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A-Z of Midlife: V is for Values

February 24, 2010

Vi is for ValuesI know….I know… ‘values’ doesn’t exactly sound riveting but you’ll just have to trust me when I say that values, or rather, compromised values, are certain to lie at the heart of those feelings of conflict and angst which we ‘midlifers’ are all too familiar with – so sorting out the former, is an effective way to deal with the latter!

We each have our own unique set of personal values, the guiding principals by which we decide how we live our lives and yet, if you were stopped in the street and asked what your core values were, would you be able to answer? I thought not. If you were given long enough I’m sure you could come up with some contenders but then again, whose to say these are your values and not merely values you think you should have, or would like to have. I suspect most of us would be hard pressed to categorically state our core values. That’s the funny thing about values…..we express them every day by the things we do and the choices we make – even down to the newspapers we buy, but most of struggle to actually identify those which are important to us. This isn’t quite so funny when you realise that knowing our core values, is fundamental to our happiness!

Priorities change over the years, subtly and slowly and some of the things which once really mattered, simply don’t any more! One of the hallmarks of our 40’s and 50’s is the growing awareness of how much our values have changed or become compromised. As a consequence, we can feel increasingly ‘out of alignment’ and dissatisfied.

A fundamental part of our happiness at midlife comes from firstly knowing what our core values are, and then being able to make choices and decisions which honour them. This is what makes the workaholic give it all up to travel the world, learn to salsa, start painting again or set up a charity. It’s what makes the city dweller sell up and open a Retreat in some remote rural idyll. It’s what prompts the mum of three teenage children to start her own business, go back to college or stand for local government. If you know people who’ve responded like this, then you’ll also know the huge difference it makes to the happiness and fulfilment of the individuals concerned.

So how do we identify these all important core values… how do we become consciously aware of what really matters most? Well, there are many different exercises you can do to try and draw out your values but actually, there is one place where they can always be found and that is right at the heart of those special times, those perfect times, those times when we were at our happiest and those times when we were ‘in the flow’. Remember those times and then ask, ‘What was important about that?’ …..and this is the important bit…. keep asking this question, until you finally excavate the core value at its hub. Alternatively, think back to a time when you felt truly uncomfortable, perhaps feeling like a square peg in a round hole, or when you were inwardly fuming, or when you were irritated enough to feel a palpable internal tension, and ask the question, ‘What was important about that?’….. and again, keep asking, until at the end you unearth the important value that had been disregarded, ignored or compromised.

The recipe for happiness and fulfilment at midlife (…and beyond…) is a pretty simple one really: get clear on your values, REALLY clear, and then make choices and adjustments so you live your life aligned to those values.

It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are. ~ Roy Disney

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did and would like to subscribe to my monthly newsletter and my FREE 10 part eProgramme, ‘Turning Midlife into the Time of Your Life’ click here. Thank you!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 1:42 am

    Hi Karen, I agree wholeheartedly how important values are – and yes, I wish there was a better name that reflects the nature of values more than er ‘values’!

    You said: One of the hallmarks of our 40’s and 50’s is the growing awareness of how much our values have changed or become compromised.

    I actually experienced a degree of this in my 20’s, which started the journey that led me into both parenthood and coaching. Maybe I’m just impatient hey?

    My core values? Well my working list: connection, potential, individual identity, generosity & abundance, and humanity.

    And the two phrases I keep hold of: People are God’s greatest treasures, and Choose Life

    • midlifematters permalink*
      February 25, 2010 10:17 am

      Hi Grace – No, I don’t think you’re impatient…. many of the things that were important to me in my 20’s and 30’s have either slid way down the scale now, or off the scale altogether! (Although, reading your comments reminded me that while it is true that our values change as we grow, some of my values such as connection and creativity have probably been around for decades!)

      I think the special thing about our values in midlife, is that for the first time in many a year, it suddenly hits us just how ‘out if sync’ we’ve become with what REALLY matters (having been so busy trying to live a life which accommodates the values of others….. our employers, families, friends, colleagues etc.), and are forced to consider if it is a price we are prepared to continue paying.

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