If I asked you what your top 5 values are, would you be able to answer? Perhaps not. And that is just fine, because it is much more useful knowing why you would want to know them. 

Our values act as guiding lights, illuminating the principles, ideals, and beliefs that matter most to us. They affect how we act and react to situations in our lives.

In other words, our values drive our behaviour. 

If our values are disregarded or compromised, we can feel frustration, disappointment, betrayal, or anger.

Consider a scenario where you value integrity as a professional, but you are being pressured by your superiors to engage in unethical practices. Not only would you feel uncomfortable, this inner conflict can cause high levels of stress and with time decreased motivation and depression as you lose contact with what you value most. 

When we are with people that have similar values we feel happier, because we can be more of the person we aspire to be.

Think of those working environments and the personal and professional relationships where you feel you can excel and grow as a person. It is highly likely the people, the company, team or community share many of the values that you have.

The Role of Values in Decision-Making

Person weighing up different values

As values are at the core of our identity, shaping our attitudes, behaviours, and choices, it makes sense to know what they are. Whether consciously acknowledged or subconsciously embraced, our values are integral to our decision-making process. If we can be more aware of what is triggering the emotions we feel, we can make more informed choices as Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Asana describes:

“By stopping regularly to look inward and become aware of my mental state, I stay connected to the source of my actions and thoughts and can guide them with considerably more intention.” 

One of your values may be environmental sustainability. In your daily life you are likely to be choosing eco-friendly products and supporting initiatives that protect the environment. Discovering new ways to reduce your carbon footprint will give you a profound sense of purpose and satisfaction because you are living in accordance with your deeply held values. Conversely, you will likely feel disappointment and anger when discovering a company, whose products you buy, is being accused of greenwashing. 

It can be confusing for us, if we are not consciously aware which standards of behaviour we value most. We get triggered and react to things happening in our lives without having the opportunity to understand more fully where these negative emotions are coming from.

When we know which values guide our choices, we may discover different courses of action, which we may otherwise have missed.

Loyalty may be one of your top values. You discover a friend has been speaking negatively about you behind your back, leaving you feeling betrayed. Knowing that loyalty is important to you may lead you to having a conversation with your friend specifically about this. It may also help you decide if this is the right friendship for you. Sometimes it is better for us to move on.

Photo showing examples of values and asking which top 5 values are yours.

Values help you understand what you are likely to prioritise, what will motivate you and how you will interact with others. It is also important to note they can change over the years. Check in once in a while to re-identify what values are currently driving you.

Identify Your Values

Grab yourself a cup of tea (says the Brit in me), or other favourite beverage, and do either one or both of the following exercises to help you work out what your values are.

Exercise 1: Identify the Top 5

Download this PDF listing 100 values and follow the instructions on how to get down to your top 5.

Exercise 2: Uncover your values with these questions

It is hard to see yourself and your values clearly. This exercise starts by looking at what you admire and dislike in other people. Get a pen and paper or digital note-taking tool and answer the following:

  1. Think of people you know, or characters from films or books. What do you admire about them? Think about what they do, what they say and how they behave. Do they have life philosophies that you identify with? The way Michael Jordan describes his career suggests that perseverance is bly one of his top values:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I failed over and over and over again in my life and that’s why I succeed.”

  1. Think of people and characters that trigger you negatively in some way. What things do they do or say that you dislike? E.g. They are constantly lying. This annoys you because you value honesty. They are messy and disorganised. You get irritaed by this because you value structure and order.
  2. In an ideal world, how would you like people to behave?
  3. Now we have warmed you up, let’s turn to you. What are you most proud of achieving? What were the beliefs and principles driving you to get this done?

Put these two exercises in your Personal Leadership Toolbox, so you can use them again and again and follow how your values change over time. 

Photo showing a signpost with the words mission, vision and values and asking the question: Are your values aligned with your vision?

I do these exercises every 3 years when I work on a new vision document for my personal, professional and private life. This helps me to make sure what I am planning is aligned with who I desire to be. 

Watch or listen to my podcast episode telling you how to write a vision or mission statement for all aspects of your life.

I Cried When I Wrote This Blog

“How’s the project “The Year When Everything Changed” going to impact your life?” my friend and colleague Christine asked me.

In the beginning it felt good (and easy) to talk about this.

At the start of September 2023 I launched the project “The Year When Everything Changed”. The result of these next 12 months will mean I am being interviewed about my thriving community of Wiseacious Women. 

I will be talking about the first published book and about the second one soon to be released. My popular podcast and blog will naturally come into the conversation too. 

Above all, people will sense my strength, confidence and my immense, enriching energy. They would admire me for no longer turning the light down on my vibrancy and for achieving what I had set out to do 12 months previously:

  • Publish a book
  • Open an Etsy shop
  • Holding inspiring public speeches
  • Launch a community, blog & podcast
  • Regularly running workshops & course
  • Helping people make change happen in their lives

Here is a page from my journal listing the dreams I am realising.

This project means I will have a sustainable business paying me a recurring income I am proud of. 

This last piece is important because I was proud of my position and my salary as a school principal when I burned out spectacularly 9 years ago.

Creating the project “The Year When Everything Changed” is my way of closing that chapter of my life and opening a new one filled with new wealth and prosperity. 

By now I had a lump in my throat from saying this out loud.

What got the tears flowing was Christine’s next question:

What happened that made you decide that this specific year will change something, because I guess this isn’t the first time that you have set new goals for yourself?

What happened was twofold.

One was painful. The other was liberating.

The Painful Truth

My sister and I had been exchanging emails every Sunday since the beginning of the year. In these emails we would reflect on the week past and set new intentions for the coming week. 

By mid-July I was writing to her telling her I was feeling lost and struggling. I had not made the changes that I actually wanted to make. I felt ashamed and frustrated. 

I know I’m brilliant, but I was just not doing what I needed to do, and I was scared.

What she wrote back hit me right in the gut.

It was what my inner voice was already whispering to me. My sister just made 100% sure I wasn’t missing the message. And I love her for that.

She wrote two quotes:

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it“. Thoreau 

“Everyone must choose one of two pains: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” J. Rohn

She went on to write:

If anything, focus on the concept of regret, and its opposite – satisfaction. If you truly want to achieve something, you will be willing to invest your time in it, and you will have no regrets about doing it. It will give you satisfaction. Discipline doesn’t even have to enter the discussion. 

And yes, Thoreau’s quote can be read that there is a price to be paid, but really it is pointing out the transactional nature of achieving anything. For anything to change and grow, you need to give something. The currency of that can be time, effort, ideas, and heart. When it is something you want, or feel passionate about, it is a positive transaction. 

This was a message with two layers of pain:

  1. I clearly saw I was choosing the pain of regret.
  2. And it was painful to realise this.

I could also see that I was missing out on the positive transaction that I knew deep down was possible.

I was gutted.

And it made me take action:

  • I have these words pinned to the top of my notes app on my phone so I can read them regularly.
  • When I feel myself wandering off track during the day, I ask myself which pain I want. I choose discipline every time. It hurts less in the long run.
  • I decided to make this next year, a year of radical change.

The Missing Piece

At the same time I was going through this, I was working with the same colleague, Christine, on my personal branding. 

“It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle” (source unknown)

Working with someone else on my personal branding made it possible to see myself clearly. 

All the pieces fell into place so I now know how to communicate clearly to the world who I am. 

I can feel my personal brand in everything I do. 

I’ve just finished editing my second podcast episode where I took you wild swimming with me and talked about making change happen. 

It felt so right because I have finally got the balance right. 

It’s way easier for me to overcome my fear of “will people like it or even watch it?” because my desire to get my message out there is greater.

And the way I am doing it is so me.

I am me, in full vibrant colour and expansive energy. And I am making change happen.

Do you have things you want to change in your life?

Let the next 12 months be YOUR ““The Year When Everything Changed”.

Join me in the Wiseacious Women COMMUNITY and get support.

Watch and listen to the PODCAST.

And continue to read the BLOG.

By your side, Philippa

Our brains love new beginnings and certain dates in the year trigger us. We slow down to take a bigger picture look at our lives. We make decisions about the goals we want to work on and we put more energy into focusing on achieving them. Simply put, we get fired up and motivated to get things done. 

The beginning of a new year is one of these temporal landmarks (the term social scientists use). That’s why we have New Year’s resolutions. It’s one of the best times of the year to make firm decisions about the changes we want to make in our lives and to start working on them. Fortunately we don’t have to wait until the beginning of a calendar year to tune into our dreams and set goals for ourselves.

Best Times of the Year to make Change Happen

There are many other times of the year when we can be resolute in our intent to act. At the beginning of a week, a month, a season or quarter. Personal dates such as birthdays and anniversaries or the first day of a new job are perfect days to initiate change. The beginning of the academic year is another example. These are powerful times to envisage the life you want to lead and the person you want to be because you are more easily motivated to put these intentions into action.

For me the beginning of a school year is the natural time to launch new projects and August is the month I usually use to set myself up for success. It’s probably because I’ve worked in the education sector for over 30 years. It’s become ingrained in my body rhythm. 

August 2023 I used to plan and launch the project “The Year When Everything Changed”. I started this blog, a podcast and launched a community. Listen to or watch the story behind the launch of this project in this podcast episode

In August I looked through my “Dream Journal” and decided which ones I wanted to put into action.

These were dreams I’d had for months and even years. I then decided to make the year from September 2023 to July 2024 “The Year When Everything Changed” for my life and business.

I use a Dream Journal to capture my dreams, otherwise they either end up passing like clouds in the sky or are hidden away in the depths of my brain gathering dust. 

In order for dreams to become reality we want to be nurturing them. “Nurturing” is about having a process to capture our dreams, reviewing them regularly and deciding which ones to make real.

How to dream in 5 easy-to-do steps

Set yourself up for success with these steps so you too can nurture your dreams, aspirations and imagination.

Step 1: Exercise Your Imagination Muscle

At the core of every dream lies imagination; our ability to envision possibilities beyond the constraints of reality. Imagination is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.

Carve out time to allow your mind to wander freely, explore new ideas, and visualise scenarios that excite you. Imagination is the place where you can break free from the limitations of practicality and let your creativity flow. 

As you grow and change, your dreams are likely to evolve. So keep dreaming throughout your life and allow them to adapt and transform as you gain new insights and experiences.

Step 2: Dare to Dream Any Which Way

Dream big and small. Dream special occasions and everyday things. Imagine things you could do yourself and things you need others to help you with. Some of your dreams you could do in a day, others may take years and even decades.

It’s not all about dreaming “big” and having audacious goals. Dream in any way you like and have fun doing it.

What goals and aspirations do you have that you hesitate to say aloud? A career change, a grand adventure, or a personal transformation perhaps? 

💡 learn to salsa dance
💡 see the Northern Lights
💡 a ride on a snow scooter
💡 a romantic weekend away
💡 swim in the pool of a waterfall
💡 exhibit your artwork in a gallery
💡 hug a Californian Redwood tree
💡 exercise regularly with a personal trainer
💡 grow 3m (10ft) high sunflowers from seed
💡 drive in a rubber-duck-yellow Lamborghini

The list is as endless and as varied as your imagination can stretch to. Dreaming is fun so whatever it is, allow yourself to envisage freely.

Step 3: Take Time for Reflection

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to neglect the introspection needed for dreaming. Make time to think and dream by actively choosing to do this over the millions of other activities you could do instead. 

Consider the number of times a day you reach for your mobile because you have a moment between tasks. Put your mobile back down and let your mind wander as thoughts and ideas come up. Give yourself this precious dreaming time.

Some of the ways you can do this:

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Simply daydreaming
  • Go for a walk on your own, without listening to something, so your thoughts can flow

Use these pockets of time you give yourself to reflect on your desires, goals, and the kind of life you wish to lead.

Step 4: Capture Your Dreams for Future Reference

Next, you want to have ways to capture your dreams and ideas. Write them down or record yourself so you can come back to these gems regularly.

Let’s be clear, it is not about making everything you dream of into a goal or a project to be completed. It is about you becoming better at using your imagination to produce lots of ideas that you can tap into when you want to make some changes in your life.

Most people struggle to answer the question “what do you want?”. Capturing your thoughts like this is a way for you to get to know the answers that truly excite you and can help you feel you are living your life fully.

Have a Dream Journal. This can be any paper or digital notebook that you feel is the sort of space that invites you to have fun and dream freely.

I love colour and so my Dream Journal pages are covered in collage paper, paint and ink. I like to create backgrounds to write on. The process also slows me down enough so I can think through different aspects of my dream. How will it feel when I have turned this dream into reality? Who else is involved? What is happening and where?

Here are some pages from my Dream Journal to inspire you and show you that there is no right or wrong way to do this.

It doesn’t have to be neat, legible or presentable for anyone else.  It’s your Dream Journal. For you and no-one else.

Step 5: Take Action

Dreams without action remain mere fantasies.

Look at your dreams regularly so they don’t become something you regret not doing. Reviewing them gives you the chance to decide to turn them into goals and projects that you are taking intentional steps towards achieving.

Every action, no matter how small, brings you closer to realising your dreams.

Remember you don’t have to wait until the beginning of the calendar year to make change happen in your life. There are lots of great days and dates to start. And today is also a perfect day for this because you are merely a click away from starting…

Download your Dream Playbook and let your imagination flow.

Get more support in dreaming and creating your vision. Let’s be Success Partners and join me for “The Year When Everything Changed” project. This is all about making change happen and living our dream life now:
The podcast.
The blog.
The community.

By your side, Philippa

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