Follow your values

We’re all different.

We all grew up in different places.

We all speak different language.

We all eat different foods.

Different social classes, different ethnicities and different genders all see the world differently because of the experiences that they have had in life.  It’s those experiences that form who we become and begin to define what our core values are. Core values as a term means something different to different people, for me they can either be those things that we care about having in our lives or the way that we commit to live.

I used to think that those core values didn’t change, that everyone had a set personality or character from day one which dictated why they lived they way they did and cared about some things more than others, but based on how I’ve changed over the years I’m not sure that’s true anymore. I’ve come to believe that we are very much a product of our experiences and also that in some level we choose what we want those values to be. The universe hasn’t dictated them to us in advance.

The idea for this post was sparked by the fact that I have been watching a lot of crime documentaries and series as well as reading a lot of crime books recently. That’s no new thing for me, but over the past couple of months I have started to realise just how big the distance is from a real life incident to how it goes through the court system and really started to think about what that means for the people involved in it.

Before embarking on my current career as trained as a lawyer. I thought that I wanted a career that was a lifestyle rather than a job, something that could be my whole life, just as school and university had been. I believed that I would be able to handle any side of a case by treating it as an intellectual problem and keeping myself separate from it.

I honestly  can’t be sure if that was true at the time but the person I am now wouldn’t want to spend my life treating the worst times in other peoples lives as an intellectual exercise, as a puzzle to be solved and show how good you are at your job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that those in the legal profession don’t care about these things, but I do believe that you can’t possibly exist in that profession unless you build up some sort of emotional distance from your work, in a way you become numb to what you see, it becomes everyday and common place for you in a way that it isn’t for the rest of the world.  

I find it really hard to understand now how I thought that I could do that. The person I am now would do anything to stop someone hurting, even if it means removing myself from the situation and I know I wouldn’t be the same person if my career path had continued down that route.

So why did I think so differently then? Maybe it’s just because I was younger. I was more ambitious and didn’t intend to let anything get in my way. At that point in my life my core value and the single thing that I really cared about was succeeding it a way that outer people could see, to prove that I was good enough, that I could do things that they didn’t think I was capable of and maybe that blinkered me. I was prepared to bottle all of the emotional side of life down to get to wherever I needed to be and do whatever I needed to do. Maybe I hadn’t realised how important emotions were to real life.

I think its more likely that I hadn’t learnt to be as empathetic then as I am now.  I hadn’t met as many different people and hadn’t been through as much so I didn’t really understand how much people could be hurt and how much wanting to save people from that drives me so I didn’t really understand what I was asking myself.

To be fair to 20 something me there was always an inkling that I was more motivated about making a difference for other people. Even during my legal training the part that I enjoyed and connected with the most was the pro bono work that I did. Being able to make a little bit of a positive impact on a person’s live’s made everything feel worth while. It just took me a really long time to work out that was the driver, the value that was really going to matter for me.

I’ve done a lot of digging over the past few years and I have a much clearer idea of what I want  in my life, what those things that I really value are.  (It can be a really great exercise to do some journaling to dig into what your own are.) They may be difference as soon as tomorrow but right now they are:

  • having a positive impact
  • supporting others
  • making myself better (growth)
  • learning
  • succeeding

To sit along side those are those things that I always try to live by:

  • Kindness
  • Honesty
  • Commitment
  • Hard Work
  • Integrity
  • Authenticity
  • Courage

I’m not sure any of those are new or fundamentally different to what they have been my whole life but the order has absolutely changed. When I was younger it was much easier to put me and my success first. These days that’s harder. My first instinct now it always to put other people first. At work I’m that manager who is more likely to make sure that their staff get credit than to point out anything that they’ve done. At the opposite end of the spectrum seeing someone knowingly treat those around them badly or in a manipulative way is a absolute unforgivable for me. The ability to do this is genuinely something I don’t understand. I get things wrong, I let people down and upset them but that’s always because I haven’t realised the impact of what I am doing. It’s the intention that matters to me not the impact.

Whether I go too far with how I feel about this particular issue is a question I am working through, but right now it is something that I will absolutely cut someone out of my life for, or at least will minimise the time I will spend with them. It’s for this exact reason that I haven’t spoken to or seen my father for over a year and have no intention to do so in the foreseeable future.

As to what else motivates me, I’m much more likely to be motivated by something because I can see myself improving and growing than because I can succeed in it. Thats great but I do from time to time need to catch myself and refocus on me before I burn out. It’s the progression that is the fun part, I’ve often been told I don’t celebrate victories enough but for me that actually the boring part it’s seeing that progress along the way and having something to strive towards that I love.

I’ve become progressively more content with myself  over the years as I’ve seen myself grow slowly but surely, on step at a time (there’s still a long way to go!). I may be stuck in a desk job for now, but even there I motivate myself by focusing on the benefit that my work is going to bring to others and how much room there always is for growth and progression. I’ve found that in lifting and in yoga as well as the work place.

I used to be terrified of feedback of any type now I seek it out as I know I can’t get better without it. Honestly it was through yoga and lifting that I became more comfortable with that but over time I have been able to take it into the workplace. The biggest change that has had is that the person I am in the work place is far more authenticate far more in integrity than I ever was before. I have more open honest conversations with the people I’m working with instead of being terrified that I am doing everything wrong.

I’m not going to be at that desk job forever. I’m not going to be in London forever either.

I just don’t know yet what the alternative looks like. There are too many things that I could do to make a difference and spread my wings, too many places that I could go.

I always wanted to work with animals so maybe I can do that, maybe I can dust off my yoga teaching qualification, or maybe I’ll finally write that novel.

Who knows maybe I’ll do all three at once.

I’m going to work that out. For now I have set myself a solid financial goal to hit before I allow myself to take that leap and in the mean time I am going to keep going, and keep embracing every opportunity that I can find to live my values. I’m going to help everyone I can and take every opportunity I can find to continue to learn and grow so that when its my time to reach escape velocity I really can fly down that new road. I can’t wait to find out what’s down it.

The way that I get there is going to be just as important as getting there too.


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