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Getting Clear On What You Value Most

Aaron McHugh

I’ve had some conversations recently about purpose and meaning. Most people want to hurry up and attempt to tackle the big presenting issue like, I hate my job, I’ve got to find a new (better) job. The challenge is that in addition to the job challenges we are experiencing, there are other factors at work under the waterline within us.

The profound work of investigating the hidden depths of our soul is where we will find more enduring answers than choosing job A or job B. Below is an exchange I had recently on these topics of meaning and purpose and getting crystal clear on what we value most.

Mapping below the waterline

I’ve found these exercises incredibly helpful to me personally. They enabled me to visually map where I’m explicitly making choices that cause my soul level dissonance and where the demands of my life restrict my ability to live congruently.

When I was an executive VP of N. America, this exercise helped me realize that I was exceeding my financial goals, but paying for that gain in my relationships, and personal health. It helped me think at a life account level to define what I value and then overlay my reality.

As a result, I made some massive changes. My life is more congruent today and in line with my values. It isn’t perfect, secure, or full of certainty, but I do have lots of time off, spend lots of time with the people I love and am starting to do some enjoyable work again.

Visualization of what I value most on a High to Low scale

What I value most-My values

This value-based visual chart maps my values, e.g., Relationships to a High to Low scale as importance.  For me, Relationships are of higher value today than, e.g., Career advancement. But Financial Security is more important to me than having Certainty in my future. I’m willing to tolerate a relatively high level of uncertainty, as long as I can maintain a high degree of personal health and wellness, flexible time-off, and stable relationships.

Getting clear on my values first enables me to cross reference how I spend my time. When the facts of my life require me to spend fourteen hours a day working, then I am funding my Career advancement and Financial security value, but my behavior conflicts with my Relationships value. I’m too tired to spend time with the people that I love. Therefore, I feel the gap or dissonance from my beliefs and values to my behaviors and actions-Creating a soulful ache.

Life Dashboard by account/categories color coded by a Green (Good), Yellow (Caution), Red (Bad)

Life dashboard

Inventory of these different life dashboard categories or accounts. Each one is a simple color-coded rating:

Green= Good, Yellow=Caution, Red=Not good, not healthy.

You can answer these at a snapshot in time level for today and then ask the question of sustainability, e.g., “How long can I keep going at a Yellow light before it turns Red?”

I find that two or more RED’s isn’t very sustainable for an extended period. E.g., a Spiritual RED and Health RED can over time negatively affect my otherwise healthy Green Relationships and Green Work. Eventually, those RED areas of my life negatively impact the others.

The critical question is to ask What can I do to move from RED to Yellow or Yellow to Green? Explicitly asking tactical, a small adjustment to the significant change to positively move the dashboard.

  • Maybe it is a courageous conversation? (Work)
  • Simple adjustment of a ten minute per day moment of silence (Spiritual)
  • Every six weeks scheduling a half-day of outdoor adventure (Play)