Live Your Best Life: How understanding your values can be your compass

Picture this scene: It is seven o’clock in the evening and your children’s homework has been completed. Your children have all been bathed and the concerns of the office have been resolved. Better still, dinner is ready in the oven. Super! It seems that a relaxing evening is on its way.

But perhaps nowadays the following scenario is a bit more familiar: It is 8:15 in the morning, the kitchen looks like a bomb has hit it and you need to drive the kids to their grandparents as you have important online work meetings today. Your oldest child is insisting on wearing scandals, even though it is bitterly cold outside. Your middle child has just reminded you that you have an online meeting with her teacher in exactly a few minutes. To top it all, your toddler tells you that she has just soiled her nappy!

After a quick change, you lock up the house and haul your three children into their car seats. At that moment you realise that there is no way you can get to the online parent-teacher meeting on time. Your heart is pounding, and you have the feeling that your kids are determined to do everything they can do to make it worse!

So, what makes the difference?

What is the key to a relaxed lifestyle? Do we have it in us to bring about a change or is it simply the way we are? One of the biggest challenges in parenthood as you work is the anger that can bubble up quickly, from out of nowhere. But, if in the middle of the action, you could step aside from the urgent needs that confront you and take a moment to analyse the situation, you might find that the solutions were there all the time. What would make me feel calm and in control again?

Ask yourself the following questions:

What matters to me here? Which of my values are being compromised? What could I do to make myself feel better and fill me with energy again? Stopping and asking those questions can help you to identify your values and, in moments of crisis, values are the key to the answers you need.

Why do values matter?

Your values show what you are and not what you should or would dream of being. Values are core and unique to each one of us. However, many of us go through life without taking the time to identify what our values are. It is important to identify what makes us tick, what we want to pass on to our children or team and how to show them what is important. It is our responsibility to choose our values and to live in agreement with them in our own way. This is what is called integrity.

Identifying your own values makes decision-making easier. When making (significant) decisions, you will find it easier to make the right decision if you can align the decision with your values. For example, imagine you have accepted a new position at work with a large pay rise, but also longer work hours as you are managing a new remoted team with diverse team zones. However, your strongest value is ‘family’. After a while, you may feel dissatisfied, regardless of the financial benefit. The identification of your values makes it possible to make a good choice more easily, knowing that you are on the right track.

Knowing what is important to you helps you to be very clear about your boundaries. This will help you to communicate what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. The behaviour that is least acceptable to you is that which violates your values. Having clear boundaries allow you to define yourself rather than defend yourself. When you know who you are you can fix your limits and communicate more effectively so that others know the rules of your game.

Clear boundaries allow you to stop reacting and start responding. This is a vital skill. When anger flares up, it is often because one of our fundamental values has been dishonoured. We feel protective of our values. The stressful situation becomes the enemy and we lose a pile of energy in protecting and justifying ourselves. For example, if being on time and being reliable are two core values, then all of the events that led to you being late for the parent-teacher meeting that day could easily cause you to blow a fuse. Further, children can sense this and subconsciously stoke the fire of your anger. But by understanding what is happening, you can allow yourself to extinguish the fire. When you become clear about your values it will help you to plan appropriate responses in times of stress and to respond rather than react.

Small Steps

The strategy of taking small steps is the way forward. The idea is to do one small thing each day to bring you closer to your values. When you do this, you will find that positive energy will be released, and as working parents, you know that is precious! When you are living your life in harmony with your core values, you will naturally have more energy; and energy is good for everyone, especially nowadays! Clarifying what really matters to you and knowing what you stand for, will enable you to live to your fullest potential.

by Marie Dewulf