Do you ever just feel like something is missing? You’re not fulfilled, you’re restless… just not feeling like YOU? Often this is when you’re not living your personal, or core, values.
Which is easy enough to say, but what does it really mean?!
OK, let me share what I’ve learned over the years, for myself personally, as well as to support my clients, who have often lost sight of themselves too, busy with work or a growing family… and you know that point where you look up (perhaps the children have grown, or the job becomes a drag…) and think to yourself…
- what the hell just happened?
- where did the time go?!
- who am I really, now?
So, what are personal values?
Your values are what you believe is most important to you, each of us having a unique blend deriving from our experiences and the influences we’ve had along the way.
Some of the time we’ll adopt values we’ve grown up with and sometimes we’ll reject them.
Either way, they are there with you, in the foreground, or in the background and when you understand your unique set of values, they can help you in shaping your world, in making decisions…
Why do we need to understand our values?
Living in a way that meets our values is most likely to feel comfortable andease-full… when we don’t live in a way that aligns with our values, we can feel restless, wrong or unhappy.
For example, if you have a strong value of teamwork, yet you work alone, you’ll likely feel unfulfilled and just… missing something.
So, they offer a great place to check in when we don’t quite feel like ourselves! There are of course plenty of exercises out there to help you discover your core values; choose one that works for you.
How to find your values
This is my favourite way as it dives deep.
I’ve come to understand that by considering joyful times and meaningful times we come up with a much more rounded, real, set of values than if we simply start with a list of words (which is the simplest way and very popular) however there’s a risk you’ll miss something if the list isn’t broad enough.
1. Noticing joy in your life
You’ll probably know by know I’m a huge fan of the whole ‘sparking joy‘ thing. And so it makes complete sense to me that we notice where it comes from and build so much more of this into our lives!
Make a note of the times in your life when you’ve felt real joy & happiness, those times when you can’t help but smile! Some of these might feel like fleeting moments… include these too as they’re important and will give you some great information to help uncover your values.
(eg one of my moments that always goes in this bucket is literally 2 seconds in the sea, body-boarding with my son, seeing the sun coming through a wave over my shoulder; absolutely magical.)
Dig in and really describe your joyful times. Notice what you were doing, who else was there, and see if you can spot just what it was that brought you joy each time.
(for me, it was the freedom of being in the sea, and wonder at the sheer momentary beauty of the sun-dazzle inside the wave…)
2. Finding the meaningful or fulfilling moments in your life
Of course, the joyful is hugely important, but more often than not, we need more. We need to make a difference, hear that we have value, feel satisfaction in a task well done. So go ahead and make a note of the times in your life when you’ve felt true satisfaction or fulfilment.
Again, really describe these times. Notice what you were doing, who else was there, what were the important factors, and see if you can notice just what made it meaningful for you.
3. Spotting the uncomfortable moments
When something or someone challenges our values, it can feel pretty awful! Maybe you react to a comment or an action, whilst noticing that people around you are less bothered, and you might feel you’re overreacting which can start to dent your self-belief. But if their core values aren’t being trampled on in that moment, that would go a long way to explaining your different reactions. And it’s definitely ok to be different.
So, this time make a note of any times when you’ve felt particularly uncomfortable. Don’t spend too long here but simply notice what in particular was missing for you, or what value might have been challenged, by someone else or the situation. You can find some good clues here!
(For example, if you felt very strongly when you witnessed someone being treated unfairly; this might suggest you have a value around fairness or equality.)
4. Looking for patterns
And finally take a look back over all your notes. What patterns do you see? Highlight your key words, notice how they make you feel. You’re aiming for 4-6 core values, although don’t get hung up on a particular number… can you group some words together? is there a word that pulls a few words into one theme?
Or is there a word that really resonates to describe a value for you? I love this tip from one of my favourite coaches, naming your values. So I might use Stride instead of ‘fitness’ because it really evokes the feeling I get when I’m fit and strong.
Are your core values missing from your life?
Of course, discovering your values is an interesting thing to do, but so what? We need a next-step, which is to check in with… are you living your core values?
- Where do they already show up?
- Where are they missing?
- What opportunities can you make to bring them into your life on a regular basis?
This is a place I often start with clients (and you can find the workbook I use right here) whether in groups or 1-1 coaching; it’s an incredibly helpful step on that journey of ‘who am I?’
Fancy finding out more?
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