What do you really care about?
Discovering what is important to you gives you freedom to live in harmony with yourself. Knowing one’s values gives a person a sense of identity, direction in life, clarity in decision making, and the motivation to set and achieve personally meaningful goals.
Clarifying Values is the core of life coaching process
A decision maker’s story
This story illustrates how clarifying values helps making decisions easier.
Last week, I received a call from my friend Ritu, who lives in Australia, seeking my advice on a career-related international move. Her husband has received a lucrative job offer from a major American company. He is keen to take up the job offer, but only if Ritu and their kids move together with him. The family has less than a month to decide, pack up and move across the Pacific.
Ritu is under considerable stress to make such a high-stakes decision rather quickly.
Ritu and I spent some time building multiple scenarios which may unfold if she decided to move her family internationally. We discussed the possible impacts the decision may have on each member of the family: herself, her teenage son and her young daughter, and of course her husband. We talked about the different ways in which the decision to move home may impact their financial, social and emotional lives.
Most importantly, I warned her that none of these scenarios could be predicted accurately or outcomes controlled too tightly. Was she comfortable handling uncertainty and staying open to making a few mistakes?
The Tough Dilemma
My friend’s dilemma is not unlike what many women face in their own lives. As a wife, she wanted to support her husband in his achieving his career ambitions. As a mother, she wanted to protect her children from the trauma of leaving behind their home and friends. My friend is an engineer and has a nice job, but she was barely thinking about her own career.
If the family moved, her teenage son could lose a lot - friends, a good school, a brilliant academic career and a sport he loved and played at competitive level. If they did not move, her husband would miss a good opportunity to gain international work experience which has become de rigueur to career success. Either way she decided, Ritu would have made someone she loved quite unhappy.
This case illustrates the kind of complex personal cum professional decisions many contemporary women are challenged to make - as mothers, as wives, as professionals and as pivots of their families - in an increasingly globalised world.
What should a person do when caught on the horns of a dilemma?
An Honest Discussion
The best option would be to have a family discussion, on Values. Values here mean the things you care about. The family could list six or eight important values such as stability, growth, friendship, freedom, accomplishment, security, adventure, stability, togetherness, personal power, etc.
Now the crucial part is to run the scenarios through the list of Values to evaluate which of your core values may be honoured or suppressed in a particular decision.
Which values will be honoured/suppressed, if the family moved?
Which values will be honoured/suppressed if the family did not move?
Moving the entire family internationally from Australia to USA may uphold the value of togetherness but may compromise on stability. Decision to stay in Australia, may honour the value of her children’s stability but compromise on her husband’s growth. It is a hard choice.
This values exercise would make it clear that any decision would be a difficult one, a win-lose outcome in any scenario. The aim of Values Clarification exercise is to become aware of what you care about the most, to make choices to uphold core values important to you and make conscious trade-offs, if required.
I have some kindred experience in making trade-offs in complex decisions having moved three countries in the last five years with my family.
We have learned to make the best possible decisions with limited information and increase our tolerance to making mistakes. We have discovered that outcomes are rarely as planned and many things do go wrong.
For instance, our last move from US to Canada was the shortest, so we assumed it would be the easiest. But it was full of surprises!
The moving timeline was stretched by many months. It cost us twice more than estimated. Our son is attending a French Immersion school we had crossed off our shortlist. We live in a suburb with steep roads, the one I had vetoed for falling outside my driving comfort zone!
But we are doing alright. Our family is together, our son is getting a good education, and we are pursuing meaningful vocations in a wonderful city. These important factors override the unforeseen challenges and changes in plans. Knowing and upholding our core values has allowed us to make imperfect decisions with lower stress and face uncertainty with more equanimity.
The Value Compass
In your lifetime, there will be many occasions you will be called upon to make choices, to take the proverbial fork in the road. Using your Core Values like the North Star will reliably guide you in making decisions towards a more fulfilling life.