What are your values?

Nyhavn Harbour, Copenhagen

After 3 months of preparing for a wedding, getting married and jetting off on honeymoon, I’m back at my desk. In that three months I’ve reconnected with friends and family, voted in a referendum, spent hours watching international sporting fixtures, been aboard a Russian U boat, eaten my own body weight in Danish snegles, and walked about 70 miles. I’ve come back refreshed and with a real sense that I’m living my values. But it wasn’t too long ago that I couldn’t answer the question “what are your values?”. I simply didn’t know what I stood for. Coaching helped me clarify the things I need in my life to feel fulfilled: security, partnership, authenticity and opportunities for learning.

Give most of us a list of values and we’ll cherry pick the ones we think that we should hold dear – honesty, compassion, strength. Perhaps our parents and grandparents passed them onto us like a baton. Yet few of us really take a step back and choose the handful of values we truly want in our lives. The values that will act as our guide when we don’t know where to go. As we navigated around Copenhagen recently, I experienced just how important it is to have an up-to-date guide in this thriving, modern capital city (rather than an out-dated 1800s Baedeker!). With an old guide you miss out on all the stunning new sites that have been built thanks to advances in technology, and architecture. With a new guide you get to explore both the delights of the old Nyhavn harbour alongside the beautiful new Black Diamond library. You can pick and choose the places you want to go – not just head where everyone has always gone.

It’s the same in life. University, 9 to 5, marriage, home ownership, 2.4 children are all great if they fit with your values. But if they don’t, you can end up feeling unfulfilled and stuck in someone else’s dream life. No doubt feeling guilty that you’re not enjoying it. We each have the right to choose our values and define specifically what they mean to us. After all my personal definition of security will differ from yours because it is shaped by my unique life experience. By defining my values, I can make better choices in future. I can help my partner understand what things I can and can’t compromise on. I can show my line manager what really makes me tick.

And just like a guidebook, values need refreshing. Some of my old values from childhood still serve me well. Learning, for example, continues to be an important value to me. It helps me stretch my brain, remain in touch with the changing world and avoid becoming ignorant and isolated. How I define learning, however, has changed over the years. It’s not just about qualifications and courses anymore. Now it’s also about learning through getting out there and doing. For example, taking my coaching skills out of the training room and into 1:1 coaching sessions with clients. My definition of learning has evolved because collecting certificates and credentials just won’t serve me as well in the future as it did in the past. If I allow my values to stagnate I’ll be sitting here at 60 thinking, “I’d have made a great coach – if only I had applied all the theory I’d read”.

Want to start living your values?

Book your free discovery call with me to find out more about Jailbreak Coaching.

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