One of the foundational pieces of the work I do with clients is to help them get a clearer picture of what matters most to them so they can make that happen in their lives.
Variations of the question, “what matters to you?” are sprinkled throughout nearly every conversation I have, and come up repeatedly.
What’s really important here?
What’s meaningful to you? In your work?
What are your priorities?
What really matters most?
You might expect that when I ask these questions, people have answers. You might think that you have answers. We know what’s important to us, right?! It’s…!!!…ummm.
Yeah. You might be surprised to learn that people often don’t have a clue. Or maybe they have an inkling, but definitely not a firm grasp. You might even feel the same way.
I find that a lot of the struggles we feel have to do with a lack of alignment with what really matters to us.
That’s further complicated by the fact that half the time, we’re not really sure what matters in the first place. It’s awfully difficult to find alignment when we’re not sure what we’re trying to align with.
Moving targets are difficult to hit.
But such huge questions like “what really matters to you?” can also be difficult to attack. It’s a big ask, broad, overwhelming. And to be clear, when I’m asking people these kinds of questions, I’m not expecting a fully-formed answer just yet. I’m trying to get them to think about it, to become a little more aware that knowing the answer can make a huge difference in finding the clarity, direction, and alignment they’re looking for. To finding some resolution in their struggle.
Still, I get the challenge in that challenge. I feel it myself. I’ve been grappling with some of these Big Life questions in the last year or so, with not a whole lot of progress in my internal dialog. I’ve absolutely felt out of alignment, like everything was always wiggling around and away from me, not making any sense. Clearly, I couldn’t answer my own questions for a long time, and it doesn’t help that I’m kiiiiiiind of the worst at taking my own advice and following my own coaching framework, which my clients always tell me is actually really, really useful.
Well, recently, finally, I figured I’d give it a go.
So, how do I approach it? Well, as with pretty much anything big, it helps to break it down into smaller bits. If you want to lose ten pounds, first you think about how you’ll lose one. If you want to reach 100 people, first you think about how you’ll reach ten. And if you want to be certain of what matters most to you in life, first you think about what drives your choices:
Your personal values.
This, too, can be one of those things that we think we have a handle on, but soon find out we can’t really articulate. I can’t tell you how many times I get to talking about values with people, and ask them their top three personal values and they’re all, “It’s family! And honesty! And hard work!” And I’m like, “OK.” We do a little exercise, and an hour later, they’re like, “OH.” And I’m like, “Yeah.”
I have every single client I work with in every single capacity from individual to large group, in-person and online, do a worksheet that leads them through questions to determine their personal values. And from all of those clients, I can tell you, this is enlightening. We have this great idea of what we think our values should be. What we’d like them to be. What cultural moral standards would have us think about them. But what we actually hold as core to our being, what powers us, can look and feel very different.
I think of core values as what’s important to us. Sometimes that manifests as central parts of our personality, how we show up. Many times, it presents as the drivers of our decision-making process. Values are what we stack everything up against.
And values, together, go a long way in illuminating what matters most to us in life.
I typically recommend that people revisit a values exercise at least once a year, maybe twice. A lot can change in even a few months. True to form though (I never said I was proud of myself), I hadn’t re-checked mine in more than a year. And with a recent reminder from one of my long-time clients that working with me to determine her personal values was one of the single most significant and game-changing things she did to create change in her life, I decided it was time to dive in.
Last week, I sat down with my own worksheet and spent a full hour reflecting and going through my values exercise. At the end of it, I came up with five completely different values than the last time I had named them. All five! I did not share one single common value from 18 months ago. No wonder shit wasn’t making any sense.
It was like I was working with a broken compass.
Almost instantly, I felt relief. Instead of feeling this sticky resistance, like, why can’t I figure this out? Why isn’t anything working? I knew. I knew I had been focused on stuff that wasn’t actually my focus, stuff that was no longer at my core. Frankly, stuff that didn’t matter. I understood I had been making decisions that weren’t the best for me, weren’t aligned with what I really wanted for myself, because I wasn’t evaluating based on my current picture. I was unaware just how much my priorities, my beliefs, and ultimately, what matters to me, had changed. I could feel it, but now, I could more fully comprehend it – I didn’t have a clear picture of what mattered to me.
Now, I’ve got my clearer picture. I can feel it, visualize it in detail. I know what’s driving me, what matters most, and with that understanding, I can do more to make it happen.
I’ve got a working compass to find more alignment.
I think a lot of times we skip this important piece and jump to the action part, straight to tactics. And sometimes, we act on the directions of that broken compass, which doesn’t get us where we want to go. Action is great, but we can’t skip the piece of getting an idea of where we are before we decide where we’re going, or how to get there. It’s just a good idea to stop every now and then to be present, to be specific about what’s important to you, what drives you, what gets you out of bed in the morning, and how that relates to what really matters most to you in life.
Getting clear about what matters comes first. You have got to slow down the target.
So, hey, whatever it is that you’re struggling with right now – first of all, know you’re not alone. Second, consider that maybe you know more than you think you know about how to resolve your struggle – if you’ll allow yourself to take a little time to reflect on the big questions, and the smaller ones. Make the time to get clear.
In clarity of values, you’ll be better equipped to determine direction with a working compass.
With a working compass, you can make better choices in that direction.
And ultimately, choices that clearly support your values will be choices that lead you to a life full of what matters most to you. One that’s in alignment – and a target that’s a whole lot easier to hit.
So, what matters most to you? If you want in on a guided values exercise, grab this. I’ll send you the worksheet, and we’ll follow up too.