When I first started my coaching certification the concept of “values” seemed kinda woo woo to me – how to even identify this abstract concept, let alone how this could help me in my day-to-day life. It all seemed a little too up-in-the air for me, and not grounded in practicality and logic (very much my thing!) But little did I know I was about to have one of those brilliant “a-ha” moments!
Values should be chosen consciously, and not just what we think society expects from us, or what is considered “good”. Values are things like autonomy, commitment, family, freedom, honesty, leadership, romance, or vitality – things that help you to understand what will make you happy if you are able to live in alignment with these, every day.
For me, the values of achievement, trust, autonomy, relationships, and personal growth come out on top – woops, it wasn’t family, or community, or giving / altruism! Does this make me a “bad” person? Nope! And I’ll tell you why.
Understanding your values needs to involve non-judgment of yourself. Its not what you would like to have come out on top, its what actually matters to you, what drives you, what makes you feel balanced and joyful inside.
Any why is this so important? Well, when we are not living according to our core values, we can feel exhausted, attacked, frustrated, imbalanced, angry, guilty, or a whole swathe of other negative feelings. And to change ourselves to try to accommodate the value we think should be at the fore means that we are being inauthentic to our true selves – how hard is that as a masquerade to keep up every damn day?!
Personally, I never realised that trust and autonomy were key values for me, especially in the workplace, until I encountered a situation where I was effectively forced to ignore this and expected to micromanage (nay, nanomanage!) my team. One of my great pleasures was putting trust in the people in my team – giving them outcomes instead of tasks, allowing them a voice in critical meetings, and encouraging them to take the wheel as much as they felt they could. I trusted them fully, and as a manager this is a great place to be – it takes a lot of weight off your shoulders! So any form of micromanagement – whether it’s happening to me, or if I’m expected to do it to others – is just intolerable for me.
Another way dissonance in values can often show up is with “helping others” and “self-care”. Many people (read: women!) have these high on their list of values, but what is important to recognise is that both need to be nurtured if you are to be happy. If you give and give and give this can push you into exhaustion and resentment, as you are not respecting your value of self-care at the same time. This can also show up with friendships – spending every moment catching up with various friends in a whirlwind, but forgetting to have a lazy Sunday afternoon for yourself to recharge.
An interesting way of pinpointing these values can be carried out in one of our coaching sessions – you will be able to pinpoint your key values, and the ones showing a level of dissonance in your life. If family is important to you, how can you spend more time with them? If education isn’t a core value of yours but relationships is, why are you pursuing that Masters degree and spending less time with friends? If wealth isn’t a core value of yours, why are you afraid to move to a less well-paid job that you know will make you happier?
When we live with our values in alignment the dissonance we feel can be released, as we are living as our authentic selves, and not what others or society expects of us. Refreshing!