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  • Writer's pictureLeela Kirloskar

Embodying your Values

Integrity is choosing courage over comfort. It’s choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. It’s choosing to practice your values rather than simply professing them. ~ Brené Brown

In January, I often have a sense of time slowing down as the new year begins its seasonal cycles. By mid-month the pace picks up gently, like the spring breeze clearing out cobwebs and dry leaves to make way for the bright flowering trees of Bangalore which will soon blossom. As the last weekend of the month swings by, I am prodded to write, finally, by the memory of a large black pond turtle that climbed out of our well a few months ago and trekked across the property on powerful leathery feet to rest under the guava trees below the lawn. I remember marveling at its gifts of tenacity and resilience, its grounded and purposeful connection to the earth; a moving slow beauty of being as it embodied an ancient legacy – a deep inner wisdom knowing the way forward, all wrapped up in a tough shell yet core to its very existence. We have gifts like these too, inherent in our being. We call them values, gifts that guide us, hold us close to what we care most about, and help us act from our truth. As I slowly begin to unfurl my core to meet the new year, living from my values becomes an integral part of my inner embodied conversation. It helps me to set intentions, stay creative and make new commitments to support my work and life. Here’s how it can become yours.

The language of values is a powerful one. As a coach, when I ask a client so, what do you care about? what I’m really asking is a core question about what matters to you, what inspires your commitment to action, and what connects to your truth. Or, more simply, what’s important for you about this? I’ve noticed these are questions that resonate deeply in the heart, making for a conversation that is both enriching and inspiring. Values remind us of what really anchors our personal journeys. One of my earliest values was tenacity, which I defined as a fierce, quiet determination that carried me through graduating as a lawyer, becoming a mother and eventually, choosing to move towards the life and work that was calling to me. Later, both integrity and learning became interlinked as my core way of being, remaining the values I turn to when I need to question or reset choices. Since then, I’ve learned words have much power. That’s why it’s important to remember that the values we hold empower us as much as keep us honest to our limitations – are they a nice to have or am I living them? Exploring this landscape – of the words that make up personal values – builds a muscle of awareness, expression and most importantly, choice. When you make your values an everyday lived experience it becomes part of your shape, embodying who you are in the world. Values are essential to enrich personal leadership journeys as they reveal possibilities, build resilience and support value-based decisions and choices especially in the midst of complexity. To begin:

  1. Identify 3 personal values that are relevant for you now

  2. Define what they mean to you

  3. Reflect on how you/others experience them in the world (or not).

Remember that a values conversation uncovers a palette of emotions and needs. Simply put, when your values are aligned with your life, you will feel a consistent sense of being fulfilled, purposeful, happy. When they are conflicted with something or someone, you’ll experience the opposite. Unlike new year’s resolutions, it takes a value-based commitment to move towards action and to move towards life in alignment with what you care about – behaviours that support you to live your values. Because values are a such a personal anchor and guide, when you mix them up with what you “should be” being, knowing and doing, beware that you may be living by someone else’s values, not your own or, you may be living out a value that limits your growth in some way or, you may be holding on to a value that is no longer so important. Like the turtle with its deep knowing how to move forward, be guided by your own feelings and needs to help clear your way and anchor you in the values that speak to you of your purpose and commitments. Finding support is always a good idea, whether it is a regular values conversation you have with a friend or a colleague or whether you choose to work with a leadership coach. 

Embodying values is a journey towards speaking and living by your truth. In the months ahead, I will be holding celebration, connection and creativity as my core values this year. Finding ways to live them (and learn through them) will be joyful as well as hard work. How will you live yours?

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