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Values - what do they mean to you?

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

This week's blog will be looking at values.

What do I mean by values…….for me they act as a “measure” for how well we are living. There’s no right or wrong here, they are personal expressions of behaviours that are important to you and which should lead you to happiness, provided they are fully aligned.

For example, when I was growing up I didn’t spend a lot of time with my parents as they were always working or socialising without me.

When I became a parent, one of my values was to be present with my kids as much as practically possible.

When my corporate career led me to being away from my kids almost as much as I was with them, I became increasingly frustrated and despondent.

I then had to try hard to re-engineer my life to ensure that I was able to be with them more and to do more enjoyable things with them to provide the relationship with them that I never had with my own parents.

Sometimes our chosen life path can take us quite far away from our values, and this can cause us a lot of distress. I’ve always placed a high value on physical fitness but let myself go during my 30’s due to work and family pressures and this mis-alignment needed to be rewired.

I started to put fitness and nutrition back at the centre of my weekly planning and focus and I started to see the results.

How do you measure yourself?

Values are the language of our authentic self. They act as an emotional “lighthouse” that shows us the path to the life we really want to be living.

They provide the behavioural framework for how we interact with our world at large and if you live congruently with your key values then evidence suggests that you will live a happy and fulfilling life.

Values are not goals and as such its harder to measure what success looks like for your values…..but its easy to identify when you’re not living in line with them, here’s a few examples from my own experience of when I’ve found a disconnect:

You value honesty, openness and transparency but the company that you work for has a history of misleading customers, manipulating data and the management team do not share information with the employees in a transparent way.

You value adventure and outdoor activity but never engineer the time in your week to really fulfil this so you end up frustrated, disillusioned and lacking in spirit.

You may value community spirit and helping people but you work for a financial company whose only stated objective is to deliver shareholder value (actual management quote!)

You value creativity but cannot find the time in your weekly schedule to sit down with the guitar and write and perform your songs.

These are just a few observations but you hopefully get the point.

If you value something but are unable to allow that value to be honoured regularly, you will feel the discomfort.

Discomfort of misalignment

We should know when we are not in line with our values as we should feel significant discomfort.

Think of a time that you’ve worked for a business and either the management team, colleagues or the general culture of the organisation is not in line with your values. You can feel it, can’t you?

Then juxtapose this with a job that you had when you were working with colleagues who shared your values, or the company mission was aligned with how you believed that customers should be treated, you could feel the difference?

Don’t be fooled though, there can still be discomfort when you are trying to align your life with your values.

Take my previous example regarding my own physical journey.

I had always valued personal fitness and had kept fit and active throughout much of my adult life.

Then when my first child came along and my work schedule changed to involve international travel and some of the perks that came with that, such as large expense accounts, nice hotels and the dreaded mini bars, I found my lack of activity was easy to rationalise and the poor diet and excessive alcohol intake all conspired to leave me 16 kgs over weight, chronically tired, lacking motivation outside of work and largely uninspired.

I was totally out of line with one of my values and every time I looked in the mirror the evidence was plain to see.

Whilst this disconnect was indeed painful emotionally, the 30 minute HIIT classes, combined with spin classes and finished off with a resistance workout were undoubtedly painful as well. I had to consciously choose which of the pains I wanted the least and persevered with the fitness.

After a few weeks, the fitness improved and I started to find all the physical effort enjoyable!

After several months my physical body started to look more like the one I had in my mind (I’m no Brad Pitt mind but at least I’m also less Benny Hill!) and I also felt so much better for living a life in line with my values……..I was someone who took pride in their physical fitness and went to the gym regularly.

Too often though, our brains trick us into the easier path, the path of least resistance and this tends to be continuing with the bad habits or the job with the company that we don’t feel appreciated in, or that one more slice of cake cause we can always start the diet on Monday!

Self sabotage

Self sabotage is really a protection mechanism that’s developed by your highly inventive brain…..

Its protecting your ego, and ensuring that you don’t use any energy unnecessarily, which is largely what’s it has done for our species for several millennia…..rather successfully too I would venture.

But when it comes to a modern humans and our desires to live In line with our values, it’s just another speed bump to overcome.

When you feel your brain putting up this resistance, really lean into it. Recognise it for the sabotage that it is.

If you don’t learn to push back when this sabotage kicks in, it can start to become a habit, that can be really hard to unpack.

Just remember that going to the gym will ALWAYS give you a greater sense of vitality and biochemical reward than ANY slice of Oreo Cookie Cheesecake whilst sat on the sofa watching Game of Thrones will ever give you.

You just need to cultivate enough “activation energy” to get going……..once the momentum kicks in, the new lifestyle tends to take care of itself.

ACTION POINT - Think of a value that you would like to cultivate this week and ensure that you spend the week reflecting on why that value would be important.

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