Building the Life You Want – Starting with Your Values

Last week my kids had fall break and got a week off school.  We decided to travel from our home for the past two years in Arizona back to New Jersey where they were born and lived for most of their lives.  Our good friends were celebrating the bar mitzvah of their son, so it was a great excuse to travel back to see friends and family.

One of the things that my whole family misses most since our move to Arizona is the seasons.  And fall in New Jersey is really beautiful.  The air is cool and crisp but it’s usually sunny.  And the fall activities are in full swing, including apple picking, pumpkin patches and changing leaves.  Things we just don’t have in Arizona.

Apples, Friends, Nostalgia

We spent the week taking full advantage of all there was to enjoy.  We took the boys apple picking just like we used to do every September.  They ate apple cider donuts and visited the farm animals and loved it.  Honestly, our oldest might be aged out of that kind of thing at this point, but he still enjoyed going back to what used to be our family tradition.

We also got to see old friends.  Our friends.  Our kids’ friends.  People that had been like family through our early years of parenthood.  Seeing these people again was the hardest part.  This was the part that made my kids ask me why we moved.  Why did I make them leave behind friends they had known for years?  Friends that are part of their earliest memories.  Why can’t we just move back there?

We all experienced a little bit of nostalgia.  And a little bit of sadness.  And for a moment, I romanticized what our life was like living in New Jersey.  I thought maybe we could move back and maybe that would be better for my kids.  Maybe we would be happier in our old neighborhood, with our old friends, in a life that was familiar.

Traffic and Values

And then something magical happened: a traffic jam.  We were sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for over an hour just to get to dinner with my in-laws.  Why, you may ask, was this magical?  Because it made me remember why we moved.  We didn’t move because of traffic exactly.  Although I do remember many hours sitting on that same road on my way into my old job every morning.  I remember having full on ugly cry meltdowns while I sat, literally for hours sometimes, just trying to get to work.  Nothing about that was pleasant and nothing about that was aligned with my values.  But there was more to it.

A Rat Race to Nowhere

There were also high taxes, a demanding career, and running on a hamster wheel to nowhere in a race I never signed up for.  From the moment we moved to the East Coast in 2003, I was thrust into the world of finance in New York City.  Lots of people in that part of the world work in finance.  It’s a demanding field where things like work-life balance are laughed at or ignored.  It’s all consuming. 

And if you don’t want to play by the rules there are droves of people in line behind you who would love the chance.  I played the game.  I missed holidays, events, and life milestones so I could be in the office.  All so I could have a career with a great income that looked good on paper but left me empty inside.  All so I could pay the taxes on the right house in the right school district and pay the nanny to be there for my kids because I was not.  And I did it for a decade and a half.

Success Isn’t Success Without Values

In this day and age, it is almost impossible not to compare yourself to others.  Instagram is filled with posts of well-dressed children sitting quietly in beautifully decorated homes and LinkedIn tells you every time anyone you ever worked with gets a promotion or a new job.  Having the highlight reels from other peoples’ lives foisted on you at every turn can make you feel like everyone has it all together and you are the only one who can’t do it all.  I was no exception to this.  I kept seeing friends and acquaintances do things, achieve things, and create things that I thought I should be able to do too.  But no matter how I tried to fit into someone else’s version of success, it never worked.  Because their successes were not in line with my values.  And so, to me, they did not feel like successes.

Some of my core values include health, family, and flexibility.  Nothing about our lives during this time was aligned with those values.  I couldn’t attend events at the preschool or volunteer in my kid’s school library.  Or do any of the things that I wanted to as a mother.  And forget health.  I sat at a desk for 12 to 15 hours a day before the several hours of commuting.  There was no time for exercise, or silly things like doctor’s visits.  There were no sick days or downtime, there was just work.

And I was miserable.  Before I learned about the importance of values, I spent many years, very unhappy and looking for a solution.  I changed jobs, changed careers, changed houses.  I tried therapists and coaches.  I looked for mentors who had similar lives to try to figure out the magic of how they were making it work.  Nothing helped.  Because no matter what I did, I wasn’t any closer to living a life that was based on my values.  What I didn’t understand was that it didn’t matter what other people did because other people don’t value the same things that I do.

Aligning with Our Values

We moved so that we could live in a place that was more aligned with our values.  A place where we could live each day focused on what brings us the most joy and satisfaction.  We moved because I believe that living in alignment with your values is the key to satisfaction and happiness in life, even when it is hard. 

In this new place, everything is easier.  My husband and I both have the time and space to be there for our kids in the way we want and to pursue our personal interests.  We are no longer running in place, trying to keep our heads above water.  While we do miss friends and family, we won’t be moving back anytime soon.  We are building our life on our terms.  We will cherish visits back to the East Coast and time with family and friends, but for our family we are right where we need to be.

If you have read this far, thank you for the free therapy session.  My point in sharing all of this is to tell you that I practice what I preach.  I don’t just preach defining values to my clients, I live by it in my own life.  I spent over a decade looking for something to make me happy.  But until I understood my values, I couldn’t find it.  Now I don’t make any major life decisions without thinking about how each option aligns (or not) with my values.  And I can tell you firsthand, my happiness and life satisfaction has never been higher.  You too can use the challenges you are facing as an opportunity to define what you want your future to look like and then go build it.

If you are interested in learning about how I can help you take charge of your finances as a newly single woman, please contact me at  or schedule a free 20-minute consultation.

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