What To Do If You’re Thinking ‘Is This It?’
A lot of my clients come to me saying they’ve spent all these years building up a life they thought they wanted. Then they get there. Success! And find themselves looking around at this life they thought they wanted thinking ‘is this it?’
- Have you been there?
- Have you ever looked at your life and thought ‘this isn’t where I thought I’d be’?
When I was in the thick of post natal depression, I felt trapped, alone, total despair… and I would find myself raging around the house like a caged bull, thinking ‘THIS IS NEVER THE LIFE I THOUGHT I’D END UP WITH, THIS IS NEVER WHAT I WANTED’.
So I started thinking, ‘ok Sutherland, if you could build what you want right now, what would that look like?’. But I didn’t even know the answer to that question, which would make me feel more trapped, lost and hopeless.
I realised I needed to know the answer to that question, or this feeling of unrest and unhappiness would stay with me.
Similarly, when I was in Big Corporate, I was ‘living the dream’ with a job with flexibility and good pay. But I was pretty unhappy there. It was a really big deal for me when I realised that I wasn’t even considering inviting anyone from work to my wedding. Connection is a huge driver for me, and I didn’t really have a single friend at work!
I started taking action, as action is the agent for change. However, taking action in knee-jerk reactionary manner often doesn’t help, as you’re running away from something instead of towards something (which meant I made a bunch of changes in my life, left Big Corporate and ended up a year later, raging around the house with a tiny baby, post natal depression, and failing friendships).
So if you find yourself thinking the life you’ve got isn’t the life you wanted, then it’s time to take action. But first, it’s time to work out what you really even want.
- What drives you?
- When are you happiest?
- What values are important to you, and how can you shape your life to meet them?
To help determine what your values are, start by answering the following questions:
Question 1: What’s important to you in life?
Brainstorm your answer. Write down anything and everything, including non-value words like foods, colours, flowers, your pet(s). Whatever pops into your mind.
Question 2: Review your week. What did you go out of your way to do and not do?
There’s no right or wrong here, answer as honestly as you can.
Question 3a: What irritates you or makes you angry or upset?
This could be particular people, events, activities. Things that happen when you’re out, at home. Conversations you have or have had. Physical things that don’t work well. Anything at all, from which you coming away feeling negative.
Question 3b: What values or needs are not being met in the above situations?
Here we’re exploring why you are getting upset/annoyed/irritated.
Question 4a: Write down times/moments/events when you were really happy?
Where were you? Who were you with? What was happening?
Question 4b: What needs or values were being met in the above situations and scenarios?
Here we can identify common themes, to help lead us closer to your values.
Question 5: What is your favourite activity, and why?
What do you love to do? What about it makes you love it? What is special about this activity?
Question 6: Who do you admire, and why?
This doesn’t need to be anyone famous, it could be your mum! But who do you admire, and what about them makes you feel the admiration? What makes this person/people special? How do they make you and others feel?
Once you’ve answered all these questions, we’re going to start exploring what values are turning up as important to you. Remember, everyone’s different. There’s no right or wrong here, there’s just you!
Turning things you can do or have into values
Question 1: Things you can do or have are (usually) not values. From question 1 above, review anything that you have highlighted that you can do or have.
Ask yourself: “What does that give me?”
Eg. Travel could be Adventure or Learning, Colour could be Fun, Food could be Community
Question 2: Things you go out of your way to do or avoid usually relate in some way to your values being met (or not). So if you try to make sure you have a conversation with colleagues around the coffee machine, maybe you need connection.
Question 5: Further expand on why you love what you love.
For example, I love horse riding, as it is physical, I have a sense of freedom from it, I can feel growth in the activity as I master harder exercises and I am creating a bond with the horse (connection).
You can then distil out more values from working out why you love what you love.
Question 6: What is it about the person that makes you admire them?
Do they have a way of being that you would like to emulate? What are the values that they are expressing?
Narrow Down Your Top 10 Values
From the above exercises, start to group together values (eg. Community and connection) and then start narrowing the values/groups down to about 10.
There’s no right or wrong here, it’s just about choosing the values that really light you up.
It’s also important to note that you are looking for values that make YOU feel amazing, not things you think you ‘should’ value.
My top values at the moment are: connection, freedom, adventure, love, joy. I narrowed even more and ended up with 5, but as I said there’s no right or wrong. Aim for about 10 if you can.
So if you’re asking yourself ‘is this really it?’ then look at your values and assess – how many of your values are being met in your daily life? Do you make decisions with those values in mind? Or are you living someone else’s dreams right now? (This is super common. How many of us have taken jobs in corporate because that’s what you do after university if you want to be successful?)
No one else has to live your life, so you might as well make it your own.
Go forward now with your values in the forefront of your mind. As you make decisions, think about whether your values are being met. If you feel itchy to do things differently, think about what values aren’t being met.
Let your values guide your decisions and the direction of your life.
Ps. I would love to know what you’ve discovered about yourself doing this exercise, and any decisions you’ve made being guided by your newly-discovered values!
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