Step back and realign

Step back and realign

We all go through so many transitions in our lives and often find ourselves a bit lost along the way.  We become less certain of who we really are and who we want to be. This is exactly where I was when I was told I had burnout – in the middle of a blurry jumble of overcommitment and overwhelm. I had become less sure of what was really important to me and of how I wanted my life to be.  Until one day I was absolutely sure that how my life was going was absolutely not how I wanted it to be.  It sometimes happens like this, I think. We don’t know what we don’t know, until we one hundred percent do.  We move through all these life transitions without taking much notice of how we think and feel about the changes taking place in our lives.  We default to autopilot because it’s what we know, even if we don’t feel like it is right.  What happens then is that we start living out of alignment from our values and the things that really matter to us. This is exactly what was happening to me.  I felt a deep sense of discontentment and a desire for something different, something more meaningful that brought peace.

Our values are the things we judge to be important in the way we live and work.  They are the reasons we act the way we do and a motivation for our decisions. They guide our behaviours.  Quite often, we adopt the values of the homes in which we were raised.  Sometimes, our values change along the way, as our circumstances, needs and priorities change over time.

I knew I needed to revisit my values.  There’d been so much change and so many transitions and I knew that part of the unease I was experiencing was either because I didn’t know for sure what was most important to me or that what was important to me was not getting the energy and time it deserved.  Over time my default setting had changed to deliver on whatever other’s expected of me, saying yes to things I shouldn’t have, rather than from a place of knowing what I should and shouldn’t be including in my days.  This is what happens to many of us.  We don’t know what we want, so we say yes to it all and then find ourselves struggling to keep our heads above the water, drowning in expectations and overcommitments.

This misalignment of values and reality feels like an internal conflict, when you know something is off but you might not be sure why.  It’s this internal compass that tells you when something is out of place.  This is where the misalignment comes in, you see.  When how we actually live our lives, what our choices reflect, are out of sync with what our hearts hold first.

Understanding our values, which are different for each of us, is a really important part of our mental and emotional wellbeing.  Many people think that values are the moral or ethical right or wrong, but it’s so much more than that.  Our values are like our unique north star, guiding us on the pathways of our lives.  Without them, we’re like ships afloat at sea heading in no particular direction, being pushed around wherever the tides move on any given day.  What helps too, is that we actually write down our values, not just think about them.  The process of writing is a filter for our thoughts.  We can categorise and shape the groups until we settle on a handful of values that stand out to be ours.

So, I took some time to actually figure out what I valued most.  My priorities.  The things that are most important to me in this season.

The process of getting to these values was a learning experience on its own and it should be for us all.  Here are a couple of ways for you to understand what your own values are:

  1. Think about and write down your answers to the following questions:
    1. In what moments are you the happiest? Who are you with, what are you doing, how do you look and feel?
    2. In what moments are you the most proud? Who are you with, what are you doing, how do you look and feel?
    3. When do you feel the most satisfied and fulfilled with your life? What had you been doing?  What did you achieve?
  2. List out some of the values that come to mind based on your experiences of happiness, pride and fulfilment. You could also use a list of values off the internet to select from.
  3. Filter your list. Group similar themes and choose one word to best describe that group.
  4. Select and confirm your list. Think through what has stood out.  Does it make sense?  Most times, you’ll think ‘Oh yes! that’s why I felt that way’ or ‘That’s why I did it like that’.
  5. Write out your values and put them somewhere you see them often. They are guideposts afterall.


Another way to discover your values, is to think through moments when you felt most hurt or upset or unhappy and flip that over.  So if you were hurt by someone being disloyal to you, perhaps loyalty if one of your values.  If someone’s attitude of arrogance made you upset, perhaps humility is one of your values.

The first step to any healing process is to understand the cause.  For me, getting clear on what matters to me was the start of an awareness that has helped me through some of the toughest days after.  When we are clear on what matters to us, we can start creating structures in our lives to invest our time and energy in those things.  Our yesses mean yes and our no’s are well placed.  If you aren’t sure of what matters to you or your values, make time to start figuring them out using one of the ways I’ve just highlighted.  Knowing your values and living into them create an alignment in your life that brings contentment and overall happiness.

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