In today’s celebrity and personality-focused culture, we tend to only highlight a person’s external actions. We make much of the people who are vibrant on social media, the people who do extreme things, and the people who are loud with their opinions. Meanwhile, we ignore or gloss over the small, meek, and quiet.
This imbalance can falsely lead us to believe that those who make a difference are those who commit many actions for the public to see.
I mention this because we largely ignore the inner canvas of a person—who they are and what beliefs they have. We tend to believe it is a person’s external activity that makes them live a meaningful and fulfilled life, but really, it is a person’s quiet cultivation of their inner life that allows them to sustain happiness.
It is not what people see but what people don’t see that often matters most—meaning our beliefs and our character.
I say all this because many people today are only focused on committing actions and shaping the world around them to find happiness, meaning, and fulfillment. They believe it is only what they do that matters.
As a result, many people live divorced lives—where their beliefs don’t make sense of their actions. In other words, many people don’t have a strong, driving internal force that compels their actions. They try to shape the world around them while not being inspired by their personal why.
When we can couple our behavior with our beliefs, then we can experience the happiness, meaning, and sense of fulfillment we were meant to have.
This is what I call whole living—when our internal beliefs drive our external behavior. Everything is cohesive and whole. Everything makes sense.
Too often, people today don’t know what they believe. They don’t shape their inner life, and instead, spend their time trying to change their external surroundings. Consequentially, people burnout, get tired of their jobs, feel like they don’t know why they’re struggling, and can’t understand where to go next.
Knowing our beliefs and allowing them to shape the world around us is the key to whole living, and the key to living a more fulfilled life.
So how do we attain whole living? What can we be doing to start on this path?
Here’s how the process works, from beginning to end:
- Develop clearly defined core values
- Build habits around values
- Let the habits form character
- Have character shape perspective
- Let perspective culminate in impact
That is how whole living is developed. It begins with a strong internal reservoir and overflows to affect the world around you.
Here’s how the process works in detail:
Whole living requires core values
There is a reason behind our actions. There is a reason why we are drawn to doing certain things over others. Believe it or not, but we do have values. For instance, we might have the value of family that drives us to spend our holidays with those we love. We might have the value of autonomy, which might lead us to travel more and work independently.
We want to do certain actions because we value certain things. The key is to extract those values and clearly state what they are.
Make a list of what you value most in life.
Also, make sure to attach a why to your core values. Is there a reason why you have this value? Understand the story behind your value, and it might provide for a stronger internal foundation to be set around your values.
Whole living requires habits built around values
Now that you understand what you value, it’s time you start bringing those values out to the surface. In this step of the process, you must ask yourself: are my every day actions consistent with what I value?
To get started on this step, note what positive or prominent moments in your day were and then refer to them against the background of your core values. Are they consistent?
Once you note whether they are consistent or not, it’s time for you to strategize which habits might help you live by your core values more consistently. For instance, your value of family might include a habit of a no-screen time while you’re with your family in the evening. Or a value of working for yourself might include a habit of waking up early each morning to get the most amount of work done on your dream.
Define what actions need to be made habits, and commit to those actions for about 60 days or more.
Whole living requires habits leading to character
After your habits solidify and start shaping your every day life, your character will be more defined.
Character is defined as the moral makeup of your self. Basically, as you form habits and continue performing those habits, they add up to a well-defined personhood—where people can see what you value and what your morals are.
Many people today don’t have a strong sense of character because their actions often conflict with what they value, leading people to be confused as to what they believe. But the more solidified your habits can become around your core values, then the more integrity you have—and the more integrity you have, the more defined character you have.
Whole living requires character shaping perspective
Once your moral foundation is defined, your outlook then begins to change. You see the world according to what you believe in. You begin to have strong reactions to what you believe is right or wrong. You also become more sensitive to where you are needed.
For instance, let’s say in the workplace you see that a co-worker is gossiping. Because you have a habit of complimenting people which was formed around your value of kindness, your character has a strong reaction to this gossiping. Before you might’ve not had this reaction to the gossiping. You might’ve even contributed to it. But now that your values are defined, your habits are solidified, and your character is refined, you see what is wrong, and you want to fix it.
Whole living requires perspective culminating in impact
Finally, you make a difference. With your changed perspective, you are prompted to act so that the world around you is also consistent with your values. You stop the gossiping by possibly pulling the person aside and telling them that it is wrong. What matters is that your ability to see right from wrong didn’t stop there—you took action. You were sensitive to where you were needed, and you stepped in.
This is the stage where we make the world around us a different place. We shape our environment to coincide and support our values, thus making us happier and more fulfilled individuals.
Whole living means we can no longer let our beliefs go undefined. We lead better, more meaningful lives when we live out of our beliefs, not when we simply do actions to shape the world around us. Only committing actions without understanding our internal makeup is what leads to burnout, fatigue, and dissatisfaction. But when we are compelled by our inner values, then we can have the strength to sustain the change we want to make in our society.
As 2016 approaches, instead of making goals of what you want to do for the new year, define who you want to be. State how your beliefs and values will make the world around you better, and start living for that reality.
Make it a mission to lead a whole life in 2016, and watch how your sense of happiness, meaning, and fulfillment will be drastically different from 2015.