As I sit here at a local Starbucks I look out at the other patrons wondering what brought them here. They could be killing time before an appointment, studying for a test or blogging like myself. Then I wonder, “how the heck did I get here?” For over a decade I was an employee of a state funded mental health agency that provided an array of services to thousands of individuals suffering from some sort of mental health issue. Recently I made the decision to leave the state agency work behind and work for myself and expand my private practice full-time. This is not necessarily a plug for my counseling practice but if it were, it would look something like this; contact me through www.sommers-counseling.com or at 936-701-6009 for a free 15 minute phone consultation. But as I consume this protein cold brew thing I find myself thinking about how important it was for me to recognize and understand my values which ultimately brought me here today.
Knowing and understanding our values is not something that I think as a whole we do a lot of. I believe that most of us think we know our values but once we delve deeper into it, we realize that it is not a clear cut as perhaps we thought. Once we do recognize and identify them we must then see if our behaviors are in accordance with them. If our behaviors are not in alignment with our values, we will feel some form of disconnect. This disconnect may be manifested as guilt, anxiety or sadness and perhaps even anger. Consider if you value honesty but then find yourself lying, you will more than likely feel a sense of guilt or shame. Perhaps you value your friendships but you also value alone time so the decision to go out or not will put these two in a boxing match.
For me I always valued helping others and success. This has guided me throughout my career and aided me in becoming a competent counselor in my opinion. What I neglected to do for so many years is to rank my values and examine how the above two impacted other values I held. For all the successes I had in my career to this point, I still felt that there was something missing. Perhaps I needed to make more money, have a fancy title or a corner office but even after satisfying some of those things, it still was not enough.
What I began to realize is that I highly value structure and control and those would often would be compromised by only following my values of helping others and success. Once I discovered this, my decision of what to do with my career became clear and I took the necessary steps to expand my private practice full-time.
The message I hope you take away from this is to pay attention to moments of disconnect. Ask yourself, did my behavior contradict a value of mine? Are there competing values not being paid attention to? Have my values changed over the years and do I need to re-prioritize them?