Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Core Values. Essential knowledge or just a list of words?

Talking about “Values” can be a bit like asking someone to eat Marmite on toast. Some people know what to expect and are glad to have the opportunity; others recoil slightly and pull a face of horror at the idea.

If you identify more with the latter group, I understand.

How could a list of words make any difference to my happiness or my success?

Have you ever felt not quite yourself? It’s frustrating. Even more so if the “big things” in life appear to be fine – well paid job, positive relationships, financial security etc. You “should” be happy. You “should” count yourself lucky. You “should” just snap out of it. And yet, despite all these “shoulds”, you just don’t feel like YOU. If you’re an intelligent individual, used to dealing with the complexities of your work and home environments, being unable to figure out what’s causing your discomfort just adds to the frustration.

Personally, my values help me make sense of things. They represent what’s most important to me and what I stand for. This means I can define what happiness and success mean to me and I understand how I can influence them.

Simply put, when you are living and working with your values, things flow and life is good. If a value is stepped on or ignored, the opposite is true.

Just as strong core muscles are essential to your physical balance and stability, strong core values contribute to emotional balance and resilience (the ability to tackle the ups and downs of our unpredictable lives).

Not feeling yourself? Look to your values. It is possible that something important to you is not being nurtured and that is having an impact on your happiness and/or success.

Equally, you can actively work with your values at times where you might ordinarily feel discomfort or doubt. For instance, I have a value of “Exploration”. I connect this to being open, being curious, being brave, taking a risk and consciously drawing on that value helps me when I am taking on something new.

How do I identify my values?

There are a few different ways of identifying your values. These two articles (huffpost and mindtools) contain helpful questions and steps to get started. It can be useful to do the exercises more than once, a few days or even weeks apart and look at what changes and what remains the same.

Values are more than a collection of words. It’s the connection you make to whichever word or phrase you choose that matters which is why lists of values (as in the Mindtools article) can be a useful starting point but taking it a few steps further to generate your own unique set is very powerful.

Sometimes, it’s enough just to recognise your values. Greater awareness of what’s important to you means you are more likely to make choices and seek opportunities that are in line with your values.

Sometimes, even with this knowledge, we hold ourselves back.

What are your thoughts about values? I’d love to hear your experiences and observations.

Stephanie Smith works with intelligent individuals and teams on personal impact, choice and change. Find out more and book a sample session at: www.stephaniesmithcoaching.co.uk

Secret Ingredient? It's Closer Than You Think!

Think of someone you really admire.  What is it about them that you find compelling?  What about someone in your profession who is incredibly successful?  What do they do that works so well?
Pinpointing what we admire in others often points to something we feel is important (a value) but also feel is currently "lacking" in ourselves.  
It's a bit like being served a wonderful chocolate cake and then trying to recreate it at home.  Although you make a good cake, you judge it to be not quite as "good" as real thing.  Perhaps they used a secret ingredient?  How much do we focus on what's missing rather than savouring the cake we have made? 
Don't get me wrong, I think comparisons can be really useful.  It's a way of exploring our values and shifting our perspective.  But sometimes comparing yourself with others is just another way of beating yourself up.
The truth is, there is no secret ingredient.  You have everything you need right now to be successful.  
So what's the point of personal development then?  It's all about mindset.  It's not about fixing something or removing a deficiency, it's about expanding your range.  I like the analogy of a muscle.  We have many muscles but tend to rely on the same group of muscles most of the time.  When we exercise and stretch a new muscle, it can feel a little uncomfortable but, if we continue exercising, we feel stronger and will, literally, stretch further.  We haven't created anything new, we've just used what we have to greater effect.
If you find that you regularly compare yourself unfavourably with others, ask yourself these questions:
  1. What, specifically, do I admire about this person?
  2. Using the answer from the question above, how much do I recognise that quality in myself? Choose a score between 1 and 10 (1 = virtually absent, 10 = abundant) 
  3. What's the best bit about being that score? 
  4. What does a higher score look like (move up 2 points)?
  5. What does a 10 look like?
  6. What can I do today to exercise this "muscle"?
Stephanie Smith works with intelligent individuals on personal impact, choice and change. Find out more and book a sample session at: www.stephaniesmithcoaching.co.uk