that I can't quite verbalize because it's late and I'm tired. That, and the fact that I just don't think as well as I used to; I'm just not as smart as I used to be, it seems. It feels like I'm dancing all around my point, but I can't quite see it. Maybe things will be clearer by the light of day.

8 comments:

pdigh said...

I'm glad my tweet was the inspiration for such fine thinking - moving from reacting to responding is a big part of the equation - and hard to do for many of the reasons you've outlined. Thanks for the fine food for thought.

Jill said...

I sort of see it as either living your life proactively (taking charge) or reactively (letting life guide you instead of guiding life). I think that life ends up being a blend of both...knowing when to be proactive and knowing when to let it go and let it happen. Mom's favorite saying is "it's all happening perfectly" and I suppose when we loosen the reigns and "let it be" then it all does take care of itself quite nicely.

I'm a control freak---I need to be in control of everything and I'm also a little OCD. "Letting stuff go the course" is foreign to me, but it is what it is (another of my favorite sayings).

Let me throw this out to you (too lazy to do it via email)....

My friend's 16 yr old son said to his mom "it's like everyone where's a mask and there are lots of different masks" and this thought has intriqued me. I hate to think I wear a mask, but in a way I do because when I'm not at work I'm might use language that wouldn't be appropriate at work. When I'm with my work peers, I "appear" differently then I would in the company of friends. So apparently this 16 yr old is right. Can we truly be our authentic selves in every single situation? Do we want to be? I'm feeling very drawn to exploring this in art so that's a good thing.

Enough babbling...

Jill said...

I meant "wears as mask" as opposed to "where's my mask, I lost it"...long long LONG day...

John said...

I can't imagine what a purely values-driven life would be like. You have to respond to circumstances. And you usually respond based on your values (or lack thereof). That said, I understand the feeling of "I'm just reacting to the world, not proactively affecting the world." I bet we've got some hard-wiring in us that makes us feel "bad" when we're not proactive enough, to keep enough of us proactive enough. Get my drift?

Now I'm going to be thinking about Patti's tweet. Thanks for sharing!

-John Crippen

Swirly said...

Yes, yes, YES!!! I love the way you framed it as a circumstance drive versus values driven...I am going to stew on this for a long time. Brilliant, so happy you wrote about this.

Tricia said...

I have been thinking about the exact same question recently. I have been trying to write a "mission statement," an idea I got from Stephen Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It doesn't set year-specific intentions, but it is more of a blueprint regarding the type of person I want to be and the principles and values I want to live my life by. It is supposed to be a "personal Constitution" that is essentially changeless.

Working on the mission statement made me realize that, up until now, I really haven't had much of a conscious "plan" for my life. It sounds ridiculous to me that I could have made it this far without any kind of a plan (I am about to turn 40), but it's true, I never thought about one until this year. I think that in the past I have been thrown about by the tides, grabbing on to things that happen to float by and then just swimming along with the current until I get dumped someplace else. It's sad and depressing.

But I also saw a quote from George Eliot in Patti's book today -- "It's never too late to be what you might have been." I am taking this to heart and am telling myself that it's not too late to lead that value-driven life!!

Susan Tuttle said...

I enjoyed your thoughts -- thank you for sharing them.

Merry Christmas!

Susan
xo

Anne said...

Hi, Cindy! I think connecting with our hubbies and families is connecting with the Source. And I believe that when I make art I am connecting with the Great Creator. Don't beat yourself up for not getting to your gratitudes! They're just gravy.

It's okay to make family, art, and time for yourself valuable. Sound like those are great priorities to have.

Hope you and yours have a tremendous holiday season!