Marching on the Right Foot

mariusz-prusaczyk-190845

I was in marching band in high school and I played the clarinet. Surprise surprise.

Aside from being able to play an instrument well, we also had to be able to do one other thing exceptionally well: march. When everyone around you is wearing matching uniforms, and you are marching on the wrong foot, it’s pretty noticeable; everyone can see it. Especially the audience in the bleachers; your drum major; your music director; those to your left; those to your right; those marching behind you; and the person in front of you whom you inevitably run into. When I say everyone can see it, I mean everyone. And they can usually notice because they’re affected in one way or another.

Starting a new year, a new you can be compared to as such. Let’s be real, when we start on the wrong foot, our kids, our families, our friends, our co-workers, and whomever else are affected. You know those “bad days” we have? The one in which we wake up just a little later than we hoped and off-set the rest of the day? The days our coffee just isn’t strong enough? That’s what kicking off on the wrong foot looks like.

Working in the mental health field, I interact with a lot of therapists and psychiatrists. We’re people who are passionate about helping others do well. It’s still January of a new year and so, a lot of people are still trying to figure who they want to be, what they want to change, and what they want to accomplish. New Year’s resolutions are still rockin’ and rollin’ but what happens come February, March, April… July, and October? The hope is to still be running five miles at the gym, three days a week, as well as successfully abstaining from the decadent temptations of moist chocolate cake, and having become fluent in Spanish, right? Well, that may not be true for everyone but we get the idea.

Regardless of whether or not your New Year’s resolution has already been missed – or is still going strong – instead of purely focusing on meeting New Year’s resolutions and goals, ask yourself: what do you value? Where do your values lie?

Here’s a tip: make a list using these categories:

  • Work/Career
  • Intimate Relationships
  • Parenting
  • Education/Learning
  • Friends/Social Life
  • Health/Physical Self-care
  • Family of Origin/Immediate Family
  • Spirituality
  • Community Life/Environment/Nature
  • Recreation/Leisure

Out of a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a top priority, evaluate each category with 1-10. We’ll call this the ideal number. Your list will now look something like this:

  • Work/Career
    • I = 7
  • Intimate Relationships
    • I = 4
  • Parenting
    • I = 0 (I don’t have any children!)
  • Education/Learning
    • I = 10
  • Friends/Social Life
    • I = 5
  • Health/Physical Self-care
    • I = 5
  • Family of Origin/Immediate Family
    • I = 10
  • Spirituality
    • I = 10
  • Community Life/Environment/Nature
    • I = 9
  • Recreation/Leisure
    • I = 6

Now, for the next seven days, live your life but keep in mind the activities you do. Put your list somewhere safe and somewhere it can’t be misplaced. At the end of the week, next to each category, evaluate the reality of your priorities using a scale of 1-10 based on the last seven days. We’ll call this the actual number. Now let me ask you: does your actual number match your ideal number? Be honest with yourself. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t but the larger the discrepancy between your actual score and your ideal score will help to identify whether or not what we do matches with what matters to us. By now, your list will look a little like this:

  • Work/Career
    • I = 7
    • A = 10
  • Intimate Relationships
    • I = 1
    • A = 0
  • Parenting
    • I = 0 (I don’t have any children!)
    • A = 0
  • Education/Learning
    • I = 10
    • A = 10
  • Friends/Social Life
    • I = 6
    • A = 6
  • Health/Physical Self-care
    • I = 5
    • A = 4
  • Family of Origin/Immediate Family
    • I = 10
    • A = 10
  • Spirituality
    • I = 10
    • A = 5
  • Community Life/Environment/Nature
    • I = 9
    • A = 5
  • Recreation/Leisure
    • I = 6
    • A = 6

Maybe we realized through this exercise that we really value our family but the reality is, we haven’t spent any quality time with them in the last week. Maybe we learned we actually are awesome parents and we are really trying our very best to raise kind, loving children. Maybe we realized we actually work too much and need to spend more time in the community or in nature. Maybe we even realized, it’s time to go back to school.

I hope this exercise is useful in analyzing values and what we need to do to continue (or to discontinue) to strive towards those values. I personally encourage the weekly use of this exercise to help keep us in check. Sometimes, we really really do need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. As the wise Lewis Carroll once brilliantly illustrated:

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way to go.

If we want to start off the year on the right foot, let’s begin by first figuring out which direction we want to march in.

-A

 

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