Need to course correct? Start with your values

The trajectory of our life (and business) rarely follows predictable straight lines. We constantly need to ‘course correct,’ such as now when we’re all struggling to understand the effects of the Covid-19 Coronavirus epidemic. How do we get on with our daily lives, family and business, when we can’t even pretend to know where the trajectory is launching us?

In these circumstances and in my experience, one of the most reliable compasses by which to navigate and keep us on track are our own values. 

Let me tell you about my own journey.

 

Need to course correct? Start with you & your values

Have you ever been in an environment – at work or elsewhere – where you feel like you just don’t fit? Perhaps you felt on edge, out of place, underqualified or otherwise on the periphery? 

I remember a networking event not that long ago, in a noisy room full of business people, precariously trying to balance my cup and saucer, waiting eagerly to make a valuable contribution to the conversation. 

Standing there, as a 46-year-old woman with 25 years’ marketing experience in senior roles, currently running my own successful business, I should have felt completely comfortable. Yet, there I was, feeling as awkward as my 22-year-old self had been in my first job, lacking experience, confidence and anything worthwhile to say. 

In these awful moments, it can be easy to ignore our feelings, or to play them down. However these are exactly the moments that allow us to tune into our emotions, and explore why we’ve hit a low point in confidence and self-esteem.

 

Finding flow state

I started my own marketing business so that I could chose my clients, my work and my focus. In the first few years, I was fortunate to achieve what is known as ‘flow state’, a concept popularised by positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura. Achieving flow state in work usually requires a number of components; for me the most poignant were feeling confident that I understood the work, being understood, being valued and seeing positive results. Ultimately this meant doing work I really cared about and found rewarding. 

 

Losing your way

Then I started working with a particular client who was disrespectful and so polarised in their values from my own that the internal conflict I felt over a prolonged period of time made me ill. I found myself branding the organisation as something that I knew it fundamentally wasn’t and, in the process, lost trust in my work and myself. 

Burdens such as temporary or chronic work stress may be manageable in isolation, but the cumulative effect of several additional stressors and challenging personal life events can become overwhelming. This was exactly what happened to me, and led to a breakdown in 2018. 

Much like the delicate cups and saucers we try to balance at networking events as we shake hands, eat sandwiches, clutch paperwork, distribute cards, hold bags and have conversations – the load we bear can only become so great before we wobble, or fall over. 

I’ve since spoken with many business people who have experienced similar crises and burnouts, which shook their work and professional lives to their very core, and forced them to reassess their businesses and why they set them up in the first place.

The trajectory of our life (and business) rarely follows predictable straight lines. We constantly need to ‘course correct,’ such as now when we’re all struggling to understand the effects of the Covid-19 Coronavirus epidemic. How do we get on with our daily lives, family and business, when we can’t even pretend to know where the trajectory is launching us?

In these circumstances and in my experience, one of the most reliable compasses by which to navigate and keep us on track are our own values. 

 

Understanding who you are

To put our values first in life and in business, we need to understand who we are at a deep level. This means listening to ourselves and discovering what really matters to us. This process looks different for everyone, but asking yourself these two fundamental questions is a good way to start:

  1. What does contentment look like for you and what is essential for achieving it?
  2. What do you want people to know you and remember you for? 

My own journey of self discovery involved delving into the ancient wisdom of Chinese energetics through The Vitality Test created by the Five Institute. Working with Nick Haines helped me reach a profound understanding of myself, what is essential for me to feel content in life and in work, gain full acceptance that I couldn’t possibly be in any other place than I am now, and, most importantly, that was okay.

Much of our confidence comes from unapologetically knowing and owning who we are. For me, this new-found knowledge was life-changing, giving me the surety I craved to achieve what’s important to me. 

 

Soul centered branding

Matthew Newnham’s ‘soul-centered branding’ approach was also essentially revealing, showing me that by peeling back the layers of who we are and applying our values on a deeper level within our businesses, we can focus on projects that boost our contentment and support our flow in the process.

One of my strongest values is the importance of understanding others and being understood. If this basic isn’t met, it causes me great inner conflict, which is exactly why I struggled so much working with the client I couldn’t understand, and who didn’t understand me.

Post-2018, I re-evaluated my business, my focus and my clients. Knowing with certainty that I need to understand others and their purpose, I re-engineered my process to gather the amount of information both I and my clients need to get to the real root of their marketing challenges and discover the right solutions. I choose clients who recognise how valuable this process is, and are committed to honesty, culture and positive impact. I take time now to research clients who care about purposeful marketing and are committed to leaving a lasting legacy. And if the fit isn’t right, I turn down the work, knowing the right relationships and the right projects will provide me with opportunities to make a huge difference to a business’ bottom line AND to do work that I’m proud of.

 

Questions to ask yourself

If you ever feel – in your work of during a personal crisis or as the world struggles to make sense of overwhelming change – that you are one second away from dropping your cups, saucers, sandwiches, papers and business cards… give yourself permission to step back and check in with your values, and whether your soul-needs are being met, or affronted.

What conditions are essential for you to be able to work in flow?

What areas of your work, or life, are those conditions not being met?

If you’re still unsure how to define your values after reading this article, book a call with me and let’s chat through your approach.

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