“Sensemaking,” a term coined by psychologist Karl Weick, refers to a person’s effort and ability to make sense of the world and its seemingly random events, creating patterns of connections between people, places, and events. You create your awareness and understanding of a confusing situation so that you’re able to make decisions that line up with your personal values.
Weick compared the process of cognitive sensemaking to cartography. When some of the earliest cartographers rendered maps, two representations of the same area may have looked different depending on factors the individual mapmaker chose to focus on, as well as what they experienced. Cartography and sensemaking are both acts of creativity and analysis — identifying and interpreting facts amongst a continuous wave of data.
Our values are an intrinsic element of cognitive sensemaking. When your life falls out of line with your values, it might feel like it doesn’t make much sense. Conversely, when your life is aligned with your values, you can reach what feels like a state of flow.
Keep in mind, values are not static. They evolve over time according to our experiences and interpretations. If your life feels chaotic or like it’s lacking sense, start the process of sensemaking by identifying your values.
It’s easy to get sidetracked and find ourselves living according to someone else’s values and priorities, but life makes the most sense and ultimately holds more meaning when we’re honest about what’s important to us. Once you have a solid list of values, keep them with you to reference throughout the year. They can serve as a reminder to analyze events and creatively map out your life.