Everyone has gifts to share with the world. Living a fulfilled life includes finding pathways to share these gifts. Doing so brings meaning to our lives and intrinsic worthiness. Working on projects that align with a sense of purpose tends to be energizing rather than depleting. We tend to feel most energized and tapped into our lives when engaged in tasks that align with what sparks creativity and curiosity.
But what about when we are stuck? listless? uncertain? Then it’s time to reconnect with our values. Reanchoring to core values creates a scaffolding that can weather the struggles of a career, a relationship, a passion. It helps us to keep focused on a longer-term vision. Without values it is more possible to slip into dismay, disenchantment, aimlessness, and cynicism.
Anna came to work with me because she could not finish her writing assignments for her job. She had deep writer’s block, which led to a negative performance review. She had a piece of writing rejected that she had labored over for months. The reason given was that they did not find her topic compelling to their readers. The rejection sent her into a tailspin. It led her to believe that her field doubted the value of her work.
Untangling the threads of her experience, Anna discerned that the piece aligned with deeply held core values. We talked through whether one set of editors could judge the value of her work that is so close to her purpose. We even considered–if most editors rejected her work, would she stop working on these issues?
Anna realized that she would want to persist despite the judgement of others. Future rejections would fuel her fire rather than extinguish it. She redoubled her faith in her work going forward. She honed her purpose instead of shying away from it. She decided that part of her purpose was to push the dominant paradigm and to encourage her profession to embrace a broader understanding of viewpoints.
Honing her purpose helped Anna to understand why she did the work intrinsically. She could use this sense of purpose in the future as a rubric for discerning difficult career decisions. She had found the strength to engage in her work from within.
Deepening Purpose by Identifying Your Values
Identifying values is not just stating them, but living them. By paying attention to what is our passion in our work, we define a sense of inner standards rather than external judgment. This process helps to fend off the perfection demons. We seek to be our authentic selves rather than a generic standard that may not even fit what we believe. This mindful work allows a calibration of the importance of self-improvement with destructive inner critics. The gap between our work and our vision the can feel inspiring and rather than depleting.
- Revisit a rewarding moment of success. Think back to rewarding moments in your life—a particular moment in time you fully alive and were flowing in the stream of success. Drawing on your senses to bring you back to the exact moment—where you were, how your body felt, what the light looked like. By feeling the moment fully, you can distill the essence of what made that moment special. Sitting in those feelings—what values/beliefs/principles underlie the meaning of this experience for you? If you have a photograph of this moment, hang it up in a place you see every day.
- Choose from a list of values. Choose what defines you the most from a list of values. Try to narrow down to three, or even one as a guidepost for the next year. Create a way to visually remind yourself of these words daily.
- Reread performance reviews/critiques and highlight ONLY the positive words. We tend to only listen for the negative. Instead, take note of your strengths. Focus on the verbs especially–“ I inspire. I build bridges. I organize.”
- Ask everyone to list your gifts. Ask colleagues what is important about your work.Choose your most trusted peers. Ask them what they value about your work. An even braver strategy, post on social media a request for others to list your gifts Create a visual collage of the words shared with me and posted them in my closet where I get dressed every morning.
- Journal about your values, Research on finding your values suggests that you focus reflection on “what” questions instead of “why” questions. Some prompts to get you started:
- What do I wish to accomplish?
- How do I define “meaning” in your work?
- What academic work inspires me and why?
- What does it feel like when I live my values?
- What drives me to do excellent work?
- How do I want to show up as a scholar?
Why did I choose a career in academia?
- How do I express my values in my work?
- What are signs that I am not living in my values?
- What struggles do I have with my scholarship?
- When do I experience conflicting values within my scholarship?
- What does support look like? Who can champion me to help me to live my values?
Ready for something bigger? Contact me about how to jump start your future. Schedule a no-hassle consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org