Is it time to reconnect with yourself and what motivates you? Maybe you're returning from a gorgeous unplugged holiday, passing a milestone like a birthday or preparing for a new phase after retirement, redundancy or maternity leave. Or it might be a more subtle nudge – a sense that life’s starting to feel a little stale, or the path you're on doesn’t feel as exciting as it once did. Today I want to share what I’ve learned about how to get back on track, and share a simple 4-step process you can use whenever you need to plug back into your motivation.
Often, when you feel like you need a “fresh start”, the temptation is to launch into action. You know the drill: You set some outlandish goals (rising at 4am! 1 hour’s meditation every morning!), write yourself an impossible to-do list, and attack your priorities like a woman possessed.
There are two problems with this.
Firstly, driving yourself to do more and more as a way of avoiding the sense that you’re fundamentally dissatisfied is a bit like turning the treadmill up to a faster speed, instead of asking yourself if you want to be on it in the first place.
It exhausts you, setting you on course to end up frazzled and even burnt out. Paying attention to that little “I could do with a boost” niggle now can save you a whole stack of problems in the long run, when your body ends up forcing you to take a break.
Secondly, it’s not actually very effective. There’s a reason why New Year’s Resolutions are so notorious for barely lasting beyond the average New Year’s Day hangover. When we focus on what we’re doing, instead of why we’re doing it, it’s exponentially harder to maintain motivation and keep going.
So although the “superwoman” within might balk at the idea of taking time out to dig into what really matters instead of just blindly getting on with things, this might actually be the most productive thing you can do with your time. It's the process I use at the start of every year and whenever I need to reconnect to a fresh energy. Quite simply, it's how to get back on track.
How to get back on track – the 4 step process
#1 Write down your values
If you’ve been in our community a little while, or you’ve been on a One of many retreat, you’ll already be familiar with your values. But it’s still worth checking back in and asking yourself the simple question: “What’s most important to me?”
If you’re not familiar with your values, they’re one word or short phrases which describe the things which matter most to you in life. What’s important to remember is they’re abstract, intangible concepts: things like love, connection, mastery, influence or service. (The shorthand we often use to check whether something’s a value is “you can’t put it in a wheelbarrow!”)
Your values provide your upfront motivation in life – if you do something, it’s because consciously or unconsciously you believe it’s of value.
So take 15 minutes or so to write your list of the things which matter most.
Next, go through your list and do a quick edit. Group together any which feel really similar so that you have a slightly shorter list, of up to 10 key values.
When you have your most important values, it’s time to number them in order of importance.
If you could only express one value in your life, what would that be? That’s your number one. And so on, until you’ve given each value a number.
A note if you’re a perfectionist: It goes without saying that this is an exercise that’s just for you. There’s no magic formula which will give you the “right” answer, so try not to overthink it too much!
#2 Where’d all the time go?
OK, so you’ve spent some time looking at your values and you’ve figured out how you’d like them to look in an ideal world. Hopefully, you've created a vision that makes you feel GOOD. If you spent each day with those values guiding you, you’d be fulfilled, happy and feel on track.
So what’s happening right now that means you don’t feel that way?
Time to play detective.
And here’s the thing – we’re actually, most of us, pretty bad at guessing how we spend our time. So I recommend a forensic approach. For as long as you can – a week is ideal – set a timer on your phone for 15 minutes and when it goes off, jot down what you’re doing.
That might sound like a lot, but the insight you’ll gain from tracking a week of how you spend your time is absolute gold when it comes to working out why you’re feeling a little “meh” about life.
Because the second part of this time-tracking phase is to note down the value that’s behind each activity.
The beauty of tracking your time in such detail is that you really get to figure out what drives you for even the smallest detail of your day.
A quick example: when I last did this exercise, I found myself wondering what need my daily showers met. Was it cleanliness? Professionalism? Approval?
No, actually, I realised that the value that lay behind my morning shower was vitality. Those precious minutes wake me up and leave me feeling energised and alert for the day ahead.
So get stuck in, and be honest! Some of your answers might surprise you.
#3 Journal about what you discover
This step is one which you’ll probably be itching to get to after you’ve completed your values list and your time audit. You can really discover some fascinating insights when you compare and contrast your two lists.
Perhaps – like me and my showers – you’ll be surprised to find the elements of your day which do align with your values, and feel grateful for those pockets of real fulfilment.
This is a great opportunity to practice conscious gratitude, whether it’s the love you’re expressing as you scrape your kid's porridge off their bib or the service you show to your team when you respond promptly to their questions.
You’ll also find activities where there’s a gap between your values and how you spend your time.
Are you wasting your days at a job you’re really only at for the approval it’s winning you, or showing up for an exercise class you don’t enjoy because you’re “committed”? Then it's time for step 4...
#4 Work out what needs to change
When you spot a gap between your “ideal world” list of values, and how you’re spending your time, it’s time to start thinking about what changes you need to make.
Sometimes just getting that awareness is enough to make changes.
You can start to make choices about activities you want to let go of, and things you want to get more of – in a far more powerful way than selecting activities on an arbitrary basis.
If you’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of unconscious patterns at play, or drivers like fear or approval that are pushing you towards activities which don’t feel fulfilling, we’d love to help.
Click here to book in a call with one of the team and we can explore what might be going on, and whether one of our retreats or programs could help.
Enjoy the journey
If you’ve heard the old adage “it’s about the journey, not the destination” you might have found yourself wondering how that’s possible, when times are tough. Connecting to your values is the answer. If you understand your life values, you can start to feel more fulfilled in your every day, no matter what’s going on around you.
I'd love to know your values, and how much you feel your daily life is currently aligned with them. Share your top 5 in the comments!
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