How to centre what you value in your life and work

Here’s the short answer: stop making what other people think is important a priority.


I recently interviewed an incredible people-pleasing expert for my podcast, Notes on Vulnerability (the new season starts in Feb). She explained that people pleasing essentially has its own history because those of us who got stuck in it were raised in the age of obedience.

If that’s you then you’ll know that feeling of trying to live up to some kind of invisible standard of goodness that you inherently understand is what will make you lovable and accepted. Society, culture, education, parents all instilled this in us as children and it essentially diverted us away from the ability to make choices genuinely based on our wants and values. Crucially, it also muted the ability to say no, especially when it comes to making what others value a priority in our lives.

This is often why today I find clients coming to me at the ripe old age of 30, 40, 50 or 60 with this sense that they have been living their lives according to someone else’s priorities. It’s not something we do consciously, it’s conditioning. But it can leave us feeling incredibly resentful, dissatisfied and angry. One of the places this often shows up is when it comes to what we do for work.

Why do you do what you do?

85% of people hate their jobs (according to a Gallup poll). Are you one of them? We spend roughly 90,000 hours at work in the course of our lifetime and yet significant numbers of us hate what we do. Not mildly dislike but hate. If you take a step back from that for a second it’s insane. Each one of us is some kind of miracle of stardust and yet we are content to dedicate all that time to something that brings us no joy.

Needing to keep a roof over your head is a key driving factor, of course. But the idea that you can only do this by committing to work that makes you grind your teeth so hard you create ridges inside your mouth (me when I was a lawyer) or which is literally making you depressed isn’t necessarily true.

What if it was possible to centre what you value in your work and still earn what you need?

In fact, what if doing that was the way to make more money than you’d ever dreamed of? That seems to be the possibility that few of us consider to be realistic.

Often the same goes for the way we live too. We’d like to live a more eco lifestyle, speak up on specific issues, ignore certain cultural expectations (whether that’s booze culture or around having children) or not have social media. But something makes us feel like that’s a bad idea. Because it would make us different. Of course, there is no denying that humans need each other. We are tribal and still carry the echoes of safety in numbers. And often, what we’re doing when we ignore what we value and focus on others’ priorities instead is channelling this instinct. We are trying to fit in. 

Why now is the time to think about yourself and what you value

There is no minimum age limit at which it starts to become acceptable to finally think about yourself and what you value in life. Do it right now. The idea that you only get to do this after you’ve worked a 9-5 for the best years of your life, raised your kids and ticked all sorts of other conventional boxes is wildly out of date. It’s also the reason that so many of us find ourselves so critically unhappy as we age. We do the things we think you “should” do. Anything else is selfish. Anything else will mean you don’t fit in. Right? 

But fitting in is not the same as belonging. Belonging is the connection you find when you are being yourself, and living true to your values. Fitting in is the suppression of what you are to try to avoid rejection. And we can only keep that up for so long.

What do you value?

I don’t have the answers in terms of what to do about this on a societal level. But I do know where you can begin on a personal one. If you want to centre what you value in your life and work then you need to know what that is. What do you actually value? Not the things you might have been taught are acceptable to value (kindness, being humble etc.) but the things that really matter to you.

Often, identifying your actual values is part of the process of resilience coaching. Because real resilience requires a clear understanding of who you are and what matters to you. It’s like establishing an internal compass. Something as simple as asking yourself what really annoys you can reveal this. It will show you the value that is being breached at that moment. 

Once you know what your genuine values are, the next steps are simple. Make these values the central guiding principle for all your decisions. Offered a new job? Does taking it align with your top values? If it doesn’t then why are you considering taking it?

 Where focus goes, energy flows

You can see how this works. We are basically taking the focus off the reasons for doing things that many of us commit to without thinking - or because it’s what “other people do” - and moving it into a much more empowered place of “do I actually want this.” This is life-changing stuff in that it will make you happier (how could it not), less of a people pleaser and also able to drop all the “shoulds” and expectations. You’ll also be able to drop all the juggling of whether you’re doing the right thing according to all those external standards. Because you’re replacing them with a very clear internal guidance that is coming from a source that is consistently connected to what you value - that source is you.

If you feel an urge to start living more closely aligned with what you value then you may need to start by giving yourself permission to explore this. And getting help is key. Resilience coaching can set you on a whole new path this year - your true path, one that feels clear and calm and with what you really value, centred firmly in life and work.

Book a discovery call with me and let’s chat about your next, exciting chapter.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Winchester, Hampshire, SO23
Written by Alex Pett
Winchester, Hampshire, SO23

Alex is an ICF trained and NLP cert coach focused on helping people to deepen their resources to adapt and bounce back - and go on to thrive. She works with resilience to help clients build confidence, motivation, recover from burnout, set boundaries, find joy and move beyond limiting beliefs. Clients achieve tangible change in 6-9 sessions.

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