Hello everybody, welcome to episode 150 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. You know, I loved the 100th episode, cause it was a nice milestone and we did something special for it. And I’ve thought about what to do for future milestone episodes, and I haven’t quite come up with anything yet. And here we are at 150, which is something of a milestone, though hopefully the show will go on for thousands and thousands of episodes and 150 will seem like pennies one day. Lo and behold, a special event has been plopped in my lap unexpectedly to celebrate 150, and that it is part 1 of OLA’s very first two parter on self-development keywords!
Yes, we have a question that came in that, to me, warrants two episodes not only to answer the question in full, but because I think the nature of the question is really important for self-help practitioners new and old. Hopefully you’ll feel the same.
So let’s start with Part 1…
QUESTION: “I am in my mid-30's and single for the first time since I was 18 after ending a long-term relationship. I am finding that the circumstances of 2020 are providing me with a great opportunity to go inward and figure out my own identity as a single person.
In doing so, I keep coming across words like ‘beliefs', ‘values', ‘purpose', ‘vision', ‘goals', ‘interests' – all of these concepts that are apparently part of who I am and the type of life I want to create for myself.
However, I've noticed that these words get thrown around a lot without much definition! Hence I am struggling to fully understand what they actually mean, how they fit together in practice and how I can use these concepts to form a really strong personal identity.”
Self-Discovery in Your Mid Thirties
I have to say this is one of the more exciting questions that’s come through my inbox. I’m usually a sucker for the particularly dramatic ones, but I feel like you’re on the cusp of a whole new life for yourself, really rediscovering who you are and starting from a totally blank slate in your mid 30s.
I don’t know how much time you’ve spent on self-development before this – I kinda get the feeling it’s not too much if you’re looking for clarification on these terms, though I don’t want to discredit how irresponsibly they can be thrown around and how confusing it can be even for those who spend a lot of time on this stuff.
Either way, it’s such a privilege to be able to set the record straight a little bit.
I could spend a lot of time going through all the words you’ve listed…a LOT. So what I’ll do here for you is summarize what they mean (based on my interpretation) in order of how you asked them, talk about how they relate to one another and then talk about the role they’re playing for you specifically.
Here we go.
What are Beliefs?
Simply put, beliefs are thoughts or ideas that you believe to reflect truth and they’re bred of your experiences and your genetics (both nature and nurture).
Surely you’re familiar with religious beliefs – believing that a certain type of god, history or way of life accurately reflects who we are, where we come from and so on. I don’t think the definition of beliefs needs to veer too much from this.
All I’d say is that beliefs are extremely subjective and unique in all scenarios. You could say that you believe 2+2=4, and I could say I believe that numbers are just a man-made way of calculating things and are more of a tool than any type of reality, so 2s and 4s are just as made up as unicorns and don’t have any more truth behind them than any other idea anyone else has ever come up with.
Beliefs don’t really hold any objective weight, but they’re still extremely important in determining who we are as individuals and as a society and will play a big part of the identity you create for yourself, so stay tuned.
What are Values?
Values, to me, are the most important part of this list with beliefs being a close second, because values are essentially the results of our beliefs; they’re the well-defined ends of the equation which then dictate how we live.
So if your belief is that fruit and vegetables are important, great. Now what? It’s not until you structure that belief as a value that it starts to impact you.
If you believe fruits and vegetables are important, then your value becomes eating fruits and vegetables. Your values are sums of your beliefs, and the ones you deem most important are the ones that you want to constantly emphasize in your life. As we go down the rest of the list, we’ll talk about how to do that.
What is Purpose?
Next up in our self-development keywords is: purpose. Purpose is thrown around in two ways, one of which I like and the other I’m iffy about. The iffy definition is “life purpose”, as in, you have been born to do this one thing and it should be the focal point of your life. For example, Wayne Gretzky’s life purpose is to play hockey; he was born to do it.
I’m not crazy about life purpose because it seems very presumptuous to think you’d have the answer as to why you exist. It also feels very limiting and can cause people to avoid balance in their lives. I’ve also seen a lot of clients and peers use it as a crutch to feel a sense of certainty and direction. It’s definitely not always a bad thing, but it can often lead to people boxing themselves up in unhealthy ways all for the sake of not wanting to feel shaky or as though they were put here at random.
The other way that “purpose” is thrown around that I like more is the idea of doing things purposefully or with purpose, which basically means taking action after putting a lot of thought behind it and doing something with more meaning and intention attached to it.
It’s a good way of staying aware of why we do things, and that gives us the opportunity to fill our lives with decisions that we know are good for us rather than things that waste our time.
So if your value is eating fruits and vegetables, you eat with purpose by choosing an apple over a cookie. You’re making a decision based on what you believe will impact you in a good way, rather than eating with no thought behind it.
Doing everything with purpose can be exhausting and such rigidity can be difficult if you try to do too much rather than simply making it a priority more often than not, but if you practice this stuff a lot, you’ll find the line and it’ll be easier to intertwine purpose more casually.
What is a Vision?
Your vision is pretty much what you see for your future. It’s who you see yourself being; your idea of how you want to live as your best self. As you can imagine, it’s often based in values or perceived life purpose. It can be as vague as just an image of who you are or it can as precise as an idea of how you’re going to spend your days hour by hour.
What are Goals?
Even if you don’t have a firm vision in place, even if it’s just an idea of some changes you’d like to see yourself make, goals are how you get there. Goals are good landmarks along the way and are made possible by performing actions that align with them, or more importantly, habits that align with them.
If your vision for yourself is someone who is 50 lbs. lighter, your goals might be to loose 10 lbs. a month for the next five months. Each month you’ll have a goal of 10 lbs. lost, and some of your actions or habits that make it possible to hit that goal will probably be some variations of diet and exercise.
What are Interests?
Interests are a smaller scale version of values, I suppose. Your interests are things that you enjoy participating in and are usually bred of values or behavioral manifestations of values. If you value physical health, then exercise, making healthy smoothies or listening to Optimal Health Daily might be some interests of yours. However, I mentioned that experiences create beliefs which create values, so I’d say interests would fall into that category of experiences and can sometimes be the root cause of values.
Maybe you’ve never played sports before and your friends convince you to come out and play soccer with them, and you have fun so you go a little more regularly and soccer becomes one of your interests. Then it might become very meaningful for you over time, making soccer and/or sports one of your main values. So interests are a little more versatile in how they can be the first and last stop of the cycle that is formed from all of these terms.
And I’m going to stop there for now, and elaborate on this cycle and how it affects you in our upcoming part 2.
What a fun and hopefully educational start it’s been in our Part 1. I’ve enjoyed it. I hope you, the asker and listeners alike are enjoying as well and feeling a bit more clear about these self-development keywords we’ve broken down. A lot more next time though about how they relate to one another, so don’t miss out. I
n the meantime, if the anticipation is simply too much and you need to hear from us again, go ahead and email advice AT oldpodcast DOT com with any thoughts, concerns, and of course questions you need help with that we can answer for you on the show.
I’ll be back with you soon for the next one my friends, thanks for being here and I hope you’ll be back. Bye everyone.