PASSIONS AND PRINCIPLES
Did you know that discovering what your core values are in life, then honouring them, is fundamental to your wellbeing and to living a healthy life free of stress?
Your values, together with your most passionately held beliefs are what drive you forward. They are something you naturally feel drawn to and are quite different from your wants or needs. Yet very few people really know what drives them on a day to day basis. Knowing what your core inner beliefs truly are, gives you much more freedom to make healthy choices and plans that will take you in the direction of increasing happiness.
When you discover what you are most passionate about, you naturally raise your level of self-awareness. You get to understand what drives you and your important life decisions all become very much easier.
Whenever I give a talk on coaching or personal development I always like to ask the audience to put their hand up if they know what their most dearly held values are in life. The amazing thing is that each and every time I do this hardly anyone puts their hand up. Yet these are our most deeply held beliefs about ourselves, the core principles by which we live our lives and the standards by which we want to be known. They drive our life experience and yet we are hardly ever aware of what they actually are.
I’m often surprised at how many times I find myself coaching people who have got to the top of their particular ‘career ladder’ only to find that they are leaning their ‘ladder’ up against a wall made of values and standards that dishonour them, or that are in conflict with what they naturally value most. The result, not surprisingly, is stress and disharmony. One way to avoid this is to make sure that the ‘wall’ you chose to lean your own ‘ladder’ against is made up of the ideals and core beliefs that fill you with enthusiasm and passion for life.
Being clear about what you value most and why is fundamental to maintaining a healthy outlook on life because your values act rather like your inner compass, guiding you so that you can experience greater balance, purpose and direction. If you lose this ability to make good decisions for yourself then you can all too easily end up allowing other people to make decisions for you, or find yourself taking on goals that aren’t really yours. So it is well worth just a little bit of time and effort to discover this essential information.
Even if you think you know what your values are, I urge you to take the time to evaluate them again. Why? Because with the passage of time and changing circumstances, they can change, or alter the priority they hold for you.
ACTIVITY: DEFINING WHAT DRIVES YOU
Using these brief insights as a guide I’d like to suggest you take a moment to ask yourself, “what is really important to me in life?” Security, fairness, good health, love? Whatever it is, make a list of all your answers. Ideally, you should come up with about 6 – 8 key points. Take your time and let yourself write freely. This is an important exercise and we will be coming back to it later as you refine your thoughts and put them into some sort of meaningful and practical perspective.
To be truly happy and healthy you need to be able to live in harmony with what you value most dearly and completing an exercise like this lets you see very clearly how much, or how little, you naturally appreciate your health.
Give yourself some time to consider the relative importance that each statement holds for you then ask, “which is the next most important to me?” Continue down the list in this way until all your statements have been numbered in their relative order of importance.
Next check that this sequence is really true for you by asking, “if I could have [statement 1]… but I couldn’t have [statement 2] would that be alright?” If you’re sure that your first choice is still more important than your second choice then you can be reassured that they are in the right order for you. If your answer is no, then re-number your statements in their revised order of importance until each has been checked for its correct sequence and you have a complete list of your life values and their relative order of importance.
Pay particular attention to any values which you initially identified as being low down on your list and which now move up to assume a much higher priority. This often signals an important area of your life which is currently unfulfilled and which may need to become the focus of some future goal setting.
Let me also offer a general word of caution here. No one finds this exercise easy. I didn’t when I first tried it many years ago and I have found that many people are hesitant at the thought of completing it. It can take quite a lot of courage to really look at what drives us forward in life. As you uncover what you are most passionate about, it brings with it the risk of highlighting those areas of your life that might currently be out of harmony with your most treasured beliefs and deeply held standards.
So take courage and give it a go, what you discover about yourself may prove to be invaluable to your future health and happiness. Set aside some time today to make a start and then come back to this exercise in a few days’ time to review your initial thoughts. This is definitely an exercise that you need to revisit a few times to get the best results.
Rachel was a mother of two young children and a stay at home mum who had gradually started to take on more and more of the administrative tasks for her husband’s business as well as maintaining the home and looking after the kids. She was washed out, exhausted and in her own words felt like a two dimensional cardboard cut-out of herself.
Completing this exercise was a real struggle for Rachel because like many young mums she was so used to putting the family first that it was hard for her to even consider that she could have some values of her own.
At first, all she could write at the top of the list was ‘family life’ but after a few days of thinking about it, she began to add other values that appealed to her such as honesty, security and financial freedom. Low down on her list she also wrote the word ‘creativity’. The more she thought about it, the more important that word seemed to be to her. On reflection, she moved this value from number seven on her list up to number three. Recognising the importance this might have for her she started to include small activities into her working week that would help her express her need to be creative. She asked her husband to bring less work home and to help out a bit more with the children and with his support she was able to take up some sewing again, just for an hour or so a week.
In the end reflecting on her key passions and taking some positive steps to honour them made a big difference to her. It helped her to feel more alive again.
YOUR INNER COMPASS OF PASSIONS & VALUES
WHAT HONOURS YOU?
To live your life with ease and passion your words must match your actions, which must match your beliefs and also your core values. Here are three good reasons why I think it is worth becoming more aware of what drives you. As you read through this list consider how these suggestions could apply to you too.
As you read through this list consider how these suggestions could apply to you too.
1. If you are clear about your standards it becomes much easier to identify the people, situations and things that don’t honour you. When you next notice a person or situation that makes you uncomfortable or evokes ‘negative’ feelings, check to see if one of your core values is being violated in some way. Understanding this can help you conserve your energy from being expended in defending or protecting yourself.
2. Knowing what drives you also helps you identify and invite in those situations and things that you do want in your life. When you’re clear about what matters to you most you can actively seek out the people, situations and things that support you. It helps put you in charge and gives you a sense of control.
3. Knowing your values allows you to be very clear about the standards you set for yourself as well as the boundaries you need to establish for the behaviour of others. If you think about it you will probably find that the behaviours which you find least acceptable are also those which violate your innermost beliefs in some way. Being clear about this allows you to recognise and establish healthy boundaries for yourself. It doesn’t mean that you are trying to change anyone; you’ve just gained much greater clarity about what is, and is not acceptable to you.
ACTIVITY: HONOUR OR DISHONOUR?
Here is a short exercise that will begin to give you some insights by showing you what honours or dishonours you.
Firstly, think of two or three people who you admire and would be happy to have as role models. Now write a brief list of the reasons why these people inspire you. What qualities do they have that you most admire?
Notice if there are any particular themes or qualities that they all share.
For example, when I did this exercise for myself I immediately thought of my favourite teacher. I hadn’t realised up until then just why I liked her so much but apart from the excellent qualities of her teaching, she is probably one of the most generous people I know, someone who gives freely from a place of true inner abundance and who shows an extraordinary level of integrity in everything she does. I realised that one of the reasons I was so attracted to her work was that she was reflecting back to me qualities that I strongly admire.
Now, do the very opposite of this and think of a couple of people who you really don’t respect. What don’t you like about them? Be honest about this and for each of these things that you don’t like, ask yourself which of your core values they are dishonouring?
Top of the list for me are people who lack integrity because this is something I believe in very strongly and all these people were doing when they acted without integrity was reflecting that back to me.
KEEPING IN HARMONY
To live your life with integrity and passion your words must match your actions, which must match your beliefs and also your most precious values. This is important because now that you have an idea of what it is that you are most passionate about you can take steps to honour those qualities by letting them shape your vision and goals.
Consider, “what actions could I take to align my life even more closely with my most deeply held values and my strongest beliefs?”
The truth is that every single thing you do in life will either take you towards your values or further away from them. That includes your thoughts, ideas, beliefs and actions. With this information fixed firmly in the forefront of your mind, you can become consciously aware of whether your actions and thoughts are magnetically pulling you towards your treasured goals, or blocking your path. At the end of the day when you set goals for yourself based on the values that drive you, you can also be confident that you will be heading in a direction that will bring you greater health and contentment too.
ACTIVITY: REFLECT ON YOUR VALUES
Set aside a short period of time to look over your notes just to check that you have listed your values in their true order of importance for you. It’s not uncommon for them to change their initial priorities once you have had time to reflect, or after a major life change or illness, so it can be well worth repeating this exercise from time to time.
Think about how you can bring these qualities to life on an everyday basis? For example, if you treasure your freedom highly, but work in a constricted and structured environment with little room for independent thinking then you are more likely to feel exhausted and stressed at the end of the day. So expressing your freedom in your spare time will become even more important to help you achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Being clear about what is most important to you also allows you to release goals that aren’t really yours. Use what you have learnt here to help guide your goal setting as you work through the rest of this book.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your
consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”