One of the things that fuels a happy life is knowing what our values are.
There is a story that often does the rounds on the internet, of the battleship out at sea. The lookout reports to the Captain that there is a light in their sea-lane and it won’t move. The Captain gets agitated and tries to exert his authority by stating his rank and commanding the other party to change course to avoid a collision. The reply comes back – This is the Lighthouse. Your move.
We use this story a lot in coaching for various reasons, and one of them is as a metaphor for your values. When you know what your true values are, they are your lighthouse. They don’t move. They are anchored fast to the ground. Storms and even ships that are bigger in size can crash into the lighthouse or crash around it but the lighthouse stands firm.
If your values are strong around peace and harmony, that may cause you to avoid an argument or tolerate a lot in order to keep the peace, or you may have become an accomplished peace-keeper over time. If your values are strong around providing financially for your family, you won’t stay in a low paid job, or you may lean on that foundation for confidence and strength when you are raising your rates or looking for a pay rise.
People whose values are strong around social justice are likely to sign petitions or take part in protests demanding change. People whose values are very strong around what’s right and what’s wrong might be driven to try to change a dysfunctional culture at work, or even become a whistleblower, even though they are uncomfortable and difficult positions to be in. Their values may be strong enough that they decide they will tolerate any negative response from co-workers and colleagues.
Knowing which values are your lighthouse can also help you to make decisions quicker and live with them, instead of waking up during the night wondering if you made the right move.
When you are living or working with people who do not share the same values as you, that can be stressful, so it’s important to either try to avoid those situations or find a way to live with them or compensate for them.
Here are some questions that can help you to identify what your values are, so that you can live a more harmonious life.
1) What do the battleship and lighthouse represent in your life?
2) What would happen if nothing is changed or moved? What’s the worst that could happen?
3) What cannot be changed or moved – and when you know that is it a deal-breaker or can you learn to live with it? What can be changed or moved – even if it’s uncomfortable to do so but ultimately is in line with your values?
4) Where do you need to be more open to possibilities that are unknown to you at the moment?
5) If you were the battleship meeting someone else’s lighthouse, how can you cultivate more curiosity and flexibility so you can steer skillfully out of danger?
Until next time, take care!