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Why digging deep can be uncomfortable but...worth it!


I have been reflecting on how much we have collectively learned in 2020.  We’ve learned so much about ourselves as well as some of us learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge.  As well as having learned lots of new things for my business (some much more enjoyable learning experiences than others!), I have kept up my lifelong learning with reading and doing a couple of online courses.  I would normally share some of that knowledge in my final email of the month.  But this month, I wanted to share with you some personal learning that I have taken away from my “partial immersion” in Brené Brown’s good work.  It’s quite a personal share but I hope that it will be thought-provoking for you.  There’s also a great exercise for you to do as well ??


I have been talking about Values with my clients since I began my coaching five years ago.  Values was a concept that really resonated with me in my training and I’ve seen it have an enormous impact on my clients.  Values are the core of who we are; our drivers; our motivators; our very essence.  In identifying and understanding our Values, we can create more meaning and purpose in our working and personal lives.

About four years ago, I did a Values assessment which identified my top three Values as “Altruism”, “Aestheticism” and “Theoretical”.  In other words, “helping people”, “valuing harmony & beauty” and “love of learning”.  These have always resonated with me and I wrote a previous article about this.

Enter Brené Brown.  In her “Dare to Lead” approach, Brené offers up a list of Values.  I’ve attached them so you play along (you can add your own) - Values Dare to Lead.pdf:

  1. You only have one set of values.  They do not change whether you’re in a personal or professional context.
  2. You can only pick two values. Start by circling 10 - 15 and then work down to your top two; you can’t stop until you’ve picked two.  Your two core values will correlate with the others you circled.
  3. A value must be authentically you.  Don’t circle words that resemble something you’ve been coached to be or think you should be.
  4. A value is your North Star. It’s precise and clear. They’re the beliefs that are most important and dear to you, that help you find your way in the dark, that fill you with a feeling of purpose.

Values in Focus

I actually found this exercise pretty difficult to get down to two Values.  This is quite common.  However, I did it and I ended up with these two: “Service” and “Freedom”.  I immediately felt uncomfortable, a bit nauseous even.  Why?  Surely identifying your North Star(s) should be liberating, like coming home!  But no.  It slowly dawned on me that my two top Values are IN CONFLICT.  If I choose Service, I lose Freedom.  If I choose Freedom, I lose Service.  But they both felt equally important.  Yikes!

Like any good coach, I thought “I need some coaching on this” and lo and behold a peer coaching opportunity was available that week.  It took a lot of digging for me to move my thinking forward during this coaching session and here is what I learned:

Values are deep-rooted. It turns out I have my Dad to thank for both of mine.  I was brought up by parents who were both very charitable and did important, meaningful jobs (cancer research and nursing).  This sense of Service runs through me whether I like it or not.  However, my Dad was 55 when he died and never made it to retirement which is where he planned to live out many of his dreams.  20-year-old me vowed never to let that happen to me!  Hence, Freedom.

Choose your words carefully. During the coaching, I started to realise that it was the words I had chosen that were creating conflict for me.  I started to reframe the two Values and they morphed into “Kindness” and “Independence”.  Immediately, I felt comfortable.  I felt that these two things could sit together nicely, and one did not smother the other.  I also felt that they were deeply rooted into my core. 

Hold your values close but not too tight. The other thing that emerged with the changing of the words was that “Service” felt like a duty, a legacy that I was carrying forward for my Dad.  A burden.  “Kindness” felt more like a gift that he had given me.  “Freedom” on the other hand had made me feel that all I cared about was myself, my own views and my own opinions.  “Independence” feels stronger, less self-indulgent and, strangely, more freeing.  It felt like I had loosened my grip on them, releasing me to use them in a more positive way and no longer feeling constrained by them.

What to do now

Have a go at the Values exercise!  I’d love to know your top 2 Values if you’re willing to share?  I showed you mine…

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