“You’re killing my soul!”, I whined to my Coach, more than once. You’d think he was asking me to take action that put my life at risk. What he was asking me to do – repeatedly, and time after time – was to block time in my calendar for all the things that matter to me, and then honor my calendar. It seems like an easy enough request and really, what was at risk? Seemingly nothing. But why all the pushback and the drama?
Today, when my incredibly responsible clients show the same reaction to this seemingly easy request, I can relate. I’ve been there.
When we behave in a way that seems somewhat irrational; when we refuse to do something that looks easy enough on the surface; when we create all kinds of drama around it (you’re killing my soul accompanied by the smallest violin on earth!); these are clues that the act is pushing against one of our core life values.
A value is a way of being or believing that we hold important. Our life values drive our actions, and give us the grit we need when life becomes challenging. The problem is that most of us have not identified our core values, let alone practice them. Mark Manson, the author of “Everything is F*cked”, says that knowing our personal core life values is “human being 101.” The work of explicitly identifying our top 2 life values is not something to be attempted on the run, like so many other things in our day. This is work that we need to slow down to, and make time for. When I first attempted this exercise, I chose 30-40 values that were deeply important to me. How could I give less than a 10 (the highest rating) to family, health, personal growth, clarity, walking the talk, … the list was long and true to what matters to me. When my coach instructed me to narrow it down to 10, and then (gasp!) to two, I didn’t think it was possible.
As Brené describes, reducing this list to just two values is universally difficult. Most people will identify with 10 or 20 values. However, if many values on the list are important to us, then nothing is truly a driver. The most difficult work comes in focusing the list of values that we identify with—Brené calls these second-tier values—down to just two.
The good news is that after I clearly and confidently identified my top two values, I’ve been able to make life decisions – from the most weighty to the mundane – with so much more ease. I can also understand and quickly forgive myself when I behave in a way that seems unreasonable to myself and others. I know that the action is conflicting with a core value, and that’s where I can start to gain the kind of insight and clarity that leads to productive action and positive results.
Of course, working with my calendar was not a new exercise for me in my professional life. For decades, every appointment was recorded, and I have practiced showing up on time. What my coach wanted me to do was schedule all the things that I thought I never had enough time for. The things that always seemed to come at a cost, and somehow just didn’t get done. Here’s a sampling of all the beliefs I had that made me feel like time is always running out, and I’m somehow not enough.
There is not enough time for my children, running, social relationships, solitude, intimate relationships, extended family, travel, fun, Netflix, you name it! There wasn’t enough time. Ironically, if you looked at my calendar, short of my client conversations and doctor’s appointments, you’d see a whole lot of white space.
My number one core life value is freedom, and as crazy as it sounds, putting everything in my calendar ahead of time, was being made equal in my mind to, “I am no longer free!”. Scheduling all the things that I had come to believe I didn’t have time for, and making a commitment to my calendar (in actual truth, to myself), was turning into a story in my head that ended with me losing all freedom and spontaneity, and of course, my Coach was on a mission to kill my soul!
Over time, and with a lot of support, I had the insight that true freedom comes from cultivating an authentic sense of agency over life. Our lives are rich, our ambitions are many, and our commitment to others is what makes life full and connected. Learning how to use my calendar like a pro has allowed me more true freedom than I ever thought possible.
I will be conducting a Mastermind session in December, on “Turning Pro with Our Calendars”. It will be a short course that will help you gain the tools and skills to start the new year with more than just intentions and resolutions. I will teach you a system that will have you converting your intentions to commitments, and using your calendar like a ninja warrior.
To learn more, please reach out to me at www.carolynmahboubi.com, and I will get back to you promptly.