Increasingly, more people are investing their resources in service of self-growth and potential. I’m talking about high achieving, by most counts, very successful folks, who are realizing that some critically important teachings were missing in their academic and family curriculum. With some exceptions, most of us did not learn how to cultivate our emotional well being, skillfully manage our thoughts, and gain the tools and skills essential for creating a life that is more often peaceful, purposeful and fulfilling rather than chaotic, volatile, and frankly, frightening in its constant uncertainty.
A great place to start when aiming to do this life-changing work is with an assessment of our life values. Much has been written on the impact of our life values and why it’s important to be crystal clear about them. For a deep dive, you can study the work of Brene Brown as well as John Demartini. For now, it’s sufficient to understand that our top life value is our North Star. It is what we find most meaningful and hold dear, even if unconsciously. How many times have you wondered why you do (or don’t do) something, even though intellectually you understand and want to take that action? It’s not because you’re weak, lazy, or undisciplined. I promise you that. It’s because the action you want to take is pushing against a value that you hold more dear.
Just this week, in a coaching conversation with one of my clients – Simon, who is extraordinary by so many measures – the issue of smoking arose. Simon stated that he simply doesn’t have the ability to quit smoking. I was curious to dive deeper because I know him to be a man of spectacular strength, intelligence, and grit. This is a man who has created a successful multi-million dollar business from the ground up, cultivated a strong and long-lasting marriage, and nurtured his children’s growth into successful young adults. “I can’t,” repeated on auto pilot from this particular man, simply didn’t ring true to me. So I offered to do a values assessment with him. The basic work entails sharing a value and my client rating it from 1-10 in order of importance in his life.
This exercise is only productive and powerful if we are willing to be totally truthful with our responses. Few 10’s should be dispensed, because although we would like to think of ourselves as people who cherish all the “good” values, in truth, there are only one or two that are absolutely non-negotiable – one or two that consistently and over time, decide our actions and shape our lives.
What showed up as Simon and I completed his assessment, is that “Fun” is a 10 for him (non-negotiable), as opposed to “Self-care” which was a 4 (not that important). To be clear, I’m not a health coach and do not judge my clients. I help them gain clarity on what they want to achieve and help them remove the roadblocks as well as deliberately move towards their goals. It’s none of my business whether Simon smokes or not, but it’s very much my business to ensure he understands the reasons why, and he decides his next steps consciously and deliberately. Simon smokes when he is enjoying other activities that contribute to his life bucket called, “Fun”. If Fun is a top life value and Self-care rates low, doesn’t it make sense for him to continue smoking because he wants to and not because he’s too weak to quit?
For those of you who are judging Simon, I suggest you do the deep work of looking at your own lives and understanding what your top 2 life values are. Only you can decide what matters most to you, and judging others for having values that are different than yours, is not only unhelpful but also possibly hypocritical.
No two people are the same, and at our core, we all hold a different combination of life values. Like our personalities, our values can and will change depending on internal growth and external life circumstances. Your top values are no one else’s business, but understanding and leveraging them to live a more intentional life is 100% our own business and well worth uncovering.
If you’d like to learn more about doing your own values assessment, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll get you started.
P.S. I’m committed to sharing my Life Coaching skills and tools out into the world, in the hope that it can help others. If this blog resonates with you, please consider forwarding it to anyone who may benefit from it. If this was forwarded to you, subscribe here.