Call it gut instinct, intuition, a ‘funny feeling’ or a hunch – but there are times when we all get the sense that ‘something isn’t right’. I’m fascinated by the possibility that we can ‘know’ something, without knowing ‘why’ – and I love pondering the thrilling, slightly spooky idea of just how far our amazing minds could take us, if we tapped fully into the power of the subconscious …
But that’s not what this article is about.
This unexplained sense that you’re on the wrong track – or making the wrong decision, or you’re in the wrong job or friendship or relationship – might have nothing to do with your ‘third eye’, and everything to do with the values and ideals that you hold in the highest regard – and how far you’re drifting away from them.
What is most important to you in a career? What’s most important in a relationship? Make a big list of everything that occurs to you.
Take work as an example. You might value fun. You might value connecting with like-minded people or problem-solving. Maybe it’s flexibility that floats your boat. Maybe it’s certainty. Maybe it’s a fast or chilled pace. Perhaps it’s integrity or creativity or using your hands. It could be significance or growth or contribution…
When you have your list, try ordering the ideas from most to least important. Narrow it down, until you have a core list – the elements that you must have to feel fulfilled professionally.
If these elements are missing in your current role – even if, ‘on paper’, this job is everything you’ve always thought you wanted – you may feel that ‘something isn’t right’, or ‘something’s missing’. Similarly, if you’re focusing on a list of personal, relationship or family values, and if the circumstances of your life are not reflecting these, you might feel restless and out of alignment with the person you know yourself to be.
When I launched my business in 2009, I took a massive plunge and left a secure and stable role in the public sector. With a young family, it was a watershed decision to leave behind a job that ticked a lot of boxes – good salary, great Super scheme, tons of sick leave and relatively flexible working conditions.
The work just wasn’t ‘me’, though – and it was more than that. Monday mornings filled me with a seeping dread that settled in on Sunday afternoon, and soaked right through my family life because I wasn’t as ‘present’ as I could have been, while this part of my life felt derailed.
It’s the polar extreme of how I feel about my work now, which is a perfect match for my top values, professionally: creativity, variety, passion, helping people and making a difference. Once I started doing something that was a great fit for this set, my motivation soared. I felt like ‘me’ again.
Clarity on values is a decision-aid that stops you from over-committing to a mash-up of unfulfilling responsibilities that drain your energy. It takes the guess-work out of wondering which invitations and opportunities to accept or decline, because they either match your value set or they don’t.
Saying ‘no’ gives meaning to your ‘yes’. It’s how ordinary people find the time to follow their dreams – how busy working mums fit in exercise and how people with day-jobs have the energy to write novels or paint or learn a musical instrument.
At every fork in the road, if you align your choices with the things that matter most to you – if you give these choices prominence in your life, pushing what matters less, further down the list – something’s going to start feeling very right. I just ‘know’ it.
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