I started thinking about this post a few weeks ago as I was watching an episode of the BBC documentary ‘Hospital’. I kept being drawn to thinking about the numerous ways in which the values of the health professionals involved in the programme were being challenged over and over again. People expressing deeply held values such as care, compassion, making a difference, respect, professionalism, being placed constantly in situations which compromised such values. Whilst the impact on the patients was obvious the impact on the professionals was less evident. What happens when your values are constantly being compromised? Where do you draw a line in the sand and when do you say, ‘no more.’

Before we go any further lets check in with what we mean by values. Values are defined as: “Principles or standards of behaviour: one’s judgement of what is important in life” (Oxford English Dictionary). Our values act like a compass to guide and inform what we do, the choices we make and how we show up in the world.

We know we are honouring them when life feels fulfilling and we know when they are being compromised because we feel challenged, angry and frustrated. So how clear are you about the values that are important to you?

It it time to health check your values?

If someone asked you about the values you hold would you be able to answer that question? What are the words that come to mind? Have you stopped to consider:

  • What are the core values you strive to honour in your life?
  • When was the last time you checked in with them?
  • How are you honouring them in the different aspects of your life at the moment?

If you would like to check in with your values here are a few ways of doing it.

Revisiting your values via peak moments.

When we are aligned with our values life feels good, we are energised and feel rewarded. So one way of getting in touch with your values is through connecting with peak moments in your life. Make space for some quiet time to do this exercise and have a pen and paper to hand.

Get comfortable and close your eyes and really connect with a time in your life when it felt especially rewarding. Where were you? What were you doing? Who was with you? Take a moment to really connect with and visualise it. When you have connected for a few moments open your eyes and do some journalling – what were the values that you were honouring at that time? Write down the words that come to mind

Repeat this exercise a number of times exploring different peak moments, times when you felt at your happiest, your most proud, your most fulfilled, your most satisfied.

Narrowing the lens.

When you have reconnected with those experiences what were the words that cropped up? I have created a list of values to help you. Have a look through it and see which words resonate with your peak experiences? This list isn’t exhaustive, there are many similar lists on the internet or you may have your own words that are meaningful for you. Be careful not to sign up to values because you feel you ‘should’. This is personal and about you, there is no right or wrong here.

Becoming more focused. 

When you have reconnected with your values go a little deeper and ask yourself if I had to prioritise 10 which ones would they be and put them in order of priority. Then go a little deeper still and, starting with your top 3, ask yourself what does it mean to honour this value in different aspects of my life? If you were to mark yourself out of 10 in terms of how well you are honouring each value what would the mark be? What do you need to do to increase the score?

It’s a challenging piece of work to do because it asks us to connect with some fundamental truths about ourselves. But it is valuable work to do. The words associated with values can become over familiar: compassion: caring: authentic; courage; respect. But how do we operationalise these words. What does it mean to be compassionate in our personal life or with ourselves? What does it mean to be courageous in our research? If you are feeling out of kilter maybe doing a health check on your values is a good place to look.