Catriona Futter – Equip For Life Coaching Becoming your best self and living life to the full – 07713 974138

Category Archives: Values

Ever tried living out someone else’s values?

Living out someone else's values?

Living out someone else’s values?

As we come to the end of this little series of musings on values and the impact of living according to them, one thought remains. What happens when we try living out someone else’s values? When we take on for ourselves what we see others valuing, and try and make our lives fit with that whilst simultaneously denying what is central to who we really are?

Our internal workings go something like this:

That person is doing such-and-such, and he/she is much more clever/successful/wise/popular/spiritual than I am, so that must be the right thing to do so I should/ought to do that too….I will therefore squash my own needs and priorities and conform to what I think is expected of me to fit in.”

This internal dialogue is often subconscious, and I have helped many a client to unearth it and look for its roots. Only when we understand the root of our behaviour can we start to address it and make changes.

A clue is in the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts‘.

“I should behave like this because that is expected of me, and therefore I will ignore what is important to me, and who I really am to conform or fit in.”

“I ought to get involved/help out/serve in some way because that is what that popular/successful/spiritual person is doing and I can’t therefore say no.”

You get the idea. It is insidious, pervasive, all-too-common, and – like a rampant weed – very hard to uproot.

Now hear me on this – I am not saying that serving, duty and responsibility are not important. Nor am I suggesting that we all become inward looking, selfish narcissists who are only out for ourselves and what we want.

But what I am saying is this –

no one else can be you and no one else can live your life for you.

Nor can you live someone else’s life with integrity because you will not be being true to who you really are.

Let me ask you some questions –

Who is the person that you are, that no one else is, that only you can be? What is the cost of not only not being that person, but trying to be someone else – to live out someone else’s life, living out someone else’s values?

To live governed by ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ – seeing how other people are living their lives, and seeking to live with their priorities, or what we think THEY think we should be doing.

Striving. People pleasing. Hiding our real selves and not prioritising what we think is important because somehow it seems less valid or worthy than someone else’s life.

You are a unique and amazing individual. No one else on the whole planet is quite like you. Just absorb that for a minute…..

…..No one else sees the world  like you do, expresses him/herself quite like you do, has your unique blend of personality, values, skills and characteristics.

Therefore – what would it mean to simply be the person that you are – to live the life that only you can live, the way only you can? To be the thing you were created to be, and do what you’ve been created to do.

How often do we exhaust ourselves and become all twisted up trying to be someone else, or to live according to some list of qualities or characteristics or values that will make us more worthy or loved or valid or fulfilled?

How often do we get stuck trying to be someone we are not, to be someone that people outside of ourselves wanted us to be? Or that we thought we had to be to prove something or to achieve happiness, or to hide who we really are on the inside?

Perhaps instead of listening to external voices that might try to define who we should be, how we should use our time, what should be most important – perhaps instead each of us can start to understand, embrace and celebrate who we ACTUALLY are and what is most important to us as unique individuals. Of course that does not mean that we are perfect and the world has to accept us just as we are. There is always growth and inner transformation for all of us.

But we can’t really start to change from the inside until we know who we really are and are free to be that person. To let go of shoulds and oughts, of negative internal voices and loud external expectations.

Until we stop living out someone else’s values, and start living according to our own.


Stopping to pause

Stopping to pauseToday…a little hiatus. A humpluck if you will. Somewhat unexpected and very out of character. This day started with six clear hours to work, and a list of things-to-do. Some, practical, dull and long-put-off. Others, more inspiring and of the longer-term investment type. But a day filled with tasks. Tick. Tick. Tick-tick, done. Achievement, satisfaction, on to the next thing.

Because there always is a next thing.

And in that, there started an unravelling of this planned day.

Because in the end very little on my list was ticked off.

Instead, I sat looking out the window….read…..listened to music…..wrote – inner thoughts type writing, not writing to be read by others. Ate toast, drank coffee.

I have long been a just-get-on-with-the-next-thing sort of person. But in talking and writing about letting my soul catch up, creating and maintaining good boundaries, understanding my values and living accordingly, what is surfacing is simplicity, rest, love.

And it turns out, what was most important today was to switch off to the lists and achievement, and sit and be still instead. To pay attention to what is going on inside, and silence the external voice in favour of a much quieter, less familiar internal one.

A voice that was hoarse, out of practice, somewhat croaky.

What am I feeling?

What do I want?

What do I need?

What am I starting to learn about myself, and how I want to live the next bit of my life?

Learning to be stillThis isn’t about narcissistic navel gazing. But it is about the process for me of learning to stop, and pay attention to what is going on inside rather than live at full pelt, always rushing on to the next thing without necessarily stopping to enjoy the current thing. The present, this moment, now.

I am not alone it seems – there are others I know who, like me, are realising that a change is required.

Non-stop-gerbil-wheel living is not sustainable.

Living according to what matters requires self awareness and self examination, and that takes time, stillness, stopping. Which I did today.

The list remains, but even had I completed today’s list, another list awaits tomorrow.

There is no end to the lists.

I love a list, but I am learning to love stillness and quiet too. To give myself permission to stop and be quiet, still, rest.



Neglected values – at what cost?

Neglected valuesWhen have there been times of stress in your life due to your values being neglected or ignored? Contradicted or not honoured? In conflict with someone else’s?

Neglected values is a huge subject, and touches on that tricky area of self care. Because doing things for ourselves, prioritising ourselves over others, viewing our own needs as important – well, that’s selfish isn’t it? Self indulgent perhaps, too inward looking.

We’d feel too guilty, and anyway, who has the time?

Ah, and there I would beg to differ.

When we neglect the things that matter to us most, the impact is a lack of fulfilment, dissatisfaction and no peace.

It has taken me many years, and some internal soul searching and digging around, but I know with clarity and confidence what I most need in a week. And it all comes from my values.

I need outside time with fresh air, the natural world, space. I need music, especially the piano, and to create something, from a cake to a new coaching tool. I need some level of organisation and efficiency, in my work and in my environment. I need at least one good soul-connecting conversation with a life-affirming friend. And with those closest to me, to know that there has been some connection beyond the superficial, functional normal-life type – a deeper connection where both parties feel heard and are really seen.

This is me, you will be quite different. Now, just because I know this, does not mean that I implement it. That is an entirely different challenge.

But with knowledge comes power, and choice.

The impact of not living according to my values has caused my soul to become weary, wizened, dried out. I have spoken here of the impact of this, and the importance of soul rest. But this extends further. This isn’t simply about re-fuelling once we have become spent and exhausted.

This is about proactively choosing to invest in ourselves to prevent us burning out in the first place. When we know what matters to us most – our values – we can make better choices about how we use our time.

It also becomes easier to create good and grace-filled boundaries – when we know clearly what it is we are trying to protect. What do we need, what is most important to us, what is OK and what is not OK. Clarity on those topics – each of them huge – comes only when we are clear on our values.

Think about times of stress in your own life, and take a bravery pill and root under the surface. What led up to that time of stress?

  • Perhaps there been compromise of your values for someone else’s – you have heeded what matters most to the other at the expense of yourself.
  • Or short term gain at the cost of long term fulfilment or peace?
  • Perhaps you find yourself in a situation where you are rubbing up against someone else’s very contradictory values. Neither of you are wrong, but how do you unravel what is going on, and make a choice that respects what you both value? Consider the outworking of you valuing stability when someone close to you values risk taking. Or financial security versus generosity. The key is understanding what is going on.

Neglected values can only lead to discontent, discouragement, stress and unhappiness. Not a pretty picture, and not worth it. What is most important to you, where have you been neglecting that, and what first step towards change can you make this week?

Where there are values, there is conflict.

Values and conflict.

Values and conflict.

Ever found yourself in a situation of stress and turmoil that is entirely of your own making? Where you feel that there are two different voices inside you pulling you in different directions? Neither voice is wrong, but the fallout of trying to honour them both equally causes internal stress and external ramifications.

Until we understand what is going on here, it can be hard to reach a sense of peace. Decision making is more difficult, or reactionary, as we started talking about last week.

What am I talking about?

Values and conflict.

Specifically, conflict within our own value set. When two things that are important to you seem to clash.

An obvious example of this might be if you value both career success and family. Both are important, and this is not about judgement. Self-acceptance is about just that – accepting that what is most important to you is valid, and a part of who you are. Not the person next to you, you. There isn’t a hierarchy of values, ranked in order of worthiness or societal merit. Many people value success in their career, often linked to other values such as fulfilment, responsibility, achievement, hard work, inspiring others, mentoring, to name but a few.

But I digress…conflict can arise when we value both career success and family because there is going to be a huge two way pull on our time and energy.

Career success takes time, commitment, study and development, but the cost of this is likely to be time and energy for your family. If our workplace or career, or those we engage with outside the home get the very best of us in terms of energy, commitment, time, engagement, what is left for those at home? We have finite amounts of time and energy, so how do we decide who gets the best of our energy? And who do we disappoint?

For me, I value both authentic relationships and efficiency. Problems arise when I am a bit frazzled, my mind is over cluttered with stuff, and the house is a mess.

What do I want to do most?

Regain control of my environment and restore efficiency to bring order and calm to my mind. Nothing wrong with that. But…the problem is that in my often crazed-tasmanian-devil whirlwind of tidying up and regaining efficiency, I trample all over my nearest-and-dearest.

Those authentic, precious relationships that I say I value so much. Hmmm.

The result is not pretty, often involving angry words on my part, huffing and hurting on the part of other household members. Unhappiness and disconnect pervades in the home, the exact opposite of what brings my soul peace and conveys to my family that they matter to me.

Perhaps you value both harmony and accuracy. You might be asked to do a task or project for a friend- you don’t want to let them down but you have insufficient time to do the project well. Or take efficiency and excellence – when asked to do a task, is it more important to do it well, or to do it quickly?

And therein lies the answer as to how we learn to prioritise our values.

In that situation, at that time, what is more important?

With the harmony and accuracy example, if you know you have insufficient time to complete the task to the level that is important to you and reflects who you are, perhaps on that occasion the right decision is to kindly and politely say no to the request. Equally, if the consequences of saying no would be too serious in terms of the ensuing disappointment or potential conflict in that relationship, saying yes to the task but accepting that time implications might be the right way forward.

But until you know what is going on – what the internal dialogue needs to be – it is very hard to make decisions clearly and proactively.

Arranging our values in order of priority enables us to understand how to move forward when there is a clash that impacts our behaviour or decision making. With me, I am learning to warn the family first when I am about to have a mad half hour of tidying so they can stay out of my way and avoid emotional fallout. They understand why this is important to me, but I am learning that it is not fair to dump my stress and frustration on them.

So this week, as we continue to dig around under the surface and gain understanding of our values, a few considerations – where might there be conflict between your own values? How is this playing out this week in your decisions, behaviour, emotional well being? What is most important?

How do I decide what to say yes to?

How do you decide what to say yes to?

How do you decide what to say yes to?

How do our values inform or underline our decision making, and help us decide our priorities?

Let me ask you another question:

How do you decide what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to?

And have you ever been in the situation where you find yourself over committed, over tired, and over frazzled because you have said ‘yes’ to too many things, without thinking through the implications? Whenever we say ‘yes’ to something, we are saying ‘no’ to something else. It can be as trivial as saying ‘yes’ to a lengthy conversation with a well meaning sales person on the doorstep and therefore saying ‘no’ to 10 minutes peace with a cup of tea. Or it can be more complex like saying ‘yes’ to a long and involved phone conversation with a needy friend and therefore effectively saying ‘no’ to helping out one of your children with their homework.

Now I realise none of this is straightforward, and our responses will vary depending on the situation, the time available, our energy levels – to name a few. But this raises an important implication about understanding our values. When we cannot clearly say what matters to us most – what the guiding principles are by which we choose to live – we are much more likely to live reactively and not proactively:

  • to compromise with dissatisfying results
  • to be reactionary and make decisions in the moment
  • to choose the most convenient option in the short term, without thinking about the longer term implications
  • to choose the least painful option, as a means of avoiding conflict or having to say no to someone
  • to have no clear answer to the request when under pressure.

If our lives and decision making are not in sync with what matters to us most, the result is likely to be dissatisfaction, frustration, weariness, stress.

However, if we are clearly able to define what matters to us most – what our core values are –

  • we are more able to live proactively
  • we can be intentional and thought through in advance of making decisions
  • we are better equipped with a better understanding of the implications of each decision we make.

If we value peace and serenity, saying yes to too many social engagements or commitments is likely to cause us stress and fatigue.

Understanding the importance to us of financial security – and what is at the root of that for us – will impact how we use our money, and whether we will take a decrease in hours or look for a job change.

If family is top of the list of values, it may well be that a friend has a valid and important request on our time, but if at this stage in life, our teenager is facing huge challenges at school and needs our availability and support, we are more able to say a gentle but firm no to our friend.

So, take some time to think through what is most important to you, and what defines and characterises you most – be it creativity or challenge, friendship or frugality, integrity or inspiring others, respect for the environment or responsibility, trust or truth. The list is endless, the issue is boiling it down to what matters most to you.

And then it is possible to literally use this list as a basis for decision making –

How does this situation/request/event allow me to be/use/display ….

If I say ‘yes’ to this, how will it impact …..

How much time am I giving this week to …..

What do my choices this week say about ….

As you go about your life and business this week, take a little time to step back from decisions to ask, how does this line up with what is most important to me? If I say ‘yes’ to this, what am I actually agreeing to, why, and what am I saying ‘no’ to.

What do I value most? Introducing core values.

What are your values?What is most important to you?

That must be one of the questions I ask the most in my work as a life coach. Sometimes people will give an answer straight away, but more often, a pause and some inner reflection follows. Often, an initial answer will point to something that is important at that time, in that moment. A surface level of important, if you like.

But few can come summarise clearly and succinctly that which matters to them most at the deepest level. In coaching parlance, these are what we would call core values.

That’s all well and good I hear you say, but what are our core values?

  • They are the foundational beliefs that anchor our lives – the basis of our character, attitudes, actions, ethics and personal beliefs. They form a road map or guiding force for our lives – the core operating system if you will.
  • They are the things that matter to us – what motivates and characterises us indicates our values. Not sure of what your values are? Ask someone who knows you well to describe you in a few words, and you will start to get close to your values.
  • Our core values define our central passions and form the basis of our decisions. Knowing our values allows us to live proactively, not reactively – to make to be better equipped to understand the implications of what we say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to.
  • They are a framework for defining what we think is right and wrong. I value efficiency and organisation, and can therefore take a dim view of those who do not…and who therefore seem chaotic and unstructured to me. Judgement can creep in if we are unaware of what is at the root of our behaviour and assessments of others.
  • They are the non-negotiable characteristics that most clearly define our identities. Ignoring them or neglecting them ultimately causes stress and disconnect from who we really are.
  • Values are the driving force behind our work and our passions, but often deeply ingrained assumptions and therefore we are not always conscious of what they are or how they shape us.

Our core values are often molded early in life by parents, teachers, early experiences, authority figures and leaders, churches, role models. Think back to some of your early influences and the people that were around you as you were growing up. What did they instil in you? What did they model to you or expect of you? When you consider what is most important to you now, chances are you can trace the development of your core values back to some of these formative experiences.

Well, again – all well and good, yippee and so what?

I am with you.

I am a “So what?” person, and if presented with new information, will generally ask that question first. So what, what difference will that make, how does that change the way I live/approach decisions/get through the day?

Living in accordance with our values leads to fulfilment, and enables us to answer identity and purpose questions. Problems start when we have a disconnect with our own values, we don’t take them into consideration, we ignore them or – here’s the rub – we try and live out someone else’s.

So, over the next few weeks, we will be exploring further some of these issues. Today, simply stop every so often as you go about your business, and ask yourself –

Why did I make that decision? What is most important here?

Why am I so bothered about that person/conversation/event – what is at the root of how I am feeling?

– and you will begin to start identifying what your values are.