I’ve had a few clients recently that have said things like “something’s just not right.” “I don’t know exactly what it is but I can’t seem to be happy and enjoy myself.” “I should be able to be happy; I don’t know what’s going on.” So I thought I’d share some tips with what was going on for them, in case you’re in a similar position.
What are values?
These are the things you find important in life. They are your personal beliefs. They determine your behaviour and standards.
We can learn the best behaviours and habits to support success and happiness in our lives but if these behaviours aren’t in line with our values and beliefs, then the result is stress, frustration and internal conflict. If you’re getting one thing but want something else, you won’t be totally happy and fulfilled. This is because all the parts aren’t aligned, they’re not congruent.
Finding out your values
Often our values are unconscious. What I mean by that is that often people don’t know why they do certain things; they just feel like they have to do them. These beliefs and values were picked up through the environment we grew up in, the people we were around and different experiences.
Finding out your values can be an empowering process. Take a moment to write down five things that are important to you. For example growth, fun, self-respect, confidence, security. If you're struggling take a look at the tree at the top of the page.
Exploring your values
Now with each value ask yourself “what’s important about (insert value)?” For example “what’s important about growth?”
“I get new learning experiences.”
Then ask yourself “what’s important about new learning experiences?”
“I can discover what I’m capable of.”
Then ask “what’s important about discovering what I’m capable of?”
“I know who I am.”
This is an important step because it allows you to delve deeper into what you value. There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s no judgement attached to this. It’s an exercise for you to do to discover the underlying reason why you behave in certain ways. It’s an opportunity to get to know yourself and what is important to you. Once you know what is important to you, you can then resolve internal conflict. You’ll be able to direct, motivate and support yourself at a deeper level because you’ll know your values.
Determining how your values are being fulfilled
Everyone has different ways of determining if their values are being fulfilled. For example two people may value personal development. One person knows it’s being fulfilled when they’re going on training courses and reading new books. However, for the other person it’s when they’re physically challenging their body by doing extreme sports.
To determine how your values are fulfilled ask yourself “what has to happen for me to know that my value is being met?”
Once you have determined what needs to happen you can see if you are being held back by this. For example one client valued connecting with people. She found that she knew this was being fulfilled when people were enjoying her company and engaging with her. She quickly realised this was holding her back because this relied on the actions of others.
This was easy to change. All she had to do was change the way the value was fulfilled to something that she could control. So she decided that the evidence for this value being fulfilled would be when she had joined a community group that she felt strongly about, posted birthday cards to her family and friends and caught up with one person a fortnight.
It can be really tough when two strong values are pulling you in opposite directions. For example one value is security and you get that through a secure job with a steady income and the other value is your family. But you regularly have to stay back late or work weekends which impacts on having quality time with your family. You can try and act on one – for example put the job first. Or try to adapt – juggle both and not be satisfied with either. In both these situations you can end up feeling frustrated, conflicted, uneasy and lost. This can lead to trying to relieve these feelings through overeating, smoking and drinking.
However, now that you understand how values work you can come up with a way that doesn’t compromise either value. You can change the way your values are fulfilled. For example you know that staying back late at work and working weekends allows you to earn more money. This benefits your family because you can have more income to provide for their needs (education, food and clothing) as well as do fun things like go on holidays together. By reframing it this way, it eliminates the conflict.
Often it’s not the values that are conflicting, rather the way they are being fulfilled.
Something to think about...
"Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same but you leave them all over everything you do."
- Elvis Presley