Somewhere in the capital city of Germany, an alarm clock rings; it is 6 a.m. Rise and shine you beautiful thing!
A woman pops up at the edge of her bed, stretches her arms above her head and tossing back her lovely mane of curls, squeals with delight as Katrina and the Waves belt out “Walking On Sunshine” from the iPod on her alarm clock speakers. The woman hops out of bed and in her favorite silk pajamas, dances her way to the shower. This. Happens. Every. Morning.
Yes, I am sure this happens every morning, someplace in my city, but it definitely does not happen at my house!
Although I am definitely not a pop-n-go early riser, like the woman above, once the fog has lifted, I look forward to every new day. It’s not unusual to find me singing the minute my feet (finally) hit the floor. I look forward to every day. Everything is as it should be. That is what it feels like when your life is in sync with your core values and who you really are.
I know, because it hasn’t always been that way for me. In fact, I have been through times of real discord in my life, when I was struggling to be all things to all people and nothing seemed to fit. At the worst point, not only did I not know who I was, I lost sight of who I wanted to become and risked losing everyone and everything I cared about in the process. Instead of walking on sunshine, I was treading on eggshells. And that was the turning point.
So what is the big deal about values? There are different kinds of values, like the general collective values that help us live together in a society because they inform what is considered acceptable or inacceptable, right or wrong.
There are personal values which are unique to the individual. These values represent what is most important to us at an integral level and may include the collective values of society or not.
It is fairly easy to guess what happens to us when the life we lead is out of sync with the collective values around us; we risk being excluded or cutoff from society and in many cases, there are defined repercussions. For example, if being honest and not stealing are not in your set of values, you may well find yourself arrested the next time you visit a shopping center. Yes, that is a “no brainer” example.
But what happens when you lead a life that does not honor your personal values; a life that basically denies who you truly are? You become frayed at the core of your being, from being pulled in different directions. You get off balance and your life and your way of living no longer reflects who you are. If this sounds like a place you’d really rather not be in, you are getting the picture. But how does a smart, successful go-getter like you, even get into such an undesirable state? Usually it happens unintentionally, and most often, one desynchronizing, self-dishonoring decision at a time. Often it happens simply because we “get what we want.”
The trouble with getting what we want is that we often misinterpret our own needs and desires; instead substituting with ideas of what we think we want, often based on the perceived expectations of our environment. In some cases, it may be our personal environment and in others it may be our work environment.
Here is an illustration of a work environment conflict. If your work environment is one that expects you to want to manage personnel who do the operational work and your core value craves the role and recognition of the analytical expert doing the work yourself, if the environment is not flexible, you will have a conflict.
Let’s say, that you perceive that you are expected to want a bigger salary and an exclusive office with the trade off being more hours spent in that office. At the same time, your core value craves a balanced life in which time with your family and being an active parent in your child’s life is highly valued. You will feel you are being pulled in different directions.
In either of the examples, if you begin to act according to the external expectations, you will slowly lose your balance and your way of living will no longer reflect your core values. It starts that easily.
If you allow this to continue, you will become frayed at the core. This is the foundation for what is often referred to as burn-out. It does not have to get that far. We’ve heard it before; just say “no!” Say no, to whatever does not respect your core values. Say no, to actions that requires you to deny any part of yourself essential to you being authentic.
To love who you are- even the nutty parts, to love what you do – even the difficult stuff, to know that you are fulfilling your purpose- through your actions as well as in the moments of stillness – that is what it feels like when your actions and your life are in sync with your core values and who you really are.