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  • Writer's pictureCoach Elizabeth Brink

Who Are You?

Today we're going to dig deep on defining our core values at the highest level.

To refresh your memory: values are core principles that make life worth living. They add the extra meaning to things and when you are aligned to them you often feel energized, settled, and secure.

When your values aren't showing up in a big area of life, you can become depressed, anxious, or irritable.

I often hear neurodivergent people talk about things in their jobs or personal lives that aren't working as if they are personal failings. It's worth exploring with a needs and values lens, because chances are one is missing or violated.

A client's shift from self-blame

One of my clients started coaching in order to build skills to receive criticism better and not shut down and hide when people rejected her ideas. She'd been at the company less than a year and was newly pregnant.

She wanted to advance her career, but couldn't see a way forward because of her insecurities. Many times in her intake paperwork she mentioned being scared of being fired and was struggling to get work done, and repeatedly mentioned hiding.

A month into coaching her manager was fired. She panicked it would mean the whole team being released, and immediately requested a meeting with HR. A new leader came in with a completely different approach. The new manager trusted my client to make decisions and encouraged her to leverage her strengths in connecting with colleagues and seeing project weaknesses and problem-solving to strengthen them.

She now loves her job and sees a future with the company. She's seen as a leader and key contributor, and last week told me she's excited about maternity leave and not worried her job will be there when she returns.

In reflecting on how it unfolded, she realized that most, if not all, of the negative things she was feeling about her job, were born out of the former managers' toxic management style.

Her values for collaboration, openness, and connection were all being violated by the micro-managing siloed approach.

How often is something not working in our lives indicating an unmet need or misaligned value?

Aligning to values does not guarantee a smooth ride and all things will go well, but it does mean how you feel and show up in life will be changed. The act of knowing your values and striving to incorporate them into your life is empowering and makes it easier to make decisions in big and little things.

If one of your values is nature, then finding ways to incorporate nature into your day is going to improve your quality of life, even if you can't go on a hike. Perhaps you add a plant to your desk, open a window, or spend five minutes outside before you start your day.

The creativity to design your life in alignment with your values is expansive... for some of us.

We can't talk about a values-driven life without acknowledging the very real challenge of enacting this way of living for those whom society presses down on. There are scores of people who cannot access healing for various reasons. We can't assume this is possible for everyone, but we can get active in working toward a changed world where that is no longer true.

Humans are funny when you ask them to share something positive about themselves, like strengths, values, or needs. They often can't answer until the questions are inverted toward the negative. Rather than talking about what your values are, I'd like to explore hindsight experiences where they were missing or stepped on.

Recently in the Collaborative, we started with the guided visualization below. Feel free to sit with this for a minute or use it to journal and reflect.

  • I invite you to relax for a minute, because we may call up unpleasant memories.

  • If you're comfortable, close your eyes and take a deep breath in, do a slow count of 8, and then exhale to 6.

  • As you're breathing, try to think back to a time when something happened to you that wasn't fair. It could be from childhood or maybe it was last week.

  • Imagine the setting and see yourself in it as you are watching from the outside.

  • Notice how you look – what expression is on your face, how your body is positioned – where are you holding tension at that moment?

  • What did you need at that moment? What did you need to hear or see to feel better?

Here are some reflection questions we used to explore together. If you're willing to share, you can post in the comments.

  • What was the essence of the unfairness? What about it felt unfair to you?

  • What are you proud of about that experience?

  • What did you learn about what matters to you? What values or needs are underneath the sense of unfairness?

  • How can you use this awareness in something you're currently facing?

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