This (never-ending) pandemic is a good time for self-reflection, starting with your personal values
Before you engage in an eye roll, defining your personal values is just an elaborate way of helping you identify exactly what matters to you, right now.
How often in these past 12 months have we heard people saying that this global pandemic, which forced us all to pause and slow down, has also enabled us to evaluate our lives? When we evaluate, we are in fact thinking about and connecting with our values.
A year on, I think we can all admit that we have a much better idea about what and who matters most to us, whether that’s our careers, our relationships and or our health. We’ve had time to think, to evaluate and now it’s time to articulate and act upon our findings.
Why our values matter
Values are who we are. Not who we would like to be, not who we think we should be, but who we are in our lives, right now. By becoming more aware of these values, you can then use them as your personal compass to help you make the best decisions for you and your life.
Many of life’s decisions really are about determining what it is you value most. When many options may at first seem reasonable, it’s helpful to rely on your values and use them as a guiding force to ensure you keep facing the right direction.
The best part of all of this is that when we honour our values on a regular basis, our life actually starts to feel better and more fulfilling. More importantly, it becomes the life that WE want to live, doing what matters most to us.
What are values?
Your values are those things that you believe are important, right now, in the way you live and work. They should (but don’t always) determine your priorities, and, deep down, they’re probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to, which is just one of the reasons I believe they are such a powerful tool.
When the things that you do and the way you behave match your values, life is inevitably so much better because you’re more satisfied with the direction it is going and therefore more content.
But when what you are doing, saying and feeling doesn’t align with your personal values, that's when things feel... wrong. This is what misalignment feels like and it’s also why making a conscious effort to identify your values is so important and necessary.
Values are not necessarily about right and wrong. Think in terms of your career, if you don’t value competition, and you work in a highly competitive sales environment are you likely to be satisfied with your job? If you value being a home bird, being rooted, but your job (outside of the pandemic) requires you to travel regularly, will you be able to manage the internal stress and conflict that will naturally arise? If respect is a value you hold dearly yet you have witnessed a colleague or a friend being bullied or intimidated do you stay silent?
In these types of situations, understanding your values can really help. When you know your own values, you can use them to make decisions and answer questions like these, simply by considering how the answers relate to your value.
Did you also know that your values continuously change? For example, when you’re in your 20’s and starting your career, you measure your success by your title and salary. But as your priorities change, in your thirties and forties, your work-life balance may be what you value more. So many of my clients are telling me that the pandemic has caused a significant shift in this area for them and they’re now totally rethinking about what matters most to them. Are you one of these people?
This is exactly why keeping in touch with your values is a lifelong exercise. Ideally, you should ask yourself often “what matters to me right now?” especially if you start to feel a little unbalanced or unfulfilled and you just can’t quite figure out why. It this resonates it’s most likely that you’ve become disconnected from your values.
So, as you start to explore your own personal values, just bear in mind that values that were important in the past may not be so relevant for you now. It could be that a simple checking in with yourself to ensure you’re matching your actions with what matters to you will get you back on track.
Where to start
A good place to start is to look back on your life and identify when you felt really good, confident that you were making good choices. Identify those times when you felt at your happiest, when you were most proud and when you felt most fulfilled and satisfied.
If you’re struggling to answer answers about your values, it can help to turn to real-life examples of people who portray qualities you admire. Think of those who inspire you to be better and to live a meaningful life. As you think about these people, write down what it is about them that inspires you, what are the qualities they possess that you admire and what behaviours and traits would like to emulate.
Making value-based decisions may not always feel easy. However, making decisions that you just know are right for you is so much less complex.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Change & Transformation Coach and Founder of The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme. She works with women who simply feel stuck, and she gives them the chance to see just what’s possible for them to make changes as well as the tools they will need to do just that. To discover how Niamh can help you just click here.