Back in high school, when I was working at my local Wendy’s, I learned a big lesson about living what’s most important to me. One day a customer ordered a Frosty then changed their mind, so I was told to throw it away. Seemed like such a waste, so some friends and I ate it.
We didn’t think it was any big deal, but the next day I was called into the manager’s office and asked about the incident. It didn’t cross my mind to deny my involvement, so I told the truth. My manager thanked me for my honesty and advised me he would have to let me go for violating a policy about not consuming anything in the restaurant that hadn’t been purchased. I was horrified! And what about the others who also ate the Frosty? The manager said that, because they had denied any involvement and he couldn’t prove otherwise, they wouldn’t suffer any consequences.
It was painful and embarrassing to be fired, and I was outraged at the unfairness of being the only one held accountable for the “crime” – but as I walked home, I held my head high. I had told the truth and, while I couldn’t have expressed it at the time, that kind of integrity is a core value for me. The embarrassment of being fired faded fast; had I lied, the shame would have stuck around indefinitely.
How are your values showing up in your life?
Values are so important in making decisions; in how we feel moment to moment. The life you have today is the result of every decision you’ve ever made. And those decisions are driven by our values. So the truth is, if you’re unhappy with something in your life or you don’t feel right about something, it’s probably because you’re going against what’s most important to you – your core values, which are your guiding principles. If you’re having difficulty making decisions; if you’re feeling disproportionate amounts of stress about your life’s path, it’s probably because there’s a misalignment with your core values.
The horses teach us a lot about values, because they live in full alignment with theirs every day. Trust is a big one – as prey animals, my horses choose to trust that I, a predator in their natural world, will care for them. They also teach us about curiosity, safety, and connection. They value congruence and if they have a choice, they will move away from us when we’re out of alignment, because it violates the safety and connection they value, and they can’t trust us in that state.
Take some time to reflect on this question: what are your core values? Do you know what they are and how they’re guiding your choices and decisions in life? When you’re not happy with something in your life it can feel daunting to make changes, but it’s so much easier to make different decisions and act accordingly when you know what your values are.
If you’re not clear about what a value is, think about what’s important to you – a lot of people say family, for example – and then think about what that brings you: security, love, connection, safety… whatever makes family important to you is a core value.
As we continue to live through this Covid pandemic, living into our values is more important than ever. If we value peace, how are we living it? If we value compassion, how are we offering it? If we value order, how are we creating it? If we value stability, how are we building it?
People are exhausted, frightened, and traumatized right now. When we act from our core values instead of reacting to their state, we help them regulate and find their alignment. This applies to our professional practice as well as how we’re showing up in the world generally. When we live our values, it helps others do the same.
When we find ourselves wanting to react, pausing to ask what value we want to embody instead can create a powerful shift and help us make better decisions in life and business.
Uncover your core values
Sometimes we can use a bit of help digging in to find our core values; to get past all the things we’ve been told we’re supposed to value, and to uncover what’s true for us at our core. The horses are brilliant at helping people learn to tell when they are aligned with their truth – and we’d love to support you in this important work! You may e-mail me to schedule an exploratory call or a values discovery session today! Bethany@BraveHeartGestaltCoaching.com
Bethany, Your story struck a nerve. When I was nineteen I worked at the lunch counter of Woolworth’s Department store. While cleaning up I found a woman’s purse left under the counter and I gave it to my manager. When the woman came to collect it she handed a 20.00 bill to my manager for being honest and turning it in. I was standing there. The manager bragged about how she would spend it. 20.00 would have meant a lot to me but honesty was more important. I had always looked up to my manager until that day. Our legacy is our core values. Even though I was given no recognition or reward, my reward is knowing I did the right thing.
Belle, So nice to hear from you!
Yes, even though it can be painful in the moment to have others be “rewarded” for dishonesty, the reward to those of us who stand by and live our values is always worth more in the long run!