Episode 53: Why You Want a Value-Driven Life

Every day, we have to handle our feelings while trying to do the things that  are most important to us. I call this being emotional driven or value driven- and it actually matters which way we decide to go.  Do we prioritize values or emotions?  This choice is something few of us are even aware that we can make. Because emotions come quickly and often, we will do anything to avoid the painful ones, maybe even at the expense of what matters most to us. Ultimately, “The Choice” challenges us to explore whether we want to live a life dictated by avoiding painful emotions or one anchored in enduring values. In today’s episode, we look at how to navigate this choice and emerge confident in our ability to effectively manage our emotions and show up the way that serves us best.

What you will learn on this episode:

– How to live a value-driven life, especially during challenging times and emotional hardships. 

– The significance of aligning actions with values rather than avoiding negative emotions. 

– Techniques for emotional regulation and resilience to help persist in the face of adversity. 

– Understanding the interplay between emotions and values, and how emotions can inform our actions when aligned with our values.

 – Insights into how vulnerability and the willingness to feel uncomfortable can enhance personal growth and the ability to tackle new challenges. 


*This transcription below was provided for you or your convenience; please excuse any mistakes that the automated service made in translation.

Friends, welcome back to Leadership Parenting.

I want to talk a little bit today about the things that anchor us in the midst of very difficult challenges. I’ve had some really meaningful, deep conversations lately with women about some of the hard things they’re dealing with in their lives. One conversation in particular has been sticking with me. It was with a woman who’d lost a baby and it wasn’t the first time. She’d had several pregnancy losses in a row and I have several women close to me who’ve had this experience and, honestly, sometimes when I think about the enormity of emotions several pregnancy losses in a row and I have several women close to me who’ve had this experience and, honestly, sometimes when I think about the enormity of emotions all of this loss has brought up for them, I can sometimes barely breathe the courage that it took to be so vulnerable and the courage that it takes to go on after we experience a loss. What allows someone to do that? 

We talked about the drive she had and that she currently has to still bring a child into her family, and the drive that she has to continually care for her family now and stay engaged with her kids that she has here in her family, even when she feels like crawling under the covers and hiding from the world. And the drive she has to dream again of what might be in her future, whether it be another baby or even being ready to find other dreams she can invest in, or maybe even both, and I know I’m speaking to an audience who’s also driven by things you care deeply about your marriages, your children, your work, making a difference in the world. These are the things that you dream about, that get you up every morning, when you’re tired and would rather stay in bed, and the things that help you make decisions, that shape your life. These are the things that drive us at deeper levels, and this is what we mean when we talk about having a value-driven life, and that’s what I would like to talk a little bit about today, because it’s being anchored by our values, being motivated by our values, seeing the world through our values. That helps us get through the challenges and get up every morning and do it again, and we’ve talked about this before the joy that comes from living a life that’s connected to those values. It gives us meaning, it gives us purpose, and these are what happiness researchers are finding is the foundation of our deepest happiness, in spite of all the challenges and hardships in life and when we’re focused so much on our emotions, we call it having an emotion-driven life. So, value-driven life opposed to emotion-driven life what’s the difference and how can understanding the difference help us juggle all of these pieces of our life, these big emotions and the values that are driving us? 

Well, at first glance, it seems like a great thing to be emotionally driven, doesn’t it? Because we talk a lot about feelings and the importance of feelings. Emotionally driven, doesn’t it? Because we talk a lot about feelings and the importance of feelings and, honestly, everything we do is going to have something to do with our feelings. We’re going to be motivated to do things because of how we feel, and so it seems like, if we have a life that is just driven by those feelings, that’s what we’re supposed to do. But I think it really helps to look at what it means to be run by emotions and what emotions are. Because, remember how we define them, they are information, feelings in our body that come and they go, and some of them we experience as enjoyable and pleasant, and some of them they’re so tough, so difficult, that avoiding them often sounds like a really good idea, so difficult that avoiding them often sounds like a really good idea. And we have that mechanism built into us that when something is very painful, our body automatically wants to just avoid it, get rid of it, be done with it. And that was one of the things we talked about in my session with this amazing woman was how much she really wanted to just run away from all those feelings of grief and loss and really kind of get rid of any and everything that might have caused them, and that would be all of the things she cared about her values. They really exposed her to those emotions and it happens to all of us. 

The things we care about make us so vulnerable and it can create this little battle inside right To keep caring and having those emotions show up or just try to get rid of the feelings and shut the whole darn thing down. How many conversations do we have about this? Well, in my work it’s a daily conversation Moms who are loving their children but also feeling the worry, the fear, the sadness or disappointment or even anger that comes with the messiness of being a mom and having kids that haven’t read the script right. They’re just kind of doing their own kid thing and it makes it so hard to be a mom that’s trying to get it all done and achieve the kinds of things that she cares most about. I know my life looked one way in my mind and expectations and then often completely different in real life, and all of that brings up feelings for us, whether we’re experiencing a deep loss or just the daily grind of unmet expectations and frustrations. 

I think it takes incredible bravery sometimes to stay connected to what we care about and make that our focus, even when we know we’re going to have to deal with the feelings. And so many times we just want to avoid that vulnerability. Well, let me just talk about myself here. So many times I have shied away from something I valued because of my fear of the feelings that could come if I pursued it Like that. I might be let down or disappointed, I might lose something, I might lose the dream, or I might get judged for wanting to do the thing I’m caring about. And when that happens when I do listen to that and I avoid it, I don’t do it. I’ve chosen to be emotion-led rather than value-led, and I know I’m not alone in this because I work with people every day trying to balance this out and make these kinds of hard decisions. 

The risk of exposure to hard feelings is super scary. It’s scary enough to make us back away and make decisions out of trying not to feel those scary emotions. And that is what we mean when I talk about emotion-driven. Emotions are good. I mean, actually we should just say they’re not good or bad. They just are. It’s healthy to have them. But when we try to avoid them, when we try to do anything we can to not feel them, that’s when we’re being emotion driven, meaning I’m going to make my decisions based on what I don’t want to feel. 


And resilience is actually a skill we can learn to help us deal with this challenge. The purpose of our resilience training is to be able to respond to those difficult emotions with a skill set that holds on to us, that gives us internal connection and power to be able to help us through those hard things. So when you’re studying resilience, you’re training to be good at getting through feeling bad. Let me say that again, we’re actually training to know how to feel bad and be okay, and I know that doesn’t sound super attractive, but in the context of working with your feelings, your emotions, our goal is that you’re so capable of handling any emotion that you’re able to experience all of them, even the hard ones. And if you’re able to experience all your emotions, you’re going to be able to move forward in life. You’re equipped. You’ll be able to go forward with a full heart, open heart, willing to do what matters most to you and be vulnerable, because even if you’re kind of afraid of how you’re going to feel, you know you’re going to be able to handle it, meaning we can help ourselves get through the process of feeling those emotions. 


Then having those emotions aren’t the things that are going to make the decisions for us, because so much of what we do is based upon how we think we’re going to feel if it works out and how we think we’re going to feel if it doesn’t work out. If there’s a possibility that we will feel afraid, we will probably want to avoid it. If there’s a possibility, we’ll be disappointed. We’ll avoid it mostly because we don’t like feeling that way and we don’t know what to do when we feel that way. But what we’re doing here is learning what to do. We’re learning that feelings come and go and it’s not likely you’re going to feel that way forever, and that if there’s a purpose for you in what is happening, it may be worth it to feel what you’re feeling and you’re going to be better off going through the hard stuff because it matters to you. In the long run it’s helping you build the life that you want. 


I had a conversation just recently with my daughter who’s waiting on her baby to be born. She’s gone through nine months, nine months plus of pregnancy, of all that that brings, of the nausea, of the aches and pains, of the not sleeping, of the having her body change, and all the unknowns, all the worries, all of the things that you just can’t predict. But you know that it is out there and you’re trying to be prepared, but you don’t know quite what life is going to bring, and all the vulnerability to do it anyway. Then, knowing that she’s going into a whole new stage where she’s starting on that journey with raising a little child, it’s actually incredible, you guys. We can substitute anything for this Anything new, anything unknown, anything that we care about, that we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us exactly what’s going to happen. The word that keeps coming to me around all of this is bravery, and I said that to like three moms last week. You are so brave to do this thing because you care about it, even though it’s hard, it’s risky, it’s unknown as far as the feelings it can bring up. You have no idea what it’s going to look like, but you’re doing it because you care about it. This can apply to anything that matters to us. 


Every time I record an episode, I feel it, that fear of being vulnerable, laying out a concept and trying to explain it. I’m doing it because I deeply believe in the concept and deeply care about you all understanding it so it can be helpful to you in your life. But I’m also keenly aware of how it might feel if it’s not received well. What if someone criticizes or disagrees with it. How might that feel? Every episode I have a little chat with myself, lee, why do you want to do this? Is that bigger than my fear of how I will feel if I get rejected? When I can see those choices that there are emotions driving my decisions and there are values, what I care about also driving my decisions, it’s much easier for me to decide, but without being aware that I have these choices, then I mostly just bow down to the fear and try to protect myself from the emotions that might come if I get rejected or face a challenge. 


This is something we have to deal with when I’m working with someone who has had a loss. Maybe they’ve had a breakup that was very painful. Maybe they set forth a plan to start a company or a business and it failed. Maybe they had a child and the child experienced illness, maybe they’ve had a death in their family. These experiences are painful. We don’t like them because they’re uncomfortable, but they’re part of the equation of living life. They’re the other side of the coin, where we have love and we’re connected and we develop a relationship with someone and if that ends we feel the loss and those two things they go together. 


I think that’s the nature of vulnerability. Sometimes, the more we love, the more vulnerable we are to feeling the intensity of that loss. And sometimes we even run away from that vulnerability and we vow to never love again, never try a new thing again, never put ourselves out there so we don’t have to feel those uncomfortable feelings. I can remember so many times looking at my children and how my heart would squeeze. I think it still many times looking at my children and how my heart would squeeze. I think it still happens today. Looking at my adult children feeling like there is no way I can ever fit one more ounce of love inside my heart, and then the terrifying feeling of what it would be like if something happened to them. It almost made me not want to have more children when I first started to notice that I was having this intensity. 


Love has the power to lift us, but it also brings down our shields and leaves us vulnerable, and sometimes vulnerability is big, like too big. The things I care the most about are sometimes the things I don’t even want to dare to attempt. The more I care about something sometimes, the more I avoid doing it because of the fear I have of not succeeding. Like I just don’t want to feel those feelings. So every day we have a decision to make, to decide whether that vulnerability is worth the experience of loving, of following through on the things that we value and I’m going to tell you it is. I believe you probably already know that. And yet the possibility of fear, those feelings, that sadness, it’s still there and that’s why we’re here together. That’s why we’re training for this. We’re training to be ready to feel our feelings and know that we have the ability to work with ourselves and love ourselves through it. 


And it helps to understand what’s going on inside of us, because when you know that the pain is not a sign that something is wrong, rather it’s a sign that you just cared deeply, then you can learn to experience the pain and hang on and get through it, because it’s not a sign that we need to stop doing the things that matter to us. It’s actually a sign that we just care about the things that matter to us and if we misunderstand that sign, a lot of times we’ll stop doing the things that we just care about, the things that matter to us. And if we misunderstand that sign, a lot of times we’ll stop doing the things that we care about so that we won’t have the feelings. And this is what it would look like if we are emotionally driven. So when I say that we don’t want to live in an emotionally driven life, what I mean is we don’t want to make our decisions based on those feelings we don’t want to feel, because emotions are always going to be a driver in our life. We just don’t want to make our decisions based out of being afraid of them. We want to make those decisions based upon the things that matter most to us, even if it might make us vulnerable to feel those feelings. 


I’m in constant awe when I watch a woman decide to have a baby Men too, of course, as dads. But you look at the decision a woman makes when she says I’m going to have a baby, what she’s signing up for Just look at that, is this an emotion driven decision as we’ve defined it? Sure, emotions are a part of it. Right, she’s desiring those feelings of love and connection and all the goodness that comes with having a baby, but the reality is there will also be a lot of hard feelings that come with it. Difficulties, challenges. How many hard things is she signing up for? How many physical challenges? Even if everything goes perfectly as planned, she’s not going to be emotionally or physically feeling great all the time, and yet she makes the decision from her values, not from fear of all the vulnerability she’s going to have. 


When you take a new job, start a new program at school or in work or volunteering or trying a new thing, anything that stretches us beyond what we are already familiar at, we are opening up our vulnerability to experience some things that might make us feel uncomfortable, and we actually want to get used to feeling uncomfortable and all those feelings so we can prove to ourselves that we’re okay, even if things don’t go well or the way we want them to, and we get disappointed or embarrassed or even feel a little afraid. Because I don’t know how to deal with my emotions If I don’t know that, if I don’t understand them and have confidence that I can deal with them, then it makes sense that we want to avoid them and only be driven to seek out the most comfortable of emotions, and this will lead us to miss out on the deeper things that matter most to us. This is what the woman that I was working with was explaining to me. I mean, she kind of just taught this beautiful sermon of courage as she described how she kept getting connected to what she cared most about and how that helped her face the hard things. 


I had a similar conversation with a woman who married a man recently who just completed chemotherapy for cancer. He was young, he was a young man and he was currently cancer-free, which was awesome, but there were no promises that the cancer would never return. She literally took on some risk. These are her words, quote I know the cancer could return, but I can’t make the decision to be with him based upon that. If I don’t marry him, it will be because I’m trying to avoid the sadness and the loss if the cancer returns. But if I don’t marry him, then I’m living without him by my own choice, so I’m taking the risk. She went on to explain how she knew she could learn how to feel those feelings and be okay, and we’ve been working together. She’s a student of resilience. She is learning to ride the waves of emotion and trust. She can get through them, and I’ve noticed, as I’ve watched her training, be brave and live a value-driven life. I’m learning from her how to do the things that I care about, even in the face of potential hard feelings. 


I am just in awe of what mothering asks of us. It’s so demanding, encompassing. It asks us to give our whole bodies, hearts and minds to the role of leading our children, and it is messy and bumpy, not just for a few of us, but for all of us. And I don’t think we talk enough about this. I have a dear friend still in the middle of raising her children and she recently said to me I just don’t hear the message that acknowledges how challenging motherhood could be, how exhausting and yet how important it is to be a parent, especially a mother. Well, I want to give you all that very clear message that what you’re doing is important. No one is doing this seamlessly or perfectly. It takes bravery to do what you do, and you deserve to feel brave, because every day you face a lot of feelings and still show up because you care about what you’re doing. 


I think it helps to give this a name so you know what it is and what to search for when you’re feeling overwhelmed by those emotions. It’s a value-driven life. It’s harder because it’s vulnerable and it’s richer and more rewarding because it’s vulnerable. So living a value-driven life means first we’ve got to get connected to the things that matter to us and be intimately aware of what our values are. And, as we’ve talked about before, I don’t believe that this is a difficult thing to do, meaning we don’t have to search around for our values and kind of manufacture them or be worried that we’re not going to find them. You have them. There’s so much a part of your life that you just may not see them, but the evidence is everywhere around you. Everything you care about there’s some link to a value. Everything that you get mad about there’s some link to something you value, and everything that you are hard on yourself about there’s some link to a value. And I’m not saying that yay for us, we’re upset all the time because of our values. But what I mean is that when you understand that your mind and your heart are trying to speak to you all the time about what’s important to you. It’s helpful to be able to hear it and see it and understand it’s coming from a really great part of you. 


We do have to work a little harder to connect with our values, and we don’t have to work very hard at all to have our emotions show up. They’re going to come whether we like it or not, and thank heavens. They’re wonderful. They bring color to our lives. They’re just as important in our life as values. But we need to put them in the right place. We need to give them their appropriate power. We need to have confidence that we know how to work with them, and that’s why we’re learning to feel our feelings, getting through emotional storms. Early in this podcast, we spent episodes talking about working with ourselves when our emotions get high, and never once did I say the emotions were wrong or bad. You’re not supposed to get rid of them. You’re going to have them and we’re learning how to handle our emotions so you can focus on bigger and deeper things, like what you value the most. 


When I’m having a hard afternoon, my kids are struggling, I haven’t accomplished what I wanted. I feel overwhelmed, alone, afraid. It’s a lot of big feelings and I’m reacting right. Sometimes I react in response to those big feelings and I’ll lose it on the outside, kind of explode, or I’ll withdraw and just want it all to go away. How many of you have been there? If we could see all our listeners, everyone would have their hand up. What keeps us from jumping in the car and driving until we run out of road? I used to say to my husband sometimes I just want to get in the car and drive till there’s no more road, go to Mexico or something. How many times did I say that? And what kept me in my life showing up as the mom, even when I felt so overwhelmed? The bigger things I cared about, right. 


Emotion-driven life means I’m going to try to avoid and run away from my life that’s causing these feelings. And value-driven life means I keep looking for the reasons to. Okay, I’ve laid out why we want to have a value-driven life. What I’m looking for you to do is just be aware of when you can switch over into that mindset to help you deal with those difficult feelings, because getting through difficult emotions while holding on to your values requires a combination of self-awareness, emotional regulation and resilience, and I thought it might help to talk about a few steps to help you navigate those challenging emotions while you’re holding on to your values. 


I like to look at it as having a two-handed approach If you literally hold out one hand, say it’s your left hand and use it to represent all the feelings you are having, and then you hold out your right hand and you let that represent all the values that matter to you. And this is how we go through life Literally both of our hands full, full of things we care about, full of feelings and emotions that are hard to deal with. We’re not trying to change the reality of that. That’s just life. That’s how it’s supposed to be. You’re not doing anything wrong if you’re feeling things that way, feeling them deeply, but what we want to be able to do is recognize what’s at play. 


When and how do I use my emotions to help me fuel toward my values, and how do I use my values to anchor me when the emotions are getting big and crazy? So step number one would be to acknowledge your emotions. Pull up that left hand, recognize and accept that I’m feeling some big emotions here. We’re not going to deny them, we’re not going to avoid them. We’re not going to try to numb them out. Number two we’re going to label them, give a name to what we’re feeling. Research shows that labeling emotions reduces their intensity and helps us get a sense of control over them, and this is going to calm our body down and then we validate them. It’s okay, I feel this. 


Emotions are a natural part of being human. They’re valuable signals about something we care about. That other hand, because if I go to do an episode and I’m feeling fear about recording it and sending it out there, the fear is not untethered. It’s actually coming from the things I care about. Right, connection is a big value of mine and I don’t want to feel disconnected from the people that I care about, which is all of you. So when I feel that fear, it’s very helpful for me to look to my other hand and go oh yeah, well, I’m kind of afraid because I really care about these people and if what I put out there doesn’t get received, well, well, that’s going to feel a little painful around that feeling of connection. And there’s the vulnerability. As long as I care about being connected with people, I will always feel vulnerable when I put myself out there and I can use that same value of connection to remember the people in my life that have my back. Even if I were to, like, lay an egg and put something out there that was awful and that got terrible reviews or got completely rejected, I would still be able to rely on that sense of value of connection because I’ve got people in my life that will love me even when I lay an egg right. So what I just described I would probably put as step number four You’re identifying the triggers in your emotions, the big emotions that are coming up, that are coming from the things that you value. 


So you’re starting to kind of look at it both handed. So you’re basically looking for the pain point that’s coming from your values that might be triggering those big emotions, because if you don’t care about something, you’re not going to get upset. The woman that I worked with last week who’d been dealing with loss she had feelings of grief and anger and fear on the one hand and also a drive to love, connect and deepen and develop her family A lot of things going on and we want her to be able to find the things in her values that can help her with the painful emotions and finally, standing there, looking at both hands, both handed. We’re looking at how can I cope to manage these difficult emotions, and these are the strategies that we talk about in our training. Can I take some slow, deep breaths and calm my body down? Can I do some muscle relaxation? Can I journal? Can I connect with someone who can give me some support? Can I connect with someone who can give me some support? Can I do some things that remind me of the things that matter most to me and bring me some joy? 


We call this choosing to do things that move you towards your values rather than away from your values, because if you’re only looking at your left hand and all those painful feelings, then you might just want to get rid of that hand right, hide it, numb it with anything that works food, drugs, alcohol, sex shopping, working anything that numbs you or helps you cope with those painful emotions. You might want to do that even if it makes you go away from your values, but what we’ve learned is that inevitably, this will lead to more pain and more need to avoid our feelings. So that’s why we want to have both hands and look at both emotions and values and be value-driven in the choices that we make, so that even when we’re dealing with big, scary emotions, we are doing it with the things that we value, so that we are connected to them. So that’s why we want to have both hands in front of us when we’re feeling those big emotions and it’s so tempting to just numb them out, to be thinking about okay, maybe there’s something in the things that I really care about that I can use to help me deal with my emotions. Right now I’m actually taking care of myself in the long run because I’m staying aligned with the things that matter most to me and I’m learning to just feel my feelings and then take care of myself through that rather than numb it. 


When you have two hands earnestly in front of you, it kind of shows us the reality that we have tough emotions and values that we care about. If you were to put your two hands together, it would be a great representation of going in wholehearted, whole-brained, as you face life, hopefully driven or led by your values, because they are the most stable and the most enduring. These are deep concepts, not ones that we talk frequently about, but I think we should. These are the kinds of things we’re really trying to teach our children, through the opportunities we give them, the experiences that they have, that it’s scary to go do new things but if they care about it it’s worth it, and that there’s a way to get through that scariness, that you are not alone, that what you are doing is so brave and so powerful and that it matters so much, and that if you can hold those two hands in front of you, full of all the things in your life, and recognize that this is normal, it’s not orderly and perfect and feels good all the time it’s not supposed to, but when you’re driven by the things that matter to you, you’re going to be safer. So next time you’re feeling big emotions, lots of vulnerability, put those two hands out in front of you, maybe even bring them to your heart and feel that unity and that safety that comes with that. I’m grateful for my time with you guys. Thank you so much for spending it with me again today and I can’t wait to talk with you next time. It with me again today and I can’t wait to talk with you next time. 


Take care, the Leadership Parenting Podcast is for general information purposes only. It is not therapy and should not take the place of meeting with a qualified mental health professional. The information on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, illness or disease. It’s also not intended to be legal medical or therapeutic advice. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for your individual circumstances. Thanks again, and take care.

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