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By Barbara McDowall

As a spiritual coach and mentor, I am often asked to provide clients with the top 10 ways they can stick handle their way through life - like looking for the magic elixir that will make all things better and easier; the external quick fix it.  There is a belief that something or someone else will make the difficult things in life, the difficult experiences will change by applying some external Band-Aid.

Most of us have never been encouraged to take the time to look within; to discover who we are/are not, what we like/dislike; want/don't want to discover our authentic self.  It seems much like a Pandora's Box filled with so many unknowns and much to fear.

The foundation for an authentic, conscious and successful life begins with the process of self discovery.  The more self knowledge we have the more powerfully we can live our lives moment to moment and the more we rely on and trust our own inner compass.  We can reclaim our true nature and our role as the captain of our own ship.

The first step begins with a clarification of our personal key values; the values that say everything about who we are.  They are so clear that when we are truly living them the people around us can see clearly who we are by the values we demonstrate.

Identifying and applying our own values is a sure tool when it comes to making decisions and choices.  Often we do not have a clear idea of the values that guide our day to day lives.  Values change over time as we change.  There are significant personal benefits to clarifying our values.  Being aware of who we say we are and demonstrating that through the decisions/actions we take is the mark of a successful, conscious and grounded human being.

The Greek philosopher, Socrates, is quoted as saying 'know thyself'.  William Shakespeare also spoke to this when he wrote, 'to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.' This wisdom of the ancients has been available for centuries waiting for us to wake up to its truth and apply it to walk the talk.

Knowing who we are is the cornerstone of a solid foundation we can rely on to support us as we journey throughout our life experience.  It requires generosity and commitment to self along with the time and patience it requires for its birth.  From this clear foundation, we can make choices and decisions.  We can learn to trust and respect ourselves.

Why not start today by taking the time to clarify your values.  Start by making a list 10 of your values based on the following areas:

Peak experiences
Look at those times in your life when everything was 'flowing'.  Maybe there were challenges, but you were 'on a roll'.  These experiences may have been a few hours to a few weeks.  Choose one and reflect on it.  What was important about what was happening?  What values were you honouring during that time?  What was really passionate about that experience for you?  What was it about the experience that made it just flow for you?  What about it held your interest, commitment and enthusiasm?  Who were you being in that experience?

What drives you nuts or makes you angry and frustrated?
Often, when you are in a situation that makes you exceptionally angry or frustrated, there is something about the situation or what the people in the situation are doing that violates one of your values.  Think about one of those situations.  What is really at the core of your feelings?  What is it, at the bottom of everything that is being violated for you?  What's being 'stepped on'?  What value is not being honoured?  What is it that you can't 'live with' and still be true to yourself?

Invisible values
What is so 'who you are' that you take it for granted (others may recognize it about you and use it as a characteristic to describe you)?  They may have even remarked to you about it.

What has to be there?
What has to be a part of the way you live your life for you to be who you are?  In what way do you have to live your life, regardless of what anyone else says or does?

Now imagine you have been asked to go on a trip and you can only take 5 of these 10 values with you.  What would they be?  The values you carefully choose are the ones that are truly you.  Consider posting them in places that will act as an affirming reminder of who you are.  'Wear' them as you would a favourite jacket or sweater.  Become them.  When you are called to make a choice or decision, remember them and make your decision from there.

Values are the cornerstone of an authentic, conscious life; a life of happiness and fulfillment.  To paraphrase Shakespeare, if we are true to ourselves we can not be false to anyone else.  Through life experience, I have come to know personally how powerful values can be.

Authentic Living