yardstick by which we measure everything - our relative success, happiness, etc. Your values, what is important to you, will differ from mine if only as a result of the fact that you and I are different. Each of us faces a similar challenge though, to try to live a life that is in balance and alignment with our values. The closer our actions 'fit' our core values the better we will feel about ourselves, our relationships and our lives.
The bigger the gap though the more likely we are to experience dissatisfaction and distress. A disconnect between our values and our actions leads to a sense of disconnect with our lives which, in turn, can lead to lacklustre on-the-job performance. It is challenging to remain focused and motivated to engage in work and activities that fail to support our personal values. The more dissonance we experience the greater our motivational challenges likely will prove.
It is this gap, between our actions and values, that leads us to choose (whether consciously or unconsciously) to under-perform. The resistance we experience comes from that values disconnect. Generally speaking there tends to be two key reasons for the existence of the gap. Either...
- We have no clue as to what we truly value in life and are therefore living in a hit and miss fashion, sometimes gaining satisfaction with a hit, sometimes being dissatisfied because we miss, or...
- We have chosen to live, whether consciously or unconsciously, by someone else's prescribed values
There may be other reasons but these two are key and often interrelated. If I am unable to articulate what my key values are in life, what is truly important to me, I am far more likely to be swayed by someone else who has clarity, whether that is a relative, friend, celebrity or corporation. The difficulty with this lies in what happens internally to me should there be a gap between my true values and my adopted ones. If they are out of sync I will likely experience dissonance and discomfort.
Someone else's value may be a more positive, powerful and fulfilling value than my own, but if I haven't taken the time to consciously acknowledge and challenge the validity of my own limiting values and beliefs, and replace them with the stronger and more positive one, then I will still continue to experience that sense of dissatisfaction with my life.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to wait until we are at a 'low point' in our lives and emotions to take stock of our lives. Why wait for that? Work now to ensure that you have a clear and conscious understanding of your personal values by questioning the beliefs you hold. What are the beliefs you hold that serve to influence the choices you make, the behaviours you engage in?
All too often we act in ways that support beliefs we feel we 'should' have, regardless of whether or not those beliefs support our values. We are guided by the opinions of others more than we are guided by our own internal interests, wants and beliefs. Getting in touch with what really matters to you will highlight how much of your life you have devoted to satisfying other people's values versus your own.
Once you are clear about what truly matters to you, what you value, you need to reconcile the choices you have made in your life with your values. How much do those choices work in support of your values, how much do they pull you away from them? Are there gaps that you need to work at narrowing to increase your comfort and self-satisfaction?
I have had clients who discovered a great dissatisfaction in their lives because...
- they had bought a 'big' house in a prestigious area because that was where someone of their level and stature 'should' live, but paying that big monthly mortgage meant little money left over for travel and adventure, both of which they valued highly
- they worked 60+ hour weeks trying to satisfy a parent and make them proud, rather than living to their own value of what being a 'good' parent to their own children meant to them
- they had always wanted to start their own business but never attempted it because others around them didn't think they had what it takes to make it
What values and beliefs do you have that you are not living to?
What would your life look like if you did?
What's stopping you from taking action?
For those of you hesitating to take the action you need, Stephen Levine offers the following words, to give you perspective and to take that first step...
If you had an hour to live and could only make one phone call... Who would you call, What would you say, And why are you waiting?