Our lives are reflections of our values.

Said another way: the way we live demonstrates our priorities and beliefs.

That’s the optimal situation, at least. In a lot of cases, for a lot of reasons, this isn’t entirely true. It’s not uncommon to make slapdash decisions in moments of panic or stress. It’s not uncommon to build lives that more accurately reflect those who raised us than us, or that are predicated on our prior beliefs, rather than on beliefs we hold dear, today.

I’ve been reflecting on this concept a whole lot over the past decade or so. It’s been ten years since I upended my life—one that I’d worked incredibly hard to build—to start in on something new; something that better represented who I was and who I wanted to be. A path that seemed more likely to bring fulfillment and growth than the one I’d been following up until that point.

I turned 34 about a week ago, and used the opportunity to take stock of things, sort out my current activities and ambitions, and to see what’s working and what’s not.

I was thrilled to find that on pretty much every level, I’m moving in a direction that makes sense to me based on my values, goals, and aspirations.

There’s still plenty I want to do, and there are opportunities I’ve left on the table, for various reasons, that I’m in the process of picking back up and carefully assessing for their contemporary utility.

There have also been many mistakes made, lessons learned, and scars accumulated; some in recent months, some in recent years, and some from long ago that I’ve only just now gotten around to filtering for gold—for the lessons they’ve always offered me, but which I’ve only now become capable of perceiving, for a variety of reasons.

It’s not necessary to wait for a birthday or other symbolic, calendar-dependent milestone to engage in this type of reflection, but I think doing so is something of a default setting for many of us; we’re biologically wired to find significance in noise, and culturally predisposed to value some chunks of time over others.

Utilizing this propensity to navel-gaze on ostensibly meaningful dates can make these periods of reflection more palatable, while regular, self-instigated habits around the same can make them more frequent.

Taking a long, critical look in the mirror isn’t always pleasant, and it’s generally not a quick process. In my experience, a quick glance often segues into weeks or months of focused internal interrogations, updates, and recalibrations.

But the attention and effort invested are a fair trade for the positive changes that materialize in our reflections, over time, as a consequence.

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