Making Meaning Out of Warm Summer Days: A Values-Based Approach

Person with long hair wearing headphones sits in folding chair by pool reading book“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever.” —E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

Summer is here, and with it comes barbecues, gardening, sunshine, and vacations. It’s a time of year for enjoying the outdoors and making room for you and yours. This article is dedicated to the ways summer helps us move toward a more meaningful life.

Family

During the summer, we can’t help but want to connect with loved ones. This is a time of year for family reunions and connection. When we think about family and why it is important to us, words like support, togetherness, and closeness come to mind. This summer, nurture what you feel is important about family. For some, it’s going to the childhood summer lake with relatives. For others, it’s about opening your home to a distant relative so you can reconnect. Spend time turning your values into action by creating events with family.

Social Life

Don’t settle for trivial time in front of the television. Instead, reach out to friends. Hit the park, the beach, or the pool. Summer comes with fewer reasons to say no, and it won’t last. So instead of parking yourself on the couch or in your office chair, show up to a few more afternoon pool parties and enjoy some more time laughing with friends.

Romance

The days are long and the nights warm, the perfect setting for romance. Summers provide great opportunities to connect with others on a romantic or intimate level. Some may choose to seclude themselves somewhere tropical. Others may take time to enjoy nature together. Whatever your preferences, think about how intimacy can be improved for you this summer, and show your partner what they mean to you.

Work

Work and summer don’t always get along, so it’s important to focus on why you go to work so you can better handle how you will stay there on those gorgeous, sunny days. Some of us live to work, while others work to live. Either way, see if you have the right work-life balance by answering the following: Do I feel more pleasure or accomplished? If you feel more accomplished, maybe it’s time to take a break and enjoy a dip in the pool. If you feel more pleasure, it may be time to get into a little more work.

Physical Health

When it comes to physical health, the summer provides the necessary accoutrement to get on top of any goals you’ve set. Because the body and mind are connected, the best way to feel good emotionally is to feel good physically. With warm days and nights upon us, there is no better time to focus on fitness.

Personal Growth

Each one of us is looking to grow in one way or another. Growth may come from learning a new instrument or starting a new job. Growth involves confrontation. We each must confront our fears and challenges head-on, and summer is no time to stop. Enjoy a summer afternoon, but when you wake up, don’t forget to ask these questions: (1) What kind of person do I want to be today? And (2) what do I need to do to be that person?

Hobbies

Hobbies and summer go together like apple pie and the Fourth of July. Get out there and hike, fly a kite, or learn guitar. Hobbies help us attract to life by engaging our hearts, minds, and bodies. They also help us develop confidence. Try the five-hour practice rule. Whatever your hobby, practice one hour per day, five days per week. By the end of the summer, imagine where you will be!

Spiritual Life

Spirituality is never something to be lazy about. Each one of us has something with which we feel connected. Spirituality doesn’t mean we believe in this or that, but that we are searching for answers to unanswerable questions. The journey is more important than the destination. This summer, be sure to take time to reflect on what is beyond your reach. Whether you look to the stars, walk in nature, or sit in prayer, use the quiet days to connect to what matters.

Parenting

The kids are out of school. For many busy parents, this can be a hectic time of juggling work and kids’ activities, extra dirty laundry, and an extra messy home. Amid the controlled chaos (wishful thinking), try to focus on what you value about being a parent. For you, parenting might mean role-modeling fun and adventure or showing your children the world via travel and day trips. Whatever you value about parenthood, use this time to move you closer to your children.

Money

Vacations and amusement parks can get expensive. Sitting at home all day may be cheap, but it might not be much fun. Some of you are spenders, others savers, and others still a combination. This summer, observe your value for money. If you are someone who throws caution to the summer breeze and spends more between June and September, take a moment and consider if it is worth it. Hopefully it is! If you are more likely to save your money and not do anything, ask yourself if you could have used more fun.

Community

It is easy to forget about our role in the community. Summer can be a time of sharing and helping. There are many volunteer opportunities and worthy causes. What is important to you about the community? Are you concerned about safety or beautification of your neighborhood or city? Take some time to think about why community is important to you and see what you could do to help the world around you.

Whatever is important to you this summer, remember to create action around your values. Life happens at the level of what we do, not what we think. Our values are actualized in the material world, not in the mind’s eye. So get out there and have a great summer!

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  • Hugh

    Hugh

    July 21st, 2017 at 6:44 AM

    Everyone always look to the New Year as the start of all things great and relevant for them while for me summer has always felt more like an awakening and a time for contemplation and renewal. I think that it probably started when I was young and got all that time off of school. Now even though I work full time I am still in that summer mindset when the kids are out of school and I try to take my cue from them. I love it. It is an awesome time to spend much needed time with the family and to get some things done that I have put off for too long.

  • Justin LaPilusa, PsyD

    Justin LaPilusa, PsyD

    July 21st, 2017 at 11:35 AM

    I completely agree. I find that many of my New Year’s Resolutions are guilt motivated following the excess of the holiday season. The motivation I feel in the summer seems more inspirational. I work all summer as well and I don’t think I will ever see summer as less than that special time of year when the world slows down a bit and self care and family are rejuvenated. Thanks for sharing Hugh and enjoy your summer!

  • kristen

    kristen

    July 21st, 2017 at 10:05 AM

    I have way too many friends who dread the summer because the kids are out of school and they struggle to find things to entertain them in those summer months. I try to be a little more appreciative of that time that we will all have together because I know that before long I won’t have that with them anymore.

  • Justin Lapilusa

    Justin Lapilusa

    July 22nd, 2017 at 7:31 AM

    Thanks for posting Kristen! I have two children and I agree, we spend too much time trying to create room for all the “adult” needs and desires, and often forget that time with our children is fleeting. I for one am going to pay more attention to this in my own life.

  • kristen

    kristen

    July 24th, 2017 at 5:40 AM

    Absolutely!

  • Rich

    Rich

    July 25th, 2017 at 10:46 AM

    I teach during the school year so the summer for me is a time to recharge and get focused on the upcoming school year. I love the free time that it gives me and I usually take a class or two to further my own education. I think that if I didn’t teach I would really miss having those summer months off to just take the time and do the things that I enjoy because once the school year starts it is rarely about me anymore.

  • Justin Lapilusa

    Justin Lapilusa

    July 25th, 2017 at 11:23 AM

    Rich, it sounds like you have a wonderful work/life balance. Adult education is one of my favorite ways to learn more and grow. I really admire your approach to values. Thanks for sharing!

  • Allison

    Allison

    July 26th, 2017 at 9:41 AM

    This is a great mindset to have. It’s a time to reevaluate my values but also be less serious about life. Even though I have a child that’s in school during the summer months (due to year-round school), it’s still a time for summer traditions, making memories and enjoying each other during this magical, active time of year! Thanks for the read!

  • Justin Lapilusa

    Justin Lapilusa

    July 26th, 2017 at 10:20 AM

    Allison, I’m glad you enjoyed the read. Of all the adventures and learning processes, for me I have to confidently say that nothing has been more important then the commitment to worklife balance. I always feel that the summer is both tantalizing and a bit nerve-racking. I find it very important to focus on what is important to me in all areas of life and then create small events to move me towards my values. Thanks for sharing!

  • Cora

    Cora

    July 29th, 2017 at 2:44 PM

    Most of my very best memories from childhood in some way revolve around those summer months.
    We didn’t have much money but it didn’t stop mom and dad from introducing us to the world around us.
    There was hiking and camping and picnics, things that I would not change for anything.
    I think that for me this helped me understand from a very young age that they both loved me and loved making that time for us, even without a whole lot of money!

  • Justin Lapilusa

    Justin Lapilusa

    July 31st, 2017 at 9:24 AM

    Cora,
    Thank you for your comment. I love what you are saying about not needing money. Value is rarely purchased. In fact, all the research points to relationships as the number 1 factor for longevity, health and happiness. It sounds like you had a great childhood. I always ask my clients, who taught you how to love others and love yourself. You sound like you had great love teachers in your parents. Cheers to that!

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