What are personal values and how can they help me?
We all hold certain values as important to us. Whether you know the words to name these values by or not, they exist within you!
Personal values are the things that when you are living your life holding these values in front of you, you feel content and these same values when you try to ignore or dishonour them (mostly unintentional) you feel uncomfortable and often stressed.
I have learnt a lot about these things in the last few years because I personally came to a point in my life where things overwhelmed me. I did not know why but looking back now, with the learning I have, I can see clearly; I was dishonouring the things which were important to me! But why did I do this? Well part of it was my upbringing, I learnt to please others which got stronger over time and meant I learnt not to listen to my own needs.
But let’s not oversimplify there is never one clear answer, why sometimes we can get so far off track it is all about our experience of life and those small decisions we make on a day to day basis.
If we use our personal values to guide each daily decision we make (at work and at home; about 35,000 decisions per day -as quoted in various internet sources) then over time this has a big influence on our experience of life; how content we feel, how much we feel happiness and love and how much we feel we contribute.
However, when we don’t listen to our own needs and values over time these daily decisions mount up to stress, anxiety and in the worst-case breakdown.
So how does one find their own personal values? Where can you start?
A lot of what we do in coaching is helping people identify these values and start using them to guide what feels right in life.
If you don’t know what your values are, you are not alone!
In fact, to date I have only had one client who was able to name more than two of their values straight off when we start coaching.
The simple way to start is by looking at a list of values and seeing which of the words resonate with you. When I say resonate, I mean you feel something positive in your body, it is generally more a feeling than a thought, i.e. you need to listen to the core of you, your instinct. Again, a lot of people find this difficult to tune in to; however just because you may have learnt to tune it out or not trust it, does not mean it is not there. It is!
Just sit quietly and listen.
The kind of questions to ask yourself are:
What about this value is important to me?
How does this value show up in my life?
Where am I honouring this value currently in my life?
Where am I dishonouring this value in my life? How does that feel?
If I truly feel this value how does this lead me in my role (as a leader, or a parent or partner choose whichever fits or think of each in turn).
This is where you begin to see that you are the same person with the same core values no matter if you are at work, at home, out with friends! Your values may show up in different ways, but they are still there. This is often why leaders who pretend they are someone else when they walk in the door at work and do not honour their values end up feeling stressed because they are not being true to themselves. There may always be things we see that we ‘need’ to do but as soon as we say that we are not leaning into our values but, probably dishonouring them in some way.
It is your saboteur talking when you say I need/ must/ should/ ought to…. I say “generally” because there are always exceptions to this as in fact your values can sometimes contradict one another. In these cases, it is very useful to know which ones are your strongest.
So, going back to your list of ten personal values, the next step is to put them into a priority list. Again, don’t think too much about this just listen to your instinct, it is not a maths test at school and will not be perfect but just give it a go.
Look at the top three and go back to the questions above and check they are roughly correct. If they are, then try and live into these values and see how it feels. When you have decisions to make think of these values and see how they inform that decision and then how you feel once you make that decision.
It can be useful to have some simple tools to help you think more often about these values and get more conscious about the role they are playing. It is like building a muscle or starting a new habit you need to consciously choose to invest in it and remind yourself otherwise it cannot help.
Ideas for tools are listed below but use whatever is fun/ interesting to you and fits with your life:
Keep a diary with these values in them and ask yourself some questions each day about how you honoured these values,
Talk to a friend or partner (or even your kids, who are generally best at being brutally honest) about the values you have identified and why they are important to you. Ask whoever you choose if they also see these as values you live your life by.
Write them, draw them or paint them and stick them up on your fridge and spend a minute contemplating them when you get your tea or coffee in the morning.
Start using the words you identify with your values to start voicing them more in conversation, especially when it comes to justifying your decisions to people; then see how that feels.
Just as our physical features give us our unique appearance, the articulation, prioritisation and clarity of our values determine our individual identity.
from Co-Active Coaching: The proven framework for Transformative Conversations at work and in life – Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, Laura Whitworth.
I am sharing this to help as many people as possible start living a more fulfilling life and because I cannot possibly coach every single one of you. This can be a lot to do on your own so find a partner to do this with to make it fun and let me know if you have questions!
If you do need coaching support to lead you through this process and go in more deeply to start challenging how you values show up each and every day them book in a free sample session so we can get to know one another using this link.