Maintaining the connection with YOUR core values

The role of core values

Several months ago, I wrote a post about the benefits of having core values in life. The key components that act as guiding lights for you in times of decision.  They are not a list to tuck away or a static activity that you do once and feel temporary better.  Treat them like a map, or compass or GPS: maintain a connection with them by checking in regularly and assess your path.

The world is full of distractions and it’s easy to sway off our course without even realizing it.  You wouldn’t go for a hike into an unknown forest without a map or even a drive in a new city without a guide of some sort.  So why go through life without your own set of principles and values that you deem as vital for you?

Using your core values

In my own life, I have spent a great deal of time crafting the following components as my core values:

  • realistic about my thoughts
  • evolving (marriage)
  • engaging (work)
  • fueling (yoga and personal growth)
  • understanding (self)

When I’m at a decision making point OR in a situation that I’m not enjoying, I refer to this guide.   This compilation of values that I consider vital to a life well lived, has to be satisfied and when it’s not, that’s when I feel emotions like stress, anxiety and uncomfortableness.  It’s from the comparison between my core values and my reality that I know when I’m out of alignment.

Start today and map out where you want to go in life, and draw your map of values and principles that will get you there.

If not, are you willing to accept any final destination?

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The words you choose and your comfort zone

Our own limits make us smaller

Staying within our limits is designed to make us feel safe.  We can challenge ourselves up to the point where we think our limits lie, stay connected to the ideas that help support our own view of the world and believe that “this” is our zone that that is “their” zone.

However, over time that already small  zone starts to shrink and the idea of staying within our limits feeds the cycle and subsequently it gets smaller and smaller.

What holds us back from stepping out?

Is it ego and fear of trying something new and not looking good while doing it?  Is it lethargy and the ease of habit and routine?  Or is it something else?

Defining our limits into what we are comfortable with and what we are not does more than just draw lines in the sand and put up walls:  it makes us smaller and less actualized in our potential.

Changing how we define our comfort zone

What if we could reverse the circles so that the larger circle was the default, comfort zone and the smaller one represented only a few things that we wouldn’t do?   What if we could define our comfort zones based on beliefs or core values rather than simple actions?

Our comfort zone can often be a collection of thoughts such as:

  • I’m in this career now, I might as well ride it out.
  • I’ve smoked/drank for a long time, I doubt I could quit even if I wanted to.
  • I’ve always wanted to travel, but I’m not the traveler sort.
  • I’ve wanted to speak up for a while, but I’m known as the shy one.
  • I’d love to change “this” part of my life, but people wouldn’t understand it.

What if all of these statements of the comfort zone were replaced with statements like:

  • I’ll do anything that helps me to be a better person mentally, physically and emotionally.
  • Just because I’ve never done it, doesn’t’ mean I can’t
  • I won’t let doubt and fear be reasons of not trying
  • I’m not the people around me

This shift in perspective gives us permission to make our actions limitless and that circle of the comfort zone will expand over time rather than shrink.

What statements in your comfort zone could you replace so that they fuel your life rather than eat away at potential and possibility?

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Inside our heads

Our image vs. our thoughts

If you could attach a megaphone into the brains of everybody that broadcast all of their thoughts, then walking around would be a much different experience. The “well put together” and dressed people, would be telling a different tale as their true thoughts filled the space around them.  And the “sadder” disheveled guy in the corner, might really surprise you with his thoughts.

Stop comparing

What you see from others is not always what you get.  As you move in your path of personal change, don’t hinge your self worth on how you perceive others without actually knowing what that person is going through.  When you feel low or frustrated in your plans of change or that it’s been a bad week, ask yourself what standards you are holding yourself up to.  Is it to others or to actual measurable benchmarks that you are using to track your own progress?

Your progress is what counts

Thinking you are not good at something or it’s impossible is just that: a thought.  Set up systems on a regular basis that allow you to check in with YOURSELF and not waste your time inventing the stories of others and how you fall short of how you think they are doing.

Start by mapping your progress from a staring point and refer back to that point and not the movement of those around you in their process of change.  It’s important to honour the progress of others but stop playing the losing game of comparing.  You’ll both get there if you try and there are no points for style.  Just keep going.

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3 guide posts for personal change (aka how to eat an elephant)

Eating an elephant

The old question of “How do you eat an elephant?” has an obvious answer: one bite at a time.

However taking this past the literal question and extrapolating it’s meaning into tackling a large task, we can apply this saying to personal change.

3 guide posts to direct your daily efforts

Showing up to your personal change (the eating of your elephant) on a daily basis is challenging.  We have what we label as good days and hard days.   Keeping your attitude positive and realistic is key for continued growth.

As the days roll on, keep in mind the following guide posts:

  • Don’t let yourself get too many steps ahead of where you are by wanting it to go faster.  You’ll get there with diligence and a genuine daily effort.   Keep your mind on what you are doing and it will go a lot faster than having your mind on what you WISH you were doing.
  • Don’t let the entirety of the task stop you from taking a bite.  Break it down into manageable pieces that you can handle each day.  Over time, those smaller pieces will fit together to create the whole.
  • Don’t be afraid of taking a break or if a relapse of old behavior occurs, that is OK.  Progress is not linear and often the learning that comes from “failures”  is 20x greater than from “successes” (not the best terms but that is often how we define them).

Take a task that you are working on and ask yourself:

  1. Am I pushing too hard to get to the end?
  2. Am I looking at the whole rather than the daily pieces?
  3. How do I define my setbacks and do I learn from them?

Over to you.  How do you keep chipping at a large project day in and day out?  What changes in you on a daily basis?  What has a set back taught you?

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How do spot and deal with forks in the road

The ability to see a fork in the road

When I was 23, I spent several months traveling around southern Africa.  I traveled from South Africa up to Botswana by car, into Zimbabwe on the slowest train in history, and then the rest of the trip up to Zambia, Malawi, and eventually back down to Mozambique on the way back to South Africa by hitchhiking.  I’m not a hitchhiker by character, but in Africa, you take on many new roles outside of your normal self.

Along the way, I met up with an Australian named Tom from west Australia whose accent was so different from my own, that it took several days for us to tune our ears (after asking 5 times what my name was and me responding as “Kr-eg”, he asked me to write it down.  As soon as he saw it, he started laughing and let out a very loud and somewhat relieved “Ahh, Cr-a-i-eggg”).

We met in the town of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in a hostel. He was traveling with 2 others, and I had just arrived by myself from Botswana.  His friends wanted to head south back to Pretoria in South Africa but he was itching to go north up to Zambia to get into a “wilder” side of Africa.   That’s the way I was headed.   After getting to know each other, our accents and subsequent names, he quickly made the decision to leave his friends and go north with me.

The next morning, we stood out on the edge of town trying to hitch a ride and I asked him what made him leave his traveling mates and change itineraries.   His answer always stuck with me, “Look mate, this is a trip of a life time.  I could either go with them and regret it, guilt them to come with me when I know they’d rather be going south, or pick the plan that I most want to do to make Africa unforgettable.  So I came this way and let them go their own way.  It wasn’t easy, but in the end, I know this is what I want to do.”

Seeing the fork and your personal change

Obviously when you reach a fork in the road, you have to choose.

But the problem is that we don’t always realize that we are at a point of decision.

A choice made is another denied and as you move throughout your day, you hit forks all the time but the choices and consequences might not be so immediately obvious.  Your unconscious and habitual behavior despite being automatic are still choices; your health, diet, attitude, work ethic, and how you fill your time is picking one route over another.

The first step in choosing a direction at a fork in the road is realizing what your choices have been up to that point.  This then opens up the possibility of what other ones exist.  After that, then you can accurately decide if it’s north to Zambia you go, or south back down to South Africa.

Like Tom said, “it’s the trip of a lifetime”, so make your choices count.

What choices have you made in order to better yourself or live the life that you really want?  What forks have you been aware of and what have you picked over something else?

*We were picked up by a police truck (the photo) and went north 450km for the cost of a coke for the driver.*

 Photo Credit (an original)