There are many lists we make in our lives: New Year's resolution lists, grocery lists, to do lists... On all these lists, we add, rearrange and one by one, cross each off upon completion. There is always a sense of accomplishment that comes with swiping our pencils across one of the many items on our lists; the sharp, quick sound that accompanies the achievement of a task.
Yet there is one list with postings that should never be crossed off: our list of values. There are many interesting things about the values we choose to live by. First off, without being consciously aware of our values, we make decisions and operate according to these values daily. Our values guide everything we think, say and do.
Second, when our values are at odds with our actions, we automatically feel misaligned and uneasy. It is as though our values are an invisible force that constantly push us forward. When our thoughts and behaviours clash with these internal values, we can experience guilt, regret and discomfort. When they do align though, we can feel accomplishment, self-assurance and a sense of well-being.
Third, we often share common value systems with the people we are closest to. While our common interests and personalities might differ, if our main value system differs from those of our spouses, friends or significant others, a great deal of tension can arise.
Last, we tend to live according to our top six to eight values. When we try and live by many more, it is easy to get distracted and overwhelmed. It becomes harder to figure out what our top priorities are, and we can find ourselves struggling to keep up.
Do you feel like you live according to your values? Are you overwhelming yourself by trying to live by too many top values?
Creating a list of values that reflect what's important to you can help you decide how to make decisions with your time and money. You may have some idea of what your values are already, but if you need some inspiration, check out this helpful, lengthy list of values.
If you are having trouble narrowing down your list, it can help to ask yourself these questions:
What matters most to me? What do other people point out in me? What values reflect who I am now and who I'd like to be? What creates stress for me and how does that stress reflect my values?
Identifying your top values can be challenging, but it's an exercise that can strengthen your decision-making skills and improve your happiness. Once you identify your main values, you'll have a better sense of what makes you most satisfied and fulfilled.
Of course, your values are subject to change as your definition of success changes. You'll find that as you continue to grow, your values change with your priorities.
Questions for you and about you
- What would I never sacrifice?
- What lessons about life are important that I teach my kids and/or loved ones?
- What do I feel proud of?
- How do I spend my time -- and does this accurately reflect my values?
- Who do I respect and why?
- Is my life aligned with my values or do I need to do some work in that area?
As some of you know first-hand, journaling can be used as an unbelievable tool in the coaching process. When a coach responds to a journal entry with questions and prompts that challenge and engage, this speeds up the coaching and helps clients have "aha" moments about their thoughts, beliefs and actions.
Have you ever been curious about what journaling is like from a coach's perspective? If someone told you about a conflict they were having in their life, how would you respond? Here's an exercise you can try out!
Below is a client's anonymous journal entry. Read and try playing the role of the coach. You can use the questions below to guide you after reading.
"I am irritable, restless, and overwhelmed. It feels like I cannot reach my daily goals even though I am trying hard. At night-time, when there's finally peace and quiet, I can't fall asleep, nor can I be productive to work on something. I feel tension in my neck and shoulders, and sadness in my heart. I feel guilty for not keeping the promise to myself of accomplishing daily tasks. I have this expectation that I should finish everything that I think I should do."
As this client's coach, what would you focus on? Feel free to post your responses in the comments here. Here are a few questions to get you thinking:
What is the overwhelming feeling that you notice in this journal?
What would you say to understand where all of this client's tension is coming from?
How can you help this client achieve peace of mind?