What you seek from life to feel happy may be changing. While you may have felt—and still feel—anxious, angry, or sad for losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a shift in what many people are valuing as most important in their lives. The shift is often from acquiring things that make us feel good to seeking a sense of purpose, a desire for more genuine relationships, and discovering what gives us peace of mind.
Using Erich Fromm’s definitions in his book, To Have or To Be, we are shifting from a having mode of existence to a being mode.1
If you are feeling a little unsettled about the meaning and direction of your life, it is a good time to examine what happiness means to you now. This shift can help you redefine what you want from your work and life going forward.
Although you have core values that are stable, such as a value for love, freedom, or aesthetic expression, it is not uncommon for values to change in priority or new values to take hold over time. Events, such as the pandemic, and the multitude of experiences we have as we age will change your perspective on what you hold most dear.
As I grow older, activities that improve my health hold more value. Since I have no children and my parents have died, my value for family has weakened and my value for friendship has increased. These days, my desire to learn and share what I discover is deeper. I am protecting my freedom and enjoying my creativity as my movement in the world has decreased.
3 questions to ask yourself
Your happiness depends on getting what you want that is most important to you. You are generally happy if you live in alignment with your values. Because your values may be shifting, it is a good time to stop and reflect on these questions. You can find a list of values in this document to help you determine what you need to feel happy.
What desires are changing in your personal world? Are you finding more happiness in helping others? Are you appreciating your adaptability? Have desires for more spirituality, community, nature, or fun emerged? What do you crave more time for, knowing it will lift your mood?
What do you now know you want to get from your work? Do you want more opportunities to learn and grow, more satisfying teamwork, or increased opportunities for your voice to be heard? Maybe you want a greater sense of security or significance. Would you love more time to be innovative?
Which values did you feel you had before are growing in strength and which ones are receding? Do you think this shift will cause a conflict of values in your personal or work life? Will others think you should want something else that differs from what you want now? Will you be able to find a compromise? If not, what might you need to change?
You may want to explore these questions with a coach or therapist to explore what you want at deeper levels.
It is time to understand what is happening to our values. Noticing the shift will help you feel more stable even if you can’t make the changes you need to be in alignment with your values right now.
1 Eric Fromm. To Have or to Be? The Art of Being Constable and Company. Ltd; New Ed edition (March 1, 1993)
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