Taking Control of your Internal Compass

The choices we make in life, the directions in which we head, are to a significant degree determined by the values that we hold – that is what we attach the most importance to in life. These values act as a type of internal compass. But it’s a compass that we can learn to master. You can choose what is true north in your life.

It’s rare that people will actually be aware of their values. Mostly this stuff just goes on in the background. We see it in the decisions we make every day and the accumulation of the effects of these decisions over time. Compare for example, two people. One eats only really healthy food, and has a habit of saving and investing. The other eats mainly fast food, and lots of processed foods, rarely exercises and never saves a penny. These people have different values in place. And the effects will be easy to see. This is just a simple example, but I’ll repeat the point – values determine how we choose, and it’s the choices we make that determine the shape of our life.

It’s rather like the operating system on your computer. Mostly you have nothing to do with your OS, except when you install it, make repairs, or replace it entirely. To continue with this analogy for a moment – recurring problems will often indicate an error in the system. The trick is being able to get in there and locate the error and install some new code. This is basically what a coach does – helps you find the underlying errors in your operating system and lets you install new, more effective codes.

What do I mean by ‘error’. Basically an error is anything that doesn’t produce the result you want, a result that supports and sustains you in your life at this moment. So if you’re about to die, and you want to live, but you continue making choices that sabotage your efforts, then you probably have a set of values that priroritises enjoyment over health or something like that.

We have value sets for every aspect of our life. There are our big overarching values that address the question: what are the emotional states that I value most in life?

Then there will be values around things like money, eating, relationships, leadership, business etc..

I’ll give you a couple of example to show you how this works. It’s such simple stuff, but it’s immensely powerful.

OK, Money. Just say you have a problem staying out of debt. You desire wealth, but you consistently run into financial trouble. When you get your pay it just seems to go on stuff. Most of it may be deemed essential, but basically it just goes – even when you get a windfall.

I might ask you, what the first thing you think about when you think about money? You might say “paying bills.” You’ve got lots of bills to pay, etc.. so that makes sense. Or you might say “staying out of debt”.

Now after more questions we find that your priorities are:

– Paying bills

– Reducing debt

– Spending

– reducing debt

– Saving (in order to spend)

So, I ask them what about saving and investing? What about creating wealth? Where are these on your list of priorities?

No answer.. (this is a good sign!)

I wonder how different this person’s situation would be if “creating wealth” became a top priority, replacing reducing debt and paying bills. And I wonder how this might improve again if Investing and Saving were added or pushed higher up the list. I mean, even with just 5 core values, you can still fit in ‘Enjoyment’, but it might be at 5 rather than 1 and 3.

You just have to look at this logically. If you want to be in a better financial position it makes sense to put making money before spending it. If you are focussed on making more money and saving you are going to have more than enough to pay your bills and enjoy spending.

So an alternative list might look something like:

– Creating wealth (so that I always have more than enough to live the life that I want and am able to support my family and community).

– Saving

– Investing

– Philanthropy

– Enjoyment

You see, this is a completely different mindset, and the results are going to be entirely different than the previous.

The fact is you can only change these values if you are aware of them.

Try this with your career, or food. When you’re looking for a job, is the most important factor how much the job pays, or is it job satisfaction and connection with like minded people? When you think about food, do you place nutrition above or below enjoyment? If you value enjoyment over nutrition, I can bet you that you’re finding it difficult not to eat things that are not good for you and you may even be suffering from nutrition related health problems such as obesity, reduced immunity, high blood pressure etc.. if not now, then in years to come.

If health and fitness is a problem, where does it sit? What are you consistently putting ahead of this?

So in any area of your life, if you’re not getting the results you want, or if your having difficulty keeping to a self-improvement plan – look at your values. Ask yourself whether they are really serving you. Unlke other operating systems, these ones are free to change and you can install updates whenever you like. And you need to because different values will serve you in different times of life. Someone who is happy and single for example, might prize their independance. But this might make it hard to function in a relationship even if they want to.

So, jump in and have a look. You’ll be amazed at what you find. Once you’ve found what your operating system is setting you up for, ask yourself whether this is helping to creating the life you desire and deserve or getting in the way of it.

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