This past year, I explored my values to center myself when I felt wholly unsure of what I wanted to do in life. I had a quarter-life existential crisis that I counteracted by working with my coach to understand my values and use them to guide my decisions, especially when it came to my career.

Anchoring in my values had a few major benefits for me:

Improved decision-making

As my husband can attest to, I am notoriously indecisive. I’m a maximizer — always looking for the best option. This approach often results in frustration, disappointment, and wasted time — especially when when you don’t actually know what you’re evaluating best against.

However, when I got clear on my core values & my ultimate ‘why’, decisions felt less stressful & became higher quality. Not only did I have more clarity on what I was optimizing for, but I also felt less pressure to find the best option. Instead, I looked for the option most aligned to my needs.

For example, in my job search, I had been scouring online websites, having informational interviews, and trying to find the best role. I was looking at positions based on what I thought my next steps ‘should’ be, letting external influence & an indecipherable gut feeling guide me. While I fully subscribe to trusting your instincts, it helps to have a translation as to what they might mean. Mine were yelling at me to stop trying to mold, shape, and deform my values & strengths into a box in which they just don’t fit. Instead, I shifted towards understanding how I could pursue a career that felt right, not forced. One that felt like me.

Increased comfort with uncertainty

This new career path — towards coaching and entrepreneurship — was a big shift from the reliable, corporate strategy roles that I knew. It wasn’t going to happen overnight. However, I was anchored in my values — not just reacting to that indecipherable gut feeling telling me to find a new job. I was more patient and less tempted to jump blindly to the next thing.

Another tricky trait of mine is that I can be too much of a ‘realist’ (which is, of course, a euphemism for cynical, risk averse, and a little bit pessimistic). Somewhere along the line, generalized anxiety stole away a lot of the starry hope out of my eyes, and I tended towards paths that made the most sense. That were more guaranteed. That were safe.

In the past, I might have thought a lot about this new idea of coaching. I might have researched a ton, gotten really excited, spiraled around, and then ultimately found all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. Instead, grounded in my values as the clear rationale for this decision, I took action. I enrolled in a coaching course. I started down the path without knowing what the final destination would be. I still don’t know, but I’m eager — not terrified (okay maybe a little terrified still) — to try it all on, to experiment.

Less planning, more dreaming

As I dive into the world of entrepreneurship, prototyping, and uncertainty, my normal comfort food of timelines, Excel spreadsheets, and 5-year plans won’t cut it. I need to be more agile & creative. The amazing thing about looking to satisfy your values — versus meeting a specific, narrow goal — is that it can be done in many different ways. Not only that, but the path can — and should — change fluidly as you learn more. While this can feel intimidating, the good news is you really can’t fail because there is no one right answer, no one right way to do things.

My coach noticed the day that I shifted from planning my future to dreaming about it. When I started painting the picture of a career in which I directly impact others, as opposed to worrying over the exact next steps to add to my ever-present to-do list. I have many ideas to be explored, not just one singular plan of action, one specific job, that I’m looking to achieve.

Focusing on values has allowed me to better understand — and thus trust — myself, allowing me to put less pressure on knowing ‘what’s next’ and expand my career tunnel vision. I know that if I maintain my curiosity as I work towards a values-aligned career, I can be more open to unexpected opportunities and more resilient in the face of obstacles. I can move forward with clarity and confidence — letting hope, not fear, guide me.

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“the good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction and not a destination” carl rogers

I definitely relate to a lot of the points you wrote here! Increasing comfort with uncertainty….right on.