I’ve had many conversations with people this year who are not quite sure what they want out of life, or an area of life such as their job or a relationship. I’ve noticed a tendency for people to be clearer about what they don’t want than what they do want. And it seems many of us don’t even let ourselves ask the question: What do I want?
Reflecting on this, I remembered the day I learned it’s ok to think about what you want. It was at the marriage counsellor.
I was in my early 20’s. I’d been engaged for two years, and after much deliberation and angst I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be a good idea to get married. The problem was I didn’t really know why in a way that I could articulate to myself or anyone else. So I took myself off to a marriage counsellor.
The counsellor very kindly asked me what I was trying to figure out, and I told him my story. He heard about my worries, what was making me unhappy and what I was confused about. Then he asked me if I’d ever thought about what I wanted in a relationship. I looked at him blankly. No, not really.
Gosh, I’d fallen in love. Isn’t that what you do? I didn’t have a checklist. I just went for it!
It’s just that one day I found that what I had was making me unhappy, and all I’d done to try to make it better hadn’t made enough of a difference.
The counsellor then went on to ask me what was important to me – eliciting what I now understand to be my ‘relationship values’. Then he asked me which 8-10 of them were my non-negotiables – what were my must-haves? This time my look was of unbridled surprise - “You mean I’m allowed a list?! You mean, there can be non-negotiables on it?!” I was honestly and truly gob-smacked at this news.
I was AMAZED I could choose things that mattered to me, and then ask for them in a relationship or someone else.
Once I was over my initial shock, I started to think about what really mattered to me. We compared that with what I had, and suddenly I could see why I’d been so unhappy. I could then articulate it to myself and my dear fiancé, so he could reach some understanding too. It made our separation much smoother than it could have been, and very amicable.
I also realised that you could know something felt right for you, or not, even when you didn’t know why - and it was okay! Sure, it was nice to clarify and figure it out, but it was also okay to simply trust the feeling.
Many years later and with much more learning under my belt, I can see how we can get rather muddled up trying to figure out what we want! For one thing, we can be driven to avoid something as much as we can be driven toward what we want – and that is not always easy to spot.
When I first came across the NLP Values Process, I discovered that one of my top relationship values was Trust; but not in a positive ‘trusting’ kind of way. It was more about not having someone say one thing and do another or be dishonest. And this was my highest priority value! I had no idea trust was such a big deal for me - I hadn’t been conscious of it until that moment. And in the meantime, some of my other values such as Love and Fun were being shoved down the list, while Trust got all the attention. It wasn’t going to help me find and nurture the kind of relationship I truly wanted.
Once I had this awareness I could work on healing the mis-trust and moving towards what I wanted. Understanding your Values sets a powerful foundation for creating the relationship (or career, home, life) you want.
So, what do you want?
Let yourself ask the question. Go crazy! Find out what really matters to you. Only then can you take the next step, and congruently at that. Congruence means all parts of you are in alignment. When there is agreement, things just go more smoothly. Have you noticed that with others in meetings or in working on projects?! It is the same inside yourself. But we have to listen to all parts of ourselves to find that agreement; not ignore our gut response, or leave out our hearts’ desires. And giving ourselves permission to ask at all is a good start.
Ask. You deserve the answers.
We will be exploring values in my new 6-month programme Life the Right Way Up.
And if you’d love to experience the Values Process for yourself, email me to make a time. I’d love to help! It is one of my favourite things to do with clients because it is such a fascinating and illuminating discovery process.