“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E.Cummings
You are offered a wonderful new position with an attractive salary, re-locate to a new city which also means moving your cat (which is stressful as many of you will know) and you say all your goodbyes. Everyone is happy for you that life is progressing in the desired direction. Until, it turns out you are 1 month into the new post and start to realise that the position is not for you for many reasons out of your control. What do you do?
Option 1 - Stick it out and see if that things improve as the money is good.
Option 2 - Leave prioritising your peace of mind and tolerate the financial consequences.
Both these options are tricky and neither one is right or wrong. What might be the right thing for one person could well be the opposite for another.
In this example, I took careful time to consider and connect with my values and what was really important to me, talked it through with Jonathan (my husband) and went for option 2. I figured life is not all about making lots of money and the more I thought about it, I really only value money as a currency and nothing more. It is something we have to exchange for good and services. I appreciate having a roof over my head is a physical need and and having a career is something dear to my heart. Don't get me wrong, I would love to not have to think about bills and have a big house. That alone would not fulfil me.
So how do we know what is important to us as individuals?
In CBT we frequently use a tool called a Values Assessment which comes from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It offers an awesome opportunity to re-evaluate what is important to us as individuals across different aspects of our life with the support of the therapist. Values are our heart's deepest desires for the way we want to interact with and relate to the world, other people, and ourselves.
They are leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life. These help us to know that our current behaviour and way of living is in line with what is truly important to us individually. We know from research that when we are not having contact or exposure to the areas and things in life that provide us with a sense of meaning, purpose and fulfilment we are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, lack of connection and loneliness. Often taking steps closer to the areas we value can involve some emotional discomfort in the short term. Therapy helps to assist this process providing the education, gradual guidance and emotional exposure to some of the feared emotional experience. Values based questions can be difficult to get your head around too.
As humans our animal part of our brain needs to be updated in moments when we are taking steps in line with our values (outside of comfort zone) as it will often be linked with anxiety, fear or other distressing feelings in the moment. It can provide lots of inaccurate interpretations of the situation. That combined with the bodily arousal it is understandable these situations are often result in avoidance or escape based responses. A sense of vulnerability is usually activated when taking steps close to one's values as it is holds a deep sense of importance to the individual. Short term discomfort, longer term connection. Anxiety is terribly uncomfortable to experience but the good news is that it will subside all by itself, if you let it. It is worth it! You are worth it!
Here are some work/personal development based questions to get you started.
Examples of Work/Personal Development Values Questions:
What do you value in your work?
What would make it more meaningful?
What kind of worker would you like to be?
If you were living up to your own ideal standards, what personal qualities would you like to bring to your work?
What sort of work relations would you like to build?
What do you value about learning, education, training or personal growth?