Azimuth check: Are you living your values?

Duty, integrity, ethics, honor, courage, loyalty: You know what these words mean, but how do they look in your daily life?

As a Warfighter, you were taught a value system in basic training that you’re expected to uphold, and you have your own personal values too. Staying true to your values takes effort every day. Yet, when there’s a disconnect between what you hold important and how you’re living, life can feel more difficult. If you feel your life is a bit off track, take time to do an “azimuth check”—verify your position in relation to your environment—to determine whether your time, energy, and resources are aligned with your values. What you find might help you change course and get your life moving in the direction you want.

What are your North Stars?

Imagine you’re celebrating your retirement. You’re surrounded by your leaders, peers, family, friends, and those who look up to you. What would they say about you that brings you a sense of pride? How would they describe you and the impact you’ve had over the years? Would they say you worked diligently? That you lead with consistency? Recognizing what you would most like to hear in a situation like this can offer you clues as to what values are important to you. As you begin making a list of the values you care about most, consider breaking them down according to these areas of your life:

  • Work and education
  • Recreation and leisure time
  • Relationships
  • Personal growth and health

Are you hitting the target?

Once you’ve listed your personal values, assess how your choices and behaviors match up to those values. Where are you spending your time and money? What parts of your life are getting most of your energy? What parts might need more attention? Hitting the bullseye isn’t always about reaching a particular goal, but about the action and work that move you toward what matters most. For example, you might value maintaining your physical health and fitness and set a goal of doing your mile run in less than 7 minutes. To identify some areas you might want to work on, compare your day-to-day actions with your goals and values. Do they line up? Try checking the consistency between your values and actions by asking questions such as:

  • Do I put in enough work each day on the track or in the gym?
  • Do I make healthy food choices, or do I give in to temptation?
  • Do I get enough sleep the day before early morning PT, or do I stay up too late?
  • Do I spend and save money wisely or do I splurge on items that aren’t really priorities?

When your answers match up with your values, you’ll be moving in a direction that should bring you closer to the results you want.

What’s getting in your way?

For most people, situations arise that can get in the way of aligning actions with values. You might have values that sometimes compete with one another, which can be frustrating. But making a plan to prepare for these conflicts can help you succeed. For example, you might believe that good parenting means being present for your children, but you also believe in the “mission first” value. When you’re assigned to training on the same weekend as your kid’s birthday, you have to choose how to balance these two values. By simply knowing these types of conflicts will come up, you can plan accordingly and set reasonable expectations. You could set a time to video chat while you’re away, or you might leave a special gift for your child with a family member. When your actions line up with your personal values, you can better focus on your commitments to your unit, and feel better about living your values consistently at home and at work.

Bottom line

Every decision you make and every obstacle you negotiate can throw you off course by a couple degrees. To keep your life moving in the direction you want, make time to do a periodic azimuth check so you don’t miss your target.

Resources

Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (2012). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: The process and practice of mindful change (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Levin, M. E., Hildebrandt, M. J., Lillis, J., & Hayes, S. C. (2012). The impact of treatment components suggested by the psychological flexibility model: A meta-analysis of laboratory-based component studies. Behavior Therapy, 43(4), 741­–756. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2012.05.003

Lundgren, T. (2006). Validation and reliability data of the Bull’s-Eye. Unpublished presentation, Second World Conference on ACT, RFT, and Contextual and Behavioral Science. London.

Öst, L.-G., (2014). The efficacy of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 61, 105–121. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2014.07.018