“Can I tell you something Matt?” my friend Shawn said.
“Sure, anything” I replied
“I think you’re burnt out”
Thus began a whirlwind of paying attention to the warning lights on my dashboard of life. This conversation happened about two and half years ago and it was obvious to my friend Shawn that I was burnt out.
The reality was that I was fried. My job had lost it’s meaning, I was exhausted all the time. I didn’t have any margins to care for people, and I had become cynical about a lot of things. I wanted to hop a boat to somewhere in the South Pacific and live in a hut on the beach while drinking Mai Tais.
Thankfully I had some great friends help me begin to right the ship. The organization I work for allowed me a sabbatical and I ended up changing job roles about a year later. Today I’m more healthy emotionally, spiritually and physically than I have been in a long time. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m excited about the direction I’m headed. There was a key part of the journey that I want you to know about.
Looking back on that time it was clear that life was out of whack for me and the root of it came down to a simple realization. This realization is so simple that I’m kind of embarrassed that it took me so long to really stop and pay attention to it.
I simply wasn’t living by my values.
What I mean is that my job responsibilities, schedule and other life responsibilities weren’t playing well with what I wanted to be true of my life and my families life. There was a disconnect. The hard part about all this was that all the things I was giving my precious time to weren’t bad things, in fact they were really good things.
You see, I work for a large faith-based non profit that is changing peoples lives and making a difference in the world and yet I was struggling with motivation and feeling like the job was competing against my well-being. I honestly was confused at how I got to that point. Shouldn’t I be more engaged with work? Am I failure because I can’t do this particular job anymore?
Things started to change when I took some time to identifying values that I have. Values are simply what you think and believe to have the most importance in life. Another way to put it is what do you want to be true of your life?
I began to ask myself those types of questions and began to get some answers. Keep in mind that I come from a faith-based worldview so I have a that filter that I run things through. Here’s my initial list from the first time I did this a couple years ago…
- That I would love and serve my wife and kids well and together we would bring hope and healing wherever we go.
- That I would be a faithful presence in my natural sphere of influence (neighborhood, schools, city, etc.).
- That I would be a life long learner
- That I would be marked by healthy rhythms of rest and work
- That my life would be simple – uncluttered calendar, house, etc.
Pretty simple right? Nothing rocket science there, but for me a light bulb had turned on. I could now hold up my current responsibilities next to the things I valued and see where they didn’t fit together.
So now it’s your turn. Take about 20 minutes to run through this values exercise. Please note that there isn’t a perfect way to do this and I’ve continued to become aware of things that I value and want to be true as time has gone on, but I think that starting with some simple questions can help you get some traction.
I recommend trying to come up with about 5-8 values statements based on your answers to the following questions. Anymore than that and they lose their meaning.
So again pull out a piece of paper or a Evernote file and and answer these questions to see if you can bring clarity to your values.
- What are you doing when you feel the most peace in life?
- If you could only do one thing each day what would it be?
- What were you doing the last time you were truly happy?
- What makes you really angry?
- Who do you admire the most?
- When are you at your best?
- Are there areas of your work that you feel particular energized in?
- What projects do you wish you had more time to do?
- What are the 3-5 most significant accomplishments that you’re proud of?
- What do you want your family to experience?
- When you’re 60 what do you hope to have done?