Recently, I was talking to a woman who was feeling frustrated because she didn’t understand how she made her decisions. She described feeling “bad” that she wanted more for herself, but she didn’t know exactly what that was, or how to get there. Our conversation eventually drifted into a values exploration.
Have you ever considered what your values are?
What drives you to do what you do?
What foundational principles guide your decisions when the stakes are high?
Values are a part of us – they are the things that we believe are important. One person might value creativity, or humor. Another person might value truth, or equality, family, and kindness.
Values can be used to help people choose directions for their lives that are in line with what is truly important to them, and help them create goals that promote behaviors and actions in those directions. When we are in alignment with our values, life feels a whole lot more meaningful.
I began exploring my own values years ago, when I found myself feeling frustrated, unfulfilled and apathetic.
Originally, I came up with some fairly conventional values for myself– as a mom, of course a value was family. As a woman, of course a value was kindness. Compassion. I remember avoiding wealth, because, I thought, only jerks would choose that one. After curating my list, however, I felt more irritated and confused. This wasn’t resonating with me at all.
Why wasn’t this value exercise making me feel more focused, energized and motivated?
With a lot more thought, some experimenting, (and some red wine), I discovered that these values weren’t actually authentically ME. These values were screened for quality and judged for righteousness.
Let me back up a bit to when I was unfulfilled, frustrated, and confused. Totally MEH. I tried to ignore it initially – after all, there were no glaring, obvious issues in my life. With respect to the outward signs of “success”, things were great.
If that was all great, then I should be great, right?
Based on my virtuous value list, I decided to become even more involved with my kids, even more committed. YAY FAMILY! They were my everything, right? (They’re important to me, so I probably should give them ALL of me ALL THE TIME. Being a GREAT mom would mean that I’m a great person, and I wanted to be a great person.)
This led to, shall we say, deep trouble. (And more wine, tears, plus a string of regrettable online purchases.)
Although family IS important to me, narrowing in on this one part of my life made my whole life seem narrow. I didn’t feel any better, and I began to seriously doubt myself.
I realized it was time to figure out who I was, and what values are actually ME.
When I released the judgement and guilt, I was able to gain clarity and properly define my true values.
Humor is one of my values. As is achievement, and wealth. Curiosity.
If you find yourself judging one of your values, ask yourself why that is.
(A client once said she felt guilty because she liked money and wanted more of it. Why is that a bad thing? Money is how we live – money is freedom – to travel and experience the world, and also to be generous with friends, family and causes that are meaningful and important to us.)
The main value that I neglected during my extreme mom phase is continuous learning. I’ve always been a TOTAL BOOK NERD, and I ask a lot of questions. I’m curious. I am constantly researching programs and classes that I want to take. (My book-buying obsession started with Scholastic bookfairs. And the crack of the spine of a new book……oooh.)
When I slowly began reintegrating my love of learning back into my day-to-day, I started to feel more like myself. I made decisions differently. I felt happier.
Take some time to define your values – your REAL values, without judgement.