Because how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives - Annie Dillard
Are you spending your days on things that matter to you? Or are you out of love with your job, angry and resentful at URGENT evening emails, directionless, unfulfilled but feeling trapped by needing the income?
These are such common feelings. And what I see in my clients is an equally common cause: somehow these women, mothers mostly, have compromised on what they value.
And when values are compromised, we can get stuck. We start saying ‘yes’ when we ache to say ‘no’.
What are ‘values’?
Our values are our beliefs about what is good, right and important (as well as what is irrelevant or wrong). They’re what give our life meaning and purpose. We feel happy and fulfilled when they’re honoured; when they’re not, we can feel empty, angry or lacking in purpose.
As mums with a dozen plates spinning and changed or changing priorities, it’s too easy to lose our sense of self. We either forget what’s important to us or feel we’re not able to live a life in which the things that matter most to us take priority.
So, I’m curious. When was the last time you took a step back and consciously thought about your values? I’m going to guess it was a while ago. Perhaps it’s not something you’ve ever set aside time to consider. Well, you could be missing out.
Why is it important to know my values?
Working out what you value takes you a giant leap closer to living a life and finding work that consistently provides you with a sense of contentment, satisfaction and fulfilment.
Because being clear about what is most important to you will reconnect you with your sense of self. From there, you can make better choices; choices that take you toward the things you value. You’ll take actions that feel good rather than doing things that feel like chewing grit.
Knowing what you value could be one of the most liberating things you ever do. It will give you confidence, more time, a better job and a good life.
Yes, it really can be that good! Knowing your values will give you confidence, in every part of your life. Affirming ‘I know who I am’ brings stability. It allows you to stop saying yes when you mean no, or ‘I don’t mind’ when actually you really do.
Don’t have time? Well, knowing what you value frees up time by clearing out the clutter (and I don’t mean possessions). How liberating to be able to turn down things that don’t fit with your values? No more worrying about whether you ‘should’ go to that seminar.
Ok, ok, I get it! Values are worth knowing. So how do I work out what they are?
Find yourself a list of values (hint: I have one on my site) and pick 10 that resonate the most with you.
Be bold. No being all ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘can I have one in every colour?’ No. Decisiveness and commitment is required. At the same time, it’s not a tattoo on your face. You can change your mind. But make an initial commitment.
Now whittle the 10 down to five.
How? So glad you asked.
Here’s a test. What if I told you that you might, unwittingly, be living someone else’s life? Yup. What I mean is that many of us do things because we think we should.
The messages we receive from parents, school, society mean we can find ourselves mistaking other people’s values for our own. Perhaps it’s because we fear the judgment of others (do you parent differently in public than behind closed doors?). Or it’s because we seek approval, or simply don’t know any better. I know my initial choice of career was driven significantly by other people’s values and definitions of success rather than my own.
A great way to know if you are doing this is to look at the values you’ve chosen. Do they feel uplifting and ‘right’ – or draining and like an obligation? Take the value of ‘kindness’ as an example; maybe you include that on your list because ‘good people’ are kind. In reality, though, there are five things that matter to you more.
Well don’t do that! Pick the values that feel great – for YOU.
Now apply them to your worklife. How well does your current role fit with your values? Take each one in turn.
For example, if you value autonomy but report to a micro-manager, you might be feeling a bit frustrated. But if you value autonomy and your boss lets you spend a Friday morning working on your own project, this will be an aspect of the role that works really well for you.
Make sense? Now go. Do. And if you have questions, just ask. I’m always happy to offer support.