I love to identify what I call life-isms, super simple but incredibly wise tidbits of advice on life. Many years ago, a Pastor and treasured friend offered one of my favorites. This life-ism is sort of the Mac Daddy of life-isms because it basically sums up the secret to living a successful life. Doesn’t seem possible, right? Well, hear me out. He said very simply, “If you want life to go smoothly, just do what works and don’t do what doesn’t.” For me, nothing is simpler or truer. However, I don’t delude myself into equating simple with easy. Putting this advice into practice is the much harder part. And, of course, with pretty much anything in life, any endeavor that is truly good for us requires work.

So, how do we do what works? Well, first we need to identify what isn’t working for us. Sometimes this may be apparent, but often times it isn’t, and we need to do some digging. Sometimes we have a sense that something is off, but we’re not sure what it is exactly or why. A good way to gain some clarity around this is to look at our values and determine if something we are doing is preventing us from living according to those values. Just so we are clear on the definition, values are the things that are REALLY important to us and that give us a sense of purpose and meaning…things like love and connection, courage, integrity, compassion, flexibility, honesty, resilience, respect, freedom….

We can allow many different things to keep us from living value driven lives. Fear, anxiety, and lack of motivation that lead to avoidance are major ones. These show up to hold us back in some way, not allowing us to align with values such as courage, love and connection, freedom, etc. Impulsivity and the need for immediate gratification, on the other hand, tend to push us to act, but generally not in the best of ways. They can lead to reckless behavior that might feel good in the moment but show up as self-destruction later on. They can also potentially hurt or harm others. True values never conflict with one another. For example, “freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want at whatever cost” is not a true value. It is a poor excuse (to justify malevolent behavior) pretending to be a value. True values come with responsibility and, once again, require work.

If we don’t feel able to live in accordance with any one or more of our values, it is safe to say something we are doing is not working for us. So, if this is determined to be the case, now what? Well, we simply (but definitely not easily) need to try something different. This requires courage, vulnerability, commitment, flexibility, and likely many other values you wish to align yourself with. Simply being willing to try something new, not knowing if it will work or not, is an exercise, itself, in aligning with your values. And the other good news is that nothing is ever permanent. If we try something and it doesn’t work so well, we can always try something else. Failure is not getting it wrong some of the time. It’s not getting up and trying again. This is how we learn and build strength and resilience in the process.

So, doing what works sort of goes like this:

Try something –> determine if that something is working for you (aligns with your values) –> If not, try something different –> Repeat as necessary.

I invite you to spend some time identifying your true values and anything that may be standing in the way of you aligning with those values and living the life you truly desire. I encourage you to be brave, bold, and daring in taking whatever steps you can take to try something different until you land on what does work. You don’t necessarily have to take any grand leaps. All steps, regardless how small, count.