I hope 2009 was a fulfilling year for you. When I think over what’s made it fulfilling for me, I find myself thinking about my values. Fulfillment and values go together. Fulfillment is one of the three major principles in the Co-Active Coaching Model. (The other two are Balance and Process. See Whitworth, et al., Co-Active Coaching, 2d Ed.) Living according to our own values is at the center of a life of fulfillment. Helping clients identify their values and then pointing out when values are honored is one of the primary ways as a Co-Active Coach I support my clients to lead a life of fulfillment.
We can identify our values by looking at experiences we enjoyed and asking what values we honored. Giving a reading of my new book that most of my friends attended at my favorite book store in Albuquerque was one of the most fulfilling events of the year for me. The values I expressed through having the book signing were self-expression, communication, family, friendship, fun, and supporting local businesses.
We can also identify our values by looking at experiences that we didn’t enjoy and asking what values were not being honored or were being stepped on. I will never forget representing a small company against my better judgment many years ago. The values I stepped on in taking that work were integrity, using my intuition, not taking work I don’t like just for the money. The yucky feeling I had was the lack of resonance that came from ignoring my values. The best I can say is that I learned from that experience and finally ended the engagement.
What is the impact of your values on your life? Knowing your values can help you make decisions. For example, answering the question, how many hours do I want to work, is much easier and more satisfying when it is done in the context of values. Is one of your values work? If you like to work, working long hours will feel different than if you hate your job. Or if your primary value is spending time with family and friends, you’ll probably be happier working less than more. Ranking your values will help you identify your priorities.
Your personal values and the choices you make can be thought of as a feedback loop. For example, thinking about where I’d like to be in five years also helps me think about my values, and knowing my values helps me answer the question of where I’d like to be. I’m currently enjoying Phillip Moffit’s book, Dancing with Life. He says, “In my experience, what makes life worthwhile is living from your deepest or core values.” Being aware of your values helps you make fulfilling choices and avoid betraying yourself.
One way to get in touch with your values is to picture yourself in your favorite place. What’s it like? Who’s there? How do you feel? Describe your surroundings. Another visualization is to see yourself creating a new World According To You. When I do that, I think about how children are well-cared for and respected, natural resources are used sustainably, people are free to be creative, people’s unique gifts are fostered.
Keeping a list of your values to refer to and add to over time will help you make more fulfilling choices.