I had a dream that Oprah Winfrey called me on a live podcast to ask me whether values are linked to our childhood. What a great question from that wonderful TV personal development legend (though I wouldn’t expect anything less from Orpah!) And the short answer is yes – and – they don’t have to be.
As a child, we are very much influenced by the world around us, both close and distant. How we flourish or flounder in our family environment, the influence that our culture or traditions play on our upbringing, the beliefs of our parents and senior role models, as well as what chaos or calm we were exposed to growing up. All of these factors influence our values alongside our own inner passions and beliefs. Growing up, we are very much a melting pot of values that slowly settle down to form a core compass of ‘how to’ and ‘how not to live our life’.
Whilst that is all true, our values are not set in stone. As Oprah would testify, our childhood influences don’t have to determine our adult choices, and the same is true for our values. As a coach, exploring someone’s values is a key activity to unlocking their drivers and dissuaders, and to prioritise what is important and adds value for them right now. We very rarely stop to ask ourselves ‘are our values valuable?’ Our values from our childhood held a purpose that was relevant when we were perhaps 3 or 7 or 12, but as an adult, they often can be outdated. When we stop and assess the relevance of our values, we can often find that they no longer help us a grown-up and need to be got rid of, or they simply need updating.
As Oprah shares: “We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we were.”
Let me give some examples from my own values past.
Not relevant – ‘father wisdom’. My dad was a quiet, strong, and loving man, and was very much the patriarch in our house of four women. What he said went, and his words of wisdom were always taken with reverence and obedience. The older I got following my dad’s wisdom began to feel uncomfortable, as instead of following his doctrine I realised I had to listen to my own words of wisdom. It took quite a few uncomfortable years to realise that what was more relevant for me was ‘independence’, listening to my own counsel, instinct and learning from my own mistakes instead of following my ‘father’s wisdom’.
I think Oprah would agree that we can lose ourselves in the past, so letting go of outdated thinking, beliefs and values is an important personal development step. She says: “when you undervalue what you do, the world undervalues who you are.”
Needs updating – ‘save for a rainy day’. Growing up I always had a sense of not having enough money, that you had to live within your means, and the importance of saving for a rainy day. Over the years I’ve explored this money mindset and realised that it came from a fear not just from my parents, but from theirs too. Today, saving is still a driver for me but with an update on this value, I no longer save for a rainy day but ‘save for smiles’. My squirrel pots of coins in a jar, and saving accounts, these days fund family fun days out and holidays.
So, revisiting your values is valuable and something that anyone and everyone should take the time to do once in a while. But I’ll leave the final reflection from Oprah: “Improving your life doesn’t have to be about changing everything – it’s about making changes count”.