I chose “navigating change” as the core topic of 2021 on this blog. I sense that 2021 will be a year of healing and recovery, however many of us will still face social isolation, experience grief and discover new sensitivities. I myself have experienced a few years of severe social isolation in the past and so I know that it can be really raw, fragile, anxiety-provoking experience to come back to one’s collective.
As we change, and the change is inevitable, we need to hold on to the core of our identity. To our stories but also to our inner compass. I am spending my holidays exploring it from the point of view of values – values I aspire to and treasure in others, but often-times abandon and have to come back to myself. Today I would like to share my value exercise with you the way I do it with my clients and myself during moments of reflection.
Start by listing your values – you can do this in any form, in any way that suits you. You can draw, discuss it with others, list them…it helps to aim for at least ten – initially, you might find it very difficult to list more than five, but please try. Finally, it helps to have them down on paper in a small list, in no particular order.
Here is my list for December 2020: (core three) safety, power, growth (others) self-care, collective care (old-fashioned care basically), independence, stop & rest, effort, critical thinking, attention, validation, trust, humanity, belonging.
To make this exploration a bit more tangible, you can also look at your values as rights – make a table with three columns – the right/value, the right/value to, the right/value from. Go through all your values and think about them as rights. Think about specific situations or just the first thing that comes to mind: what rights does your first value represent – to do what and to be from what? By extension – if those are important for me, I have to consider them critical for people I work with.
Here is my list again:
- safety – my right to feel safe/ right from danger, racism (incl. xenophobia) and hostility
- power – my right to feel equal/ right from abuse of power and abuse in general
- growth – my right to be better than OK/ right from exploitation
- self-care – my right to decide on the type of care/ right from trends
- collective care – my right to be supported when I can’t care for myself/ right from abandonment and invalidation
- independence – my right to decide and choose/ right from systemic identities
- stop & rest – my right to slow down and breath/ right from fast economy
- effort – my right to choose when I need to work harder/ right from the myth of passive rest
- critical thinking – my right to call things out/ right from status quo bias
- attention – my right to be understood (silence, words, non-verbal)/ right from judgement
- validation – my right to be respected for my achievements/ right from invalidation and ostracism
- trust – my right to confidentiality/ right from gossip and attack when vulnerable
- humanity – my right to be valued as human (life!)/ right from cruelty and any form of abuse – especially resulting from the fear of mortality/tribalism
When you finish, review your list one more time. What else is there? What else is important? What is missing?
I explored my list and found another one: belonging – the right to be asked where I belong instead of being asked where I come from.
If you want to test if the listed values are truly important to you and possibly explore your priorities, put all of them on separate post-its and imagine having to give them up one by one. If you were to give up an item from your list, how would your life look like? What is the last post-it in your hand? If you do this, you might come across compromises you are willing to make and boundaries you do not want to cross. That is an important aspect of any helping profession.
Listing our values, exploring them as rights and formulating priorities helps us, counsellors, coaches and consultants reign in our ego and remind ourselves what our personal goals are in life.
In December 2021 I am doing this fully aware of the seismic shifts in my life. 2020 was testing, I have made mistakes. I have learned from them. I have also achieved a lot and helped my clients form new paths – I have learned from that too. However, in order to serve clients, we need to “keep one foot in our own boat” as my supervisor said to be one. We need to have a strong compass in our hand to navigate life. Life that never really was as certain and predictable as we like it to be.
It’s OK to make mistakes. It’s OK to reflect and come back to our own core, regain the sense of gravity. Let’s come back “to the middle”.
I wish you calm waters for 2021 and a lot of health and growth. Let me know how this reflective practice works for you.
Stay safe, stay well, stay connected.