Recently I found myself reminiscing on a Sunday afternoon about the many autumns our family has shared together. At that moment I realized that a change of seasons in my life is underway. Other than Christmas, autumn is the favorite time of year in our home. We absolutely love September through December! I noticed as I reminisced however, that something was missing. Our children are no longer young enough that they get excited to go to the local farm for a hay ride or pick out a pumpkin or enjoy the petting zoo. One is a teen and another in her early 20’s. Maybe you can relate. This is one reason my wife and I are looking forward to becoming grandparents!

What Is Missing?
As I thought about what I was experiencing I realized that a core value in my life is family. Honoring this value meant I said “no” to certain opportunities in order to say “yes” to spending time with family. However, because of the change in the ages of my children I need to adjust how I will continue to honor this value.
I’ve noticed this same thing in coaching clients. Most of us are not clear about our values or if we are, we aren’t living them. This disconnect of core values from daily life leads to a general anxiousness. A feeling that something is wrong, that something is missing. So we make changes to our lives (jobs are often the first thing we target) because we aren’t really sure what we are trying to correct. However, instead of focusing on what’s wrong with our job, our spouse, our kids, our neighbors and our home, and trying to fix someone or something, we need to start with discovering our top values and begin to align our lives with them.

What Are Values?
Values represent who we are and what we are passionate about. They are behind our motivations to take action. When we honor them we are fulfilled. When we don’t we are unhappy and restless. Another way to put it is that values represent our unique and individual essence, our ultimate and most fulfilling form of expressing and relating. Our values serve as a compass pointing out what it means to be true to oneself. When we honor our values on a regular and consistent basis life is good, life is fulfilling.

Discovering Values
Values can be difficult to define and hard to identify because they are at the core of who we are and what motivates our actions. They are foundational beliefs that anchor our lives, the things that matter to us the most, the nonnegotiable characteristics that best define our identities. It is possible for values to change over time. In fact, it is important for individuals and organizations to evaluate their values periodically.

Identifying values can be done in two ways. The first is through observation of your life. In this method simply track your habits over a couple of weeks. Ask yourself:
How do I spend my time and money?
How often do I spend time with people? Who do I spend time with?
What do I read on a regular basis? What are the topics I read about? What headlines grab my attention?

None of us feels fulfilled, satisfied or at peace if we neglect the things that matter most. Where are you feeling a lack of fulfillment, satisfaction or peace? Examine what specifically is causing the ‘lack’ and what value is being ignored or suppressed.

This will take more than ten minutes but the time you invest will be worth it. Resist the temptation to skim over the process. Plan a few hours spread across several days. When you take the time and make the effort to focus on values you’ll be in a much better position to work on the other parts of your life.

The second way to discover habits is a values clarification assessment. This process reveals your top 5 values through the process of answering questions about your behavior and motivations. I’d be glad to send a copy of the assessment to you. Simply email me and indicate “Values Assessment” on the subject line.

By the way, my wife and I decided to live out our value of family and making memories by taking a trip to Lancaster County, PA in September to enjoy the sights and tastes of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

I’m doing my best to live my values everyday and I’d love to hear how you are living your values. Please email me or post a comment in the blog or on Facebook and let me know how you are living your values and the difference it is making. What are the obstacles you are facing right now? Let’s support each other in living not just a full life but a fulfilling life!