The 3 Most Important Things You Don’t Know About You Any More
I find people are pretty fluent at talking to their strengths. We don’t like to call them talents, in the UK at least. But strengths seem ok. These are skills that we’re naturally good at. Usually these things overlap with what we enjoy doing. Or did. So, we built a career on them. Smart.
A pathway to success? Sure. In the career space, others hold up those things we do well and appreciate us for them. Not as quantifiable as education where we literally get scored and learn what we seem good at. A different number is crunched as we trade our time and get paid for our grown-up strengths later. We feel valued for them. It’s all good.
Or is it? Think about when our corporate homes give us training. They call it investing in us, because we’re worth it. But let’s be cynical for just a second. That investment is to bring our weaker skillset in line with what we’re naturally strong at because it plugs a skills-gap in the team. So now we get better at things that are not natural. If, over the years, we get promoted away from what we were best at and likely enjoyed most, we become less and less aligned. Is it still so good?
Mind The (Aspiration-Action) Gap
I’ve been asked 3 times this week ‘is it too late for me to make a career change’? My answer is always a fast ‘No. It’s never too late to be who you are meant to be’.
But, here’s a shortcut. Don’t get stuck operating at the surface – playing to strengths – innate or cultivated. It’s a wrong turn.
We’re all refreshingly different. We’re not good at keeping in touch with what is shifting underneath the exteriors we inhabit but dig deep. What really matters is what’s going on beneath the surface, at your core.
I call it an ‘aspiration-action’ gap. Secretly hoping for one career pathway but getting propelled along, building an expertise of others’ choosing. Too often, there’s a gap. And it’s one that matters if you want to feel fulfilled doing work you love instead of praised and paid for doing things that may come easy enough, but you’re not excited by. Or worse, just going through the motions feeling less and less alive as you go.
How To Get Back In Touch With You
Mine for your value-set. These are the things in life that spark a feeling of genuine aliveness when you express them. The tricky thing is we’re generally unaware of them. Oh, and they evolve.
None of us are the same person we used to be. As make sense of ‘events’ in our lives and careers, we evolve. It’s really about meaning-making, but it’s also why we need to keep in touch with who we are, at our core.
This evolution of Self is why a perfectly successful career can give way to frustration or feels empty later on.
To give you a couple of examples. One successful client of mine felt cheated by the revolving cast of characters involved in his company’s buy-out. He is a senior operator and had felt great ownership of his corporate home until then. The value that mattered here was integrity. He was highly successful at doing the job but had grown allergic to his corporate landscape when it lost integrity. Performing his everyday remit with ‘allergies’, was coming at too high a cost. He had to react, to take on board the new allergy that illuminated and jarred against his personal integrity. He made a plan to leave and realigned what mattered most in his next move.
For me, values came into focus as I became a mother. Heading up a department doing PR for the worlds’ largest baby-care brand, I became my ‘target audience’, and found the transition bumpy. What mattered most spoke louder than what I was competent at. So, the learning curve of mothering ‘won’ but felt like a defeat in some important ways because no-one mentioned this turn-key thing – my values.
Competing priorities will always collide when our sense of self had evolved but we get stuck performing an ‘old’ role. Psychology tells us this kind of inner conflict is felt most fiercely if the role given the most time (e.g. work) is the least salient (for me, e.g. mothering). And something has to give.
Ultimately, the psychological drive to resolve this kind of identity vs. role conflict is so great – we will just sweep in and fix it in one direction or the other. But opting for the quickest route to ‘make the pain stop’, is definitely not the way to optimise ourselves.
The 3 Most Important Things You Don’t Know About You
Values are the way we can optimise ourselves. These are so much more than a list of important beliefs. They are more like the compass that will keep your career well-aligned with who you are, at your core.
How so? By informing your next steps, your career choices. By showing you how to integrate your sense of self with the life you want to lead. One where you feel alive because you’ve aligned what you do with who you are…really.
Knowing your core values will bring some self-awareness but please know, it’s acting on them, expressing them that makes the real difference.
A well-trained coach will know how to intuit at the deepest listening level. They can identify your values within what feels like a rich conversation. Then illuminate them for you to see. But not everyone has a coach. So, I’m going to teach you to do this for yourself (and a friend).
Here’s how you are going to find the 3 most important things you don’t know about yourself (any more) and start to make a plan that realigns work you love with who you are…at your core.
- Use an online tool to get a drop-down menu of your personal value set. For me, this is just the conversation starter. And it’s a good one. But it’s limited. It cannot be the deep-dive. It cannot be bespoke to you and your life story. If you have time, compare these results with another online values assessment. Read the detail behind your top values. Consider as you compare, then take it further.
- Find A Friend. Have them do the same online exercises. Look at the top values that came out for you. Do you agree? Is there something lower down your list that needs to brought up before it feels right? Or do you feel the list of values is in the right orbit, but you need to put it into your own words to resonate better? Think about real life examples that bring these values to life to help you make your selection. Come up with your personal top 2 values.
- Now set up a time to have your powerful conversation together. Talking around values is deeply personal, intimate even. You will want proper space to do this. Tell each other why each of those top 2 values is as significant to you as it is. There may be a peak experience (career or personal) that brings each value to life. It may be one event that expresses all three. It will be like sketching out a scene in your storyline – either incredibly positive or indeed, the polar opposite. Either way, you will both observe that as you each talk about a core value, there’s a shift in energy. Almost tangible. Different from well-practiced patter. A real aliveness. That’s how you know it belongs in your top 2. Talk about what to label these values – tweak, edit, and revise until the wording is spot-on for you. This is who you are…underneath.
- Most people go through life unaware of their values. Now you have reflected on them, you are aware of the top 2 ingredients that define you individually, at your core. We’re not done though. Get fluent – share your values with me and others around you.
- Now it’s time to bring use these as motivational energy. Think about what you need to say no to in your current work-life reality. What goes against your values that you’re stuck doing. It may already be triggering an allergic-reaction or likely will over time. What value do you need to have, to do, to be expressing in your work, but isn’t there right now? Get clear on these aspiration-action gaps of yours and make a plan for change so what you do is aligned with who you are. Then act on it.
What's Important To Know About You, At Your Core?
P.S. If you think your friends would like this too, i’d love you to share it. Thanks. Warmly, Helen