Written by: Marika Nikkinen, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
So, what's the fuzz around values? Values are the foundation of our life, the fundamental beliefs that guide and motivate our actions and influence our emotions.
Working with values is something that I do as a Life Coach with each of my clients. Whether you are at the starting point or longer on your path, please put on your beginner's mind glasses and tune in to what's about to come.
How Working With My Values Changed My Life
You know the unforgettable turning points in life. I want to share one of mine with you, which actually brought me here. It was a Values In Action workshop I facilitated for a group of employees in my previous workplace in November 2016. I was standing in the front of the room. The participants were sitting in a horseshoe layout, bare and vulnerable, without a place to hide. We had kicked off, and I watched them share their intimate stories behind their personal values, some laughing, some crying, some being serious, and some very bothered. I felt a deep sense of pride enabling that to happen, creating that safe space. I admired their courage and willingness to openly share intimate stories of their lives, to fully show up. Simultaneously I felt pain in my chest. They made me realize I didn't live my own values.
For over a year, I had been fighting with my physical and mental health. I was burnout and exhausted, struggling in all the areas of my life. I felt like being a stranger in my skin, losing my flair and turning into a cynical old spinster.
Returning to the moment, I felt inadequate to continue running the workshop, an impostor. How could I pretend to show them how to discover what really matters in life when I wasn't doing the work myself? That moment changed everything. I decided to let go of the self-pity and roll up my sleeves. For the next weeks and months, I concentrated on living my core values, balance, well-being, and personal growth. Taking small steps forward to feel more fulfilled in my life, getting back in the driver's seat of my life. I followed precisely the same 3 steps I am introducing to you later in this article.
What keeps us going when all else fails in life? It is the knowledge of who we are deep down. What really matters to you in life? Why are you doing what you're doing? Your core values.
Values are our unique fingerprints in the world, whether we are conscious about them or not. They are the deeply held principles that make us think, feel, and act the way we do. Values help us to determine what is essential for us and ground our decision-making. When we live by our values, our life has balance, meaning, and direction, and when not, we drift away from ourselves and our inner needs. It might cause mental and physical sickness because we are not listening to what is essential for us, and we are bypassing our natural way of being and the needs we have.
We are born with a set of values, which work as our compasses throughout our lives. Values have a different emphasis when being a small kid when growing to teens and becoming an adult. As long as we live, our thinking and consciousness develop. When we are young, our values are more about "I," our personal needs, and when we grow up, we start thinking about the impact we have on the world around us, and our values become more about "US."
We might live most of our lives relatively unconscious about our values even though they are always guiding us forward. It is somewhat normal to start thinking about what really matters for us when facing hardship and misfortune in life. It is a starting point in life, a zero ground, where we get to choose our future direction, and values are the guideposts taking us forward.
My actions to respect and live more of my core values were simple, I emptied our family calendar, no more fully booked weekends, so that we had time to recover and just stay home and have space for spontaneity. I ordered a cleaning service, subscribed to a receipt box. I quit all the hard workouts, which made me feel worse, and continued with energizing nature walks and gentle yoga. I worked with my personal growth plan that was something more complicated. I knew deep down that there was something else in the world waiting for me, outside the company I was working for, but when you have to build a life along with the norms, expectations, and outer values, it isn't easy to hop off a running train.
To make sure I would go for my inner calling, the universe had its own way of creating urgency. My mother was diagnosed with an incurable disease, and I felt I had no option than to follow my flaming guideposts. I started my coaching certification journey and resigned. I took the steps towards my future I am living now.
As a leadership and life coach, I have used plenty of different tools to help my clients work with their values, value lists, assessments, visualizations, storytelling, etc. Whatever the style, values are just words if we do not work with them, I mean, life-long deep work.
Looking at the world and listening to people talk, I often feel we have lost our belief in ourselves and life. Each of us has a unique path in life to follow and can be kicked off with the following 3 steps. Do not excuse yourself for not following them because you don't have time; it is all worth it. The funny thing with the value work is that it is simple to start with, and when you continue further, you need to start making decisions that might feel hard. We want to resist the path our soul is showing us.
3 Steps To Master Your Life
Before we go for the actual practice, let's ground ourselves to the present moment by breathing and scanning our inner landscape. It is essential to connect with ourselves on a deeper level before diving into this life-changing work.
Close your eyes, have a relaxed posture, and inhale and exhale deeply. On the inhale, sense how the air travels through your nostrils and lunges to the bottom of your stomach, expanding it. On the exhale, feel how the air goes all the way out from your nostrils, squeezing your stomach towards the spine. Repeat for 5-10 times and sense how your body feels from top to toes, how your heart, soul, and mind feel. Listen to yourself, what are you aware of now? If you ask yourself, what really matters to you in life, what are the sensations, visuals, or words coming to you? What are they telling or guiding you for? Stay here for a while, and when you are ready to go forward, open your eyes, make notes on what came up, and continue with the next questions.
1. What Are Your Core Values?
What makes you feel great? Why? Make a list of words.
What makes you angry? Why? Add on to your list.
Think about the things you can't live without. Why? Add on to your list.
Think about a peak moment in your life. What made you feel fulfilled? Add on to your list.
You should now have 10-20 words on your list. Go through the list. Do these words have anything in common with what came up in the orientating visualization? Choose the maximum 10 most important values for you in life right now. The ones that make you feel happy, fulfilled, and forward taking.
2. Ground With Your Core Values
Now it is the time to dive deeper and really understand what your core values mean for you. Take your list of 10 values and think about what these words mean for you; write down all the info coming up to you.
Think about the stories behind the values. For example, "I lived in a small village when I was young, and because of the culture of knowing, greeting, and respecting everyone, Respect is an important value for me." Or "I was an invisible child in my family, and that's why Connection is an important value for me. It means to be seen, heard, and have connection in my relationships."
Go through your values list, write down the stories, and also the meaning of each value. Notice that there might be other value words coming up to you that actually replace the original word.
Working with values is at the same time working with your emotions. Let them help you on your way. Every emotion has a meaning to take you forward on your path.
3. Values You Need The Most Now
Now that you have refined your list and you might feel rooted in your core values, look at the list and choose 1-3 values you need the most now. They should describe your resonant place, where you feel happy, connected, and fulfilled.
If these values guide your next hour, day, and week, how would it look like? What will you do to respect these values and live them?
For the next weeks and months, pay attention to how living your values impact your life. Notice how you feel and how people around you respond to it. Not everyone might approve, but don't let them turn you down. Let values guide you through your life. When we consciously engage in our values, it's an incredibly empowering and liberating experience. There is a lot of power in recognizing that our direction in life is in our own hands, and you may let your values guide you.
All in all, life is way too short to wander around without direction. If you are ready to explore the wonders of your life, values are THE place to start. My next article will be about Life Purpose, so tune into your values work to be prepared for the next step. Thank you for reading.
Marika Nikkinen, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Marika Nikkinen is a leader in inner guidance, self-leadership, and spiritual activation. After a series of hardships left her with poor mental and physical health, she decided to recover and find her own way in life. Connecting with her inner guidance, she found her strategies and she has since dedicated her career to helping her clients to unleash their inner power and to trust their inner guidance in life. With her company Conscious Leadership Coaching, she has been coaching organizations and leaders on value and purpose-based, conscious leadership in Europe and in Africa. Currently, she is focusing on working with her private clients worldwide and writing her first book on her journey and its learnings. Her mission: Every life matters.