I've been a student of the Personal and Professional Development world for nearly 30 years—first as a hobby and way to satiate my unending curiosity about people—and then as a career and way of life. I've identified my five core values over the years as part of various workshops, classes and books, but I remember each time writing them down and then promptly tossing that piece of scrap paper in the most convenient recycling bin. I was clearly missing the point thinking that all I needed to do was to figure out what they were and the rest would magically fall into place. Well, guess what? The change I was seeking by living a life based on my values didn't materialize until I turned what I hoped would be magic into a practice.
I started with baby steps to begin walking my talk. I did the values exercise one more time and came up with a slightly tweaked version of the values I want to live today:
Courage. Connection. Inspiration. Peace. Fun.
I, like many of my clients, had trouble narrowing down a list of over a hundred values to simply five, but now that I've adjusted my life around them—looking at that list feels like the core of me. Now, I keep them in my wallet, in a note on my phone and on my whiteboard. I write about them. I talk about them (as many of my nearest, dearest and not so nearest and dearest know.).
Here are 5 areas of my life I've synched up to my values to both rewarding results and clear direction for where I need to continue my work:
Because I transitioned to a field that was focused on personal growth, this was a no-brainer, first domino to fall. As I began to build my business, I looked at the actions I was taking both as a coach and personally, to see where I was living up to my values, and where I wasn't. What could I do differently to be more courageous or inspire my clients to be the best versions of themselves? What could I do to stop taking myself so seriously and have a laugh with a potential client? And I'm thrilled to report that each time I come back to this as my core—I find answers unbound and energy to move through the things that scare me.
I like to call this chapter, "Google Calendar meet Rachel's values." I took a hard look at all of the things I had scheduled—in both the professional and personal aspects of life, and I made sure they laddered up to my core. To be honest, when I started, it was a total shit show. Not only was I committing to things that had more to do with other people's goals and priorities than my own—but I was over-indexed on a couple of my values while the others were completely MIA. "Peace. Peace, anyone? Bueller? Bueller?" If peace was important enough to put on a top five list—why was I not making time for it? I began asking for more childcare help from family or babysitters so I could schedule time in for breaks and time to refuel, in general. On my most recent summer family vacation, I read an entire novel. This, my friends, is called progress.
I won't linger here because you can read my deeper dive on this topic in, I Tracked My Spending For A Year And Here's What I Learned. After reading Kate Northrup's beautiful book, Money: A Love Story, I took her sage advice and began regularly reviewing my spending to make sure it aligns with my values. While this is an ongoing practice and something I am continuously working on, I feel inspired by taking charge of my finances. Sure, purchasing life insurance or managing a budget may not make everyone feel inspirational, but focusing on and planning for the future does for me. It certainly grants me some peace, as well (inspiration and peace—a two-for-one)!
4. Tough decisions
This is one of my favorite approaches to using values as a tool in my coaching practice. Many of us struggle with making decisions. When you use your values as a filter for decision-making, it can be that small step you need to begin trusting your gut and tapping into your inner compass, your intuition. This may sound obvious, but I like to ask myself, "If I do X, will it bring me closer to a life of [INSERT CORE VALUES]?" Sit with that question when you have quiet time and/or let it percolate for a few days or weeks. Remember, there is no "should" when you're making decisions from your core. If you're using a should, that's a clue that you're using someone else's values and not your own.
Truly, in this one—I feel I'm just scratching the surface of how I can be living my core. For the most part, it's who I am with my clients, my friends and most of my family—and that's been an exciting change. I hear from friends about their pride in who I've become in the past few years and that it feels like such a natural shift. That said, it strangely feels the toughest to pull off in two of my most important relationships—with my daughters. I'm working through our culture's definition of who I "should" be as a mother, to shut the Pinterest projects and the perfection down—so I can be fun and at peace—instead of the stressed out soul trying to keep up with it all. Really, what's fun about getting everything on the to do list done when my kids ask me to spend time with them? When I'm able to breathe through it and let the dishes sit one more hour so I can teach them how to play jacks or draw together in our meditative coloring books—I know I'm moving through the "should's" into who I want to be for them and for us.
The process of staying true to who I am is not always simple, but it is clear—and that's one of the reasons I find it absolutely achievable. I also leave the necessary space for my core values to shift when I'm hitting different milestones in life. This is where I am right now and it feels truly me, but there will be a time when another priority may gain enough momentum to find a way into my top 5. And while I may not be exactly ready for it, I have built a practice to work through that change and adjust my life to meet who I've become.