Emerging from a divorce is like waking up after a long and drawn out earthquake.
Or at least, that’s how I felt when my divorce came through after 33 years of married life. I was lucky. My ex and I had achieved an ‘amicable’ settlement. But when the decree finally plopped onto my mat, I knew things would never be the same again.
Here was a blank sheet of paper. Was this a terrifying vacuum or an invitation to create something completely new; a better life? I chose the latter, but this doesn’t mean I didn’t feel alone and afraid at many times during my journey back to myself.
I think of this now as a period of re-invention, but at the time, it was more about putting one foot in front of the other. That was an achievement in itself. And of course, there were the inevitable after shocks. Transition isn’t a pain-free zone!
Where to start?
As a career coach, I’d worked with clients on what motivates them, interests them, what skills they have and want to use, but the vital piece of the puzzle for a more rewarding career was always values. Values are what matter most to each of us – we will all have a set of key values that guide our thinking and actions. And at this important turning point in my life, values suddenly took on a whole new meaning – and not just my career, but to the whole of my life.
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This was the opportunity to build a life for myself, a life where I could express what matters most to me, and from that space, to feel re-vitalized and empowered in ways I never had before. I finally understood the importance of values and discovered how I could build a new life.
What have values got to do with it?
I think values have sometimes received a bad press because of the often hollow corporate values that are wielded in large organisations and seem to have very little to do with the individual. So let’s re-claim values in our own lives and build ways of living and working that really work for us!
Most people would have a vague idea about what their highest values are, but I’d guess that most wouldn’t quite be able to put them into words. I think one important point at which I can see myself acting from a guiding value was after my first son was born.
Before that, my teaching career was on an upward trajectory and I might have said PROGRESSION was an important value for me. When Dan was born, this was gradually replaced (somewhat ironically as anyone adjusting to being a Mum will know) by FREEDOM. By this, I meant the freedom to create a career that worked around my new family. Growth remains an important value, but less centrally.
Where are my values?
So looking at key turning points or significant shaping moments in your life is a great place to seek your values. One of the first things I ask my career change clients to do is to describe important times in their lives and why they are significant to them.
‘WHY’ is the word that sits at the heart of values. Look at any considered and heartfelt action you have made and ask ‘why did I do that?’ What was driving that action? What you discover in that answer is usually a value.
When I left a secure and well-paid job to launch my career change coaching business I knew exactly what I was doing – and why! I’d done a lot of work to get clear on my priorities after the divorce and because AUTHENTICITY is a high priority, I knew I had to choose a working life that allowed me to be me.
In fact I can honestly say that I can express each value in my new career, and for me, that is the highest measure of success:
AUTHENTICITY – being true to myself, being genuine, knowing how I work best, who I work best with and creating a routine and career change process that expresses this.
CREATIVITY – being imaginative and colourful in my marketing materials, enjoying writing my career articles and newsletter – I love these aspects of my work
LOVE – for me, this means putting the client at the centre – how can I best serve their needs? How can I help?
FREEDOM – creating a flexible working routine, being autonomous and pro-active in how, where, when and with whom I work – I relish this every single day!
VITALITY – feeling alive and creating processes that fuel my energy. I love walking by the river every day, and being with people who stoke my energy. I lose myself in my coaching, in creating resources, in writing – and this is when I’m in flow and feeling most alive
Do you know your highest values?
Values aren’t just for work!
But while I’ve described my highest values as they are expressed in my work, this isn’t the end of their power. In my relationships, my leisure time, in my health and in the spiritual aspects of my life, I know where to go if I get stuck.
I’ve created a life that allows me to express my real self and I’m grateful every day that I’ve found the strength to do this. It’s not always plain sailing (this is life after all!) but what I do have is solid ground.
Knowing my values and making decisions based upon them has made me feel secure.
I know where to turn if I’m feeling lost or stressed, when I get knock-backs and feel a little despondent. Values provide the true answers.
If you’d like to learn more about creating a values-driven life, a better life, I’ve written about this in many career articles on my website. I’d love to hear from you so do get in touch, you can find me in The Hug Directory and let’s talk about YOUR values!