Values. This is something I have been wanting to write about ever since I started learning more about its impact on mental health.
Values. Not a big word, nothing revolutionary. Except, it is. I can bet that not many of us has spent any time at all thinking about what our values are. To really deeply think about what our individual values are. I mean, who has time with all the hustle and bustle of our daily lives?
And I do not mean saying things off the top of our heads such as “my values are to be a compassionate and kind person.” Or “I value my family”, for example.
Up until recently, I never gave much thought to Values either.
So, why have I chosen Values as the topic for this article?
Well, I find myself constantly going back to Values whenever either myself or my friends are discussing a concern or a situation, and somehow, I just keep bringing it back to the North star of Values.
Having Values will help guide you in difficult times.
It will be Values that will help you process your feelings, your emotions, your responses and your decisions when you are faced with a challenging situation or person.
Let me give you my example.
For the longest time, I was consumed by my own expectations of how my career should be. I had career success at a young age, and was on the fast track but as life went on, I suppose I could say that the issues as a result of having grown up with a schizophrenic brother and having had adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) caught up with me. In my more recent roles, I was often unhappy at work.
Eventually, I started running my own marketing consultancy and luckily for me, I have an amazingly supportive husband. We generally live a fulfilling and happy life.
And yet, whenever I read about someone else in my age group being the Head of Marketing of some big company, I’d feel a pang.
Of worthlessness, of failure, of wasted opportunities. I was still placing a lot of worth on being a super successful career woman.
Figuring out what is important isn’t all that straightforward.
But therapy last year started me thinking about what my Values are. Sure, I could have career success, but where I was working, in order to have that, I’d have to basically, push aside my truth in order to play ball and succeed.
I realised though, that this was precisely the problem. I place a lot of importance on Integrity, Creativity and Personal Growth and I was often in conflict with what I should do, if I were to be hobnobbing with the top to get promoted versus what I felt was the right thing to do.
So, no wonder I wasn’t happy and left jobs. But at the same time, why did I still feel unhappy after leaving?
Because instead of identifying and accepting that Integrity, Creativity and Personal Growth are what drive me, I kept thinking Success and Achievement were what were important.
Now that I have discovered my true Values, I honestly do not feel any regrets or sadness about the decisions I had made with my career. I have reframed my thoughts.
I tell myself, no, I am not a failure because I am not holding some high-level title at a tech giant. Instead of viewing titles as the definition of success, I now look at the amazing journey I have had, all the good, the bad, the ugly as learnings, moments of great accomplishment, moments of frustration, everything that makes this life real.
Values and Resilience.
Another reason why many experts in the field of mental health have started highlighting Values is that this will help you build Resilience. The ability to adapt and respond positively to all of life’s stress and adversity. Check out this article I had written on how to build resilience.
Here is my friend’s story:
She was talking about how 2020 has been difficult for her. Not because of Covid-19, which has certainly negatively affected many around the world. She said that was grateful she still had her job and she was so busy with her kids so, Covid-19 did not change things too much for her.
But she did not know why she was feeling depressed.
I asked her if in all her “busyness”, whether she was doing things that aligned with her Values. Just like most of us, she said she had not given that much thought, she was just getting through each day, sometimes in a blur.
But as we spoke further, she said that she really wished she could focus on what she is passionate about, which is health and fitness.
She wants to build a business around that but her teaching duties have kept her extremely busy. And she was getting increasingly annoyed at work.
Of course, she has bills to pay, so she cannot just quit her job. But I suggested that she consider what is really important to her, and then reframe how she views her job, and start planning for the potential meeting of her Values.
We spoke about her viewing her job simply as a route to building up enough funds for a couple of years, so that she does not have to feel frustrated about her time there. And with enough funds to last her a couple of years, she can fully then immerse into building her own business and fulfilling her passion without worrying about cash flow.
Now, while we did not end up specifically defining her Values, simply exploring the concept guided her to a mentally-healthy approach on how she views her job. Hopefully, she will spend some time this year working on defining her Values, too!
2021: Let’s start living by our values.
So how about this. There will still be tribulations or setbacks this year, as in any given year. How about starting this year by giving some thought as to what your Values are, so that you will be even better equipped to handle whatever 2021 throws at you?
Part 2 of my Values series will share strategies on how we can define our Values, so look out for that next week.