Values as Verbs

I’ve recently been reading Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, and a particular passage caught my attention. She talks about practicing love being more meaningful than saying “I love you” or feeling love. That real love is practiced regularly. I absolutely connected with this, because how often have I felt that I love my husband, but I gripe at him over dishes or I ignore him while surfing social media?

values as verbsI’m human, we all are, and mistakes are made. But thinking of love as a practice instead of a feeling was so exhilarating, because it puts a lot of power and responsibility back in my own hands. It doesn’t have to be this woo woo concept out in the ether ‘love’, but instead it is something that I practice regularly, that I demonstrate through my actions and words.

And then I got to thinking… is this not the same for all of our values? What if we thought of values as verbs?

Ask someone what their top five values are, and I’m sure you’ll see that what many of us state are our values are in misalignment with our actions or words about those same values.

For instance, I frequently say that I value my health, yet I struggle on the DAILY with my addiction to sugar and comfort foods. I also value confidence, yet I regularly feel like I’m not good enough at <insert almost any topic here>.

But I realized that with one of my values, Courage, I am courageous because I have regularly practiced courage. Almost three years ago when David and I were backpacking Southeast Asia, I was shocked at dealing with depression while travelling. It’s something I’d been coping with for some time, but surely I wasn’t going to experience depression while on the most exciting trip of a lifetime, right?


And when I looked for information on how to handle depression while travelling, or other peoples’ experiences, I couldn’t find anything that was relevant to me. Then I thought to myself, I have a blog, so why not write my own story, share my own experience?

The problem with that is that I’d told very few people about my struggle with depression, and certainly hadn’t told my coworkers, many of whom were following our three month leave of absence via my regular blog posts. For days, the blog post was written and edited, but I was so terrified about posting it. What would people think? Would they assume I was incapable of doing my job? Would they think that I was weak? Would I be looked over for promotions? Would I be treated differently.

Finally, with the support of my husband sitting right next to me, I hit publish and the post went live.

Much to my surprise, the response was overwhelmingly positive. I was congratulated for my honesty, and, upon my return to work, was not treated with kid gloves.

Courage begets courage. By practicing it, by pressing publish that time, it led to more openness and honesty, more sharing of vulnerable moments.

Again, this is the same for most values. You become more confident by doing, by practicing. You become a better friend by spending more time with your friends, being an active listener, sharing your own stories. You become a more resilient person by getting up each time you fall.

You see? It’s all about the actions, which I hadn’t really recognized before.

The point of this is that you can make your values real and livable. One day, one action, one mistake does not have to define you. In yoga they tell us that it’s a practice and that each day will be different, both for your mind and body. So, let’s give ourselves that same grace.

I challenge you to revisit your list of your top 5 (or 10!) values, and figure out how you currently are or aren’t acting on them, then make a plan to take action. We have the power to do so, we are responsible for our own actions, and, while this can be a scary thing, it’s also incredibly empowering.

So… go empower yourself and live out your values, one action at a time. I’d love to hear how you’re doing that, or what you think about values as verbs in the comments below!


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