The Secret Behind Every Decision

“I think I’m depressed” Tom (not his real name) said quietly over his coffee cup. Indeed, he looked sad. I urged him to tell me what was going on. As the story unfolded, Tom said that he was having trouble feeling good about his decisions. He blamed poor decision-making on his lack of a big bank account and a more prestigious career. His father, mother and sister were all very accomplished people. He was sure there was something wrong with him, that he couldn’t do the same.

The Secret Behind Every Decision

Tom’s story included the fact that he was a good Dad to two daughters. His marriage had broken up when the girls were young. From the tenor of his story, I had a feeling that Tom had not made poor decisions. But that his values shaped his behavior and choices, values he wasn’t aware of. I knew that if I could help Tom discover what values drove his past decisions, he would feel a lot better about himself, and that would inform all future decisions.

Values are the principles that you live your life by. Too often, we are unable to identify what is really important for us. We don’t live our lives in alignment with our values, and then wonder why we feel unbalanced or things aren’t working. To honor your values means to create and live your life in such a way that there is nothing in the way of living them. This leads to a life lived with integrity.

The compass that sets your course are your core values. Those core values direct all of your life choices and every aspect of your behavior. Core values are defined by you. They are:

  • Something that is regarded as important.
  • Standards of behavior.
  • Beliefs, ideals.
  • Guidelines of worth.
  • Principles that guide conduct.
  • Seen as intrinsically desirable, valuable.

Values are easily squashed by needs, shoulds and problems.

Needs. ..Shoulds. ..Tolerations. ..Unresolved matters. ..Addictions… Irresponsibility. Stress… Fantasies. ..Roles. ..Money. …Obligation/Duty……..

Until this list is handled, values orientation is difficult to do, because most people have values and needs confused. Their needs are so great that they overshadow their values. This circumstance makes living a values based life and setting values based goals unsustainable. A Values based life brings fulfillment.

Some examples of values: Accomplishment, Discipline, Social Recognition, Spirituality, Taking risks, Tradition, Wealth, Creativity.

Tom did a values assessment with me, and discovered that family and responsibility were much stronger values for him than affluence. Tom had been comparing himself to others and in his mind he hadn’t measured up. A man with a prestigious career and a big bank account was the role he imagined he was supposed to play. For Tom, the discovery that he had made the choice to work at jobs that would be best for his family, jobs that allowed him to be the kind of Dad he wanted to be, brought him great relief. That knowledge paved the way to making peace with the past, feeling satisfaction for the present, and empowered about the future.

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Screenshot 2015-02-20 19.10.28

Where I live, it’s been relentless snow and cold. We’ve had below zero windchill temperatures, and, well, pull on your boots and parka designed for arctic adventurers. While the weather is good or bad, depending on your perspective and time zone, what really bothers me most is when I hear people mention the words “I feel overwhelmed”. My heart breaks.


Even my dog Buddy looks cold

I’m always on the lookout for tools to help people live their best life. To cope with things like OVERWHELM. Because we can’t do everything, but we’re told we should. Overwhelm is an energy and joy stealer. It prevents you from doing your best work, living a full and complete life, feeling happy. Neuroscientists report that “94% of working people in the industrialized world have felt overwhelmed to the point of incapacitation.” (Christine Carter, PhD.) We try to do more multi-tasking, to get everything done. But that doesn’t work either.“Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking.” (From an article in the Guardian written by Neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitan) No wonder I hear that undertone of hopelessness when people say, “I’m overwhelmed.” Screenshot 2015-02-20 19.32.18

Because you can’t do everything, you need to make choices. In those areas, begin to practice ‘no’. But what do you say no to? Say no to all the things that don’t line up with your values. I’m not talking values as in ‘family values’, although family can be one of your core values. Values are the principles, beliefs and attitudes that guide your decisions, actions and behaviors. When you are not in alignment with your values, your life doesn’t flow easily. My clients do a values assessment that helps them clarify where their values lie. They work with a list of words associated with values, such as ‘Career’, ‘Individualism’, “Innovation’, “Helping Others”, “Family”, “Adventure”, etc. I work with them to get really clear on what their top 5 values are. They can then make decisions on where to say yes, and where to say no. Any tool that can help you make decisions and set priorities, is helpful with overwhelm. So, make a list of ten words describing important personal principles. Compare them with each other, and see which 5 are most important to you. These are the values that drive your life. By getting clear on your core values, you can make decisions on where you spend your time and energy. At work, you may not have control of all of your decisions. Zero in on the areas you do have control over, and choose what and how you spend your time.This leads to a life lived with integrity, and a whole lot less overwhelm.


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“It’s time to live your life with meaning.”


As defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary

“Something (as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable.”

Synonyms: appreciate, cherish, prize, treasure, love

I have been doing so much thinking about values in preparation for the workshop on Saturday and finding it a fascinating subject. That word is thrown about, abused and used by our culture, in my opinion. So much so, that polite people avoid it. When we avoid reflecting on something so important, we impoverish our growth. I’m not talking about values in the political or judgmental sense. But in the personal meaning category, where it belongs.

What are values? I think it is synonymous with our desire for meaning. You can’t avoid that conversation for long before you say, “Enough. If not now, when? It’s time to live my life with meaning.” Start the discussion for yourself, this Saturday.

Creating an Authentic Life: Discovering Your True Values

Join me, September 22nd at the Riverside Arts Center, as we explore where your true values lie and how those values determine your path. Join in the discussions, assessments and discoveries and come away with a clearer picture of how to use this information to re-set!

Creating an Authentic Life: True Values

September 22, 2012            9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.              

Riverside Arts Center

76 N. Huron, Ypsilanti, MI

People live through their values – that’s values with a capital V. The Authentic You. To honor your values means to create  your life in such a way that there is nothing in the way of living them. What does this mean for you? Do you find yourself giving up your deepest desires  for other people or circumstances that feel beyond your control? Find out why and what you can do to align your life honoring your true values.

Workshop is $25, sign up at: