By Lauretta Justin, OD, of Orlando, Florida
Is your life out of balance? Do you often feel overwhelmed, exhausted and stuck? It may be because you are not living according to your core values. In this article, I will share what core values are and they are the secret to work-life balance.
What are core values?
Core values are traits or qualities that you consider not just worthwhile, they represent an individual’s or an organization’s highest priorities, deeply held beliefs, and core, fundamental driving forces. They are at the heart of what you; your practice and its employees stand for in the world.
Most people coast through life without any kind of consideration for what is truly important to them. This means that unfortunately for many, life is something that ‘just happens’ to them. Even tough, they are making hundreds of decisions every day; those decisions aren’t directed towards a specific purpose.
When I started my practice in 2006, I was working six days a week, while raising a family with three young boys. I would come home each day after a long day at work and do homework with the kids while cooking dinner. Once dinner was over, I would then wash the dishes and clean the house. Once the house was clean, it was time to get ready for bed. I would wash each boy, get them in their PJs, read them a story, say our prayers and put them to sleep.
Once they were asleep by 9:00 p.m., I’d take a shower and get on my computer and do admin work for my office until the wee hours of the night. This was very hard on my marriage. In the morning, I’d wake up and cook breakfast, get everyone ready and drive them each to their destination. And the day would repeat again… With little league, soccer, basketball and church volunteering added to the mix, my schedule was spiraling out of control. I constantly felt stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted and completely out of balance.
One day I got a comment from a patient complaining that we were not open enough days and therefore not convenient enough. NOT CONVENIENT ENOUGH! That day, I lost it. I had been trying to make everyone happy including my patients in spite of the toll it was taking on me. I couldn’t believe that it still wasn’t enough! I was so angry when I heard that comment that I unleashed all my frustration on that patient that day. That was a bad decision, one I paid for dearly for a very long time.
However, that experience did stir something in me. I began asking myself some tough questions; all of them starting with—why? Why is my office open 6 days a week? Why do I have to do everything at home? Why is my family involved in so many activities? As I questioned myself more and more, I realized that I didn’t know why. I was doing everything I thought I should do, but not what I really wanted to do. It was time for a change!
To restructure our lives, my husband and I came up with five core values that we would live by. Once we began setting priorities and making decisions according to those core values, our lives completely changed! I went from working six days a week to three-and-a-half per week. And to my amazing surprise, when I reduced my hours, my income grew by 50 percent! Unbelievable!
After talking to our kids, we realized that they didn’t like sports. They were doing it because we told them to do it. So we stopped running around to all these sport activities and started doing things we really enjoyed as a family. Things like playing hide and seek in the house.
Since my business was finally making more money, I was able to hire a cleaning service so I’d have more time to do whatever else I wanted. Life became fun! I was no longer overwhelmed, stressed or exhausted. Because I was now living according to my core values, I felt in control of my life. Consequently, I felt that my life was in harmony. There was balance!
Why are core values important?
• They help us identify our priorities.
• They guide our decisions, intentions and behavior.
• They help us decide what to make time for and what not to make time for.
Our core values are at the foundation of who we are and if that foundation starts to crumble, nothing will be stable—not even your best plans for achievement. We are now on shaky ground and the energy around our efforts and behavior is no longer strong. This can make a person feel uncertain, overwhelmed and out of balance.
While there are hundreds of different values, you typically will live your life according to only about five to eight core values. There are times when core values can shift and change. Sometimes we may take on the values of our family or the community in which we live or grew up in.
However, we can also make a conscious decision to adjust or change values when they are no longer in alignment with who we are or who we want to become. Our values can also strengthen over time. For this reason, it is important to check in with your core values regularly, a bit like assessing your direction and path midway on a journey.
When we make decisions that are not based on our core values even if we succeed, we often feel unfulfilled. Especially, if we intuitively feel “off” or “not right” about that action or that outcome. Sometime we may try to ignore, avoid or suppress this “off” feeling and try to continue on. When we do this we create unnecessary stress for ourselves and our loved ones.
How to identify your core values
Step 1: Identify and write down six people who are important role models or valued connections for you.
Step 2: Think of the values they embody. For example, your list might include: “my grandfather for his acceptance and love,” “my husband for his kindness,” “my colleague for his listening skills,” and “my friend for her loyalty,” to name a few. These values you admire in those role models are clues to what’s important to you.
Step 3: Use a values inventory. You can find various values inventories online. This free, online values inventory is available to members of OptometryDivas.com.
Step 4: Keep a journal. As you journal about your day to day experiences, you’ll start noticing patterns. These patterns of feelings, decisions and behaviors will help you identify some of the values that guide your day to day living.
Step 5: Think about some of the peak and low experiences in your life. For example, if you felt a lot of pain in the past after the betrayal of a friend, loyalty might be an important value for you. Or, if you were voted most likely to succeed in high school, achievements may be important for you. These moments could direct you to what you care about most.
Are you ready to create the life you deserve?
How do you identify the priorities in your life and your practice right now? What guides your decisions, intentions or behavior? How do you determine what to focus your time on each day? Without identifying a set of guiding core values, it will be very hard to set priorities and live according to what’s important to you. Without identifying your top five to eight core values, your life will be out of balance.
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