Research Paper By Maha Khaliq
(Personal Development and Growth Coach, UNITED STATES)
What gives your life meaning?
One very interesting concept that stood out in my ICA journey was values and life purpose. We may find ourselves questioning our life purpose or thinking about what we value. Both these elements make up parts of who we are and are important because our values and life purpose drive our behavior and actions. As we journey through life, it is not always easy or evident to know our life purpose. We may feel like we don’t have one or we may feel we have so many purposes. Either way, the way we think and feel is what matters and only we can truly determine what we value and who we are.
Looking back at our day to day or yesterday, we can think of all the various decisions we made and the actions we took. This can include anything from reading, eating, watching TV, working, and even something as simple as brushing our teeth. Each of these actions we took has a meaning behind them as those are decisions we chose to make from a whole variety of options. For example, we may go into work every day because we need a job but at the basic level, that’s a decision we make as it serves a need for us.
Do our values always reflect our behavior accurately?
As our values determine our actions and choices, it is crucial to understand what we value. A person who values climate change may be an activist or recycles at home to bring about change. This is when our values align with our behavior. There are instances where what we value is not in sync with our actions. For example, a person may value their health but their behavior may not reflect that if they are making poor health choices.
Knowing our values can feel great as it assists us in making decisions in how we lead our lives. This can include anything from relationship choices, career choices, or simply even what we decide to eat. To truly know our values, we have to make sure that they are true to us. Values can be influenced by society, our parents, and life experiences but we have a choice to select what we value. Some examples of values are kindness, respect, trust, happiness, money, career, etc.
Values can be controlled and uncontrolled. The following is an example of an uncontrollable value and how it can impact us.
“When you value things that are outside your control, you essentially give up your life to that thing.
The most classic example of this is money. Yes, you have some control over how much money you make, but not total control. Economies collapse, companies go under, entire professions get automated away by technology. If everything you do is for the sake of money, and then tragedy strikes and all of that money is eaten up by hospital bills, you will lose much more than a loved one—you will lose your perceived purpose for living as well.
We need values we can control, otherwise, our values control us.
Money is bad value because you can’t always control it. Creativity or industriousness or a strong work ethic are good values because you CAN control them–and doing them well will ultimately generate money as a side effect.”(Manson 2020)
What is your life purpose?
This can feel like a heavy question or one you may already have an answer to. Life purpose can be something we are called to do and it can help us live our lives in a genuine and fulfilling way by giving it direction. We can spend our entire lives searching for our life purpose or already know very clearly what it is. It is important to realize that we are all on our journeys and no one story is the same. A person may be struggling with figuring out what their life purpose is which can be very difficult. We could have gone through our lives with so many ideas of what our life purpose is or not thought about it at all. We could be influenced by what others have thought our life purpose is for us. To truly figure out our life purpose, we have to be honest and vulnerable with ourselves. Our revelation might take us by surprise. This can be done through meditation, self-reflection, or having a life coach among other ways!
Defining a life purpose may feel like something you’ve known all along but could not verbalize it or it can also feel like a struggle of many thoughts. It is something bigger than us and can be life-changing. It can be lasting and evolve us. Can we be living our life purpose and still not always feel happiness? Even after knowing our life purpose, and taking actions to achieve it, it is a good reminder that this is life and not everything factor can be controlled by us.
Life purpose and values in coaching
As our client goes through their personal development and growth, their values and life purpose will reveal who they are. This is very important as it is the core of the decisions they make and as their coach, we should be aware of them. Clients’ goals and behaviors are set by their values and in coaching, we are constantly working with clients to help them achieve their goals. Clients can experience finding their life purpose through their values which can be extremely gratifying.
In coaching, we have to realize the importance of values and the role they play. “Firstly, they help people to connect to what matters to them. Values act as a compass, helping us to navigate forward, even when the waters get choppy. Getting clear on values is the first step to helping our clients get unstuck and moving forward with purpose.
Second by being explicit about our values – what matters to us as people – we build trust with our clients much more quickly. And trust is the essential foundation of any effective coaching relationship.” (The Career Psychologist)
We will interact with various types of clients, someone who will know who they are exactly and others who will be figuring that out. Either way, a coach can help their clients by asking questions regarding their values to highlight them. Here it is important to note that only the client can do the work of figuring out what their life purpose is and what that means for them. From there, we can help them set goals to live their lives true to their values and fulfill their life purposes.
A great way to reflect on values is to look back at childhood and check what values were instilled in a household. Perhaps it was the notion of education, religion, or respect. We may feel comfortable with the values we were raised with and still hold them or we may have gone a different path. On the other hand, we can’t assume a person is living their true values at all times because life is a continuum. For example, we may be in a career currently we don’t value due to our life circumstances but working towards our ideal career. Therefore, we have to know that is normal to be all over the place as we figure out our values and how we can best incorporate them into our world. A coach can offer compassion and be nonjudgmental as clients work through their awareness. We may be dealing with a client who was not raised on ideal values and it may be a sensitive topic. By offering unconditional support, empathy, and active listening we can help them navigate through their thoughts and discover their values. This will in turn help assess their goals and reach their potential.
As actions reflect values, we have to evaluate them too. Is the client taking the necessary actions needed regarding what they say they want to do or are they avoiding them? For example, a clients’ values may be to stand up for justice or be an activist but when it’s time to take action, however small that maybe, they choose not to or are not comfortable. What is causing this behavior? This is when actions are not aligned with values. A coach can help the client by inquiring about their behaviors and what motivates them by asking what cause is being served when they are performing a certain action.
We can say we value being a hard worker but not work hard when it’s time to do so. This disconnect is important to understand because it can show what the true values are. Perhaps we are not being completely honest with ourselves. As we figure out our values, we may feel a sense of a struggle as it is new information about who we are. A coach can allow space for a client to think and reflect and through powerful questions help raise awareness.
Questioning our actions, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings can help us figure out our values and life purpose. Some questions we can ask ourselves to understand our values and life purpose;
- What is important to me?
- What actions am I taking to achieve my goal?
- What are some values you currently live with?
- How do you stay firm with your values?
- What makes you feel fulfilled?
- What do you consider your gifts?
- What makes you feel good about yourself?
- What drives your choices?
- What aspects of my life bring me true satisfaction?
- What are some of the most rewarding moments of your life?
- What would change if I replaced this value with another?
Once we have our values and life purpose figured out, it may see we have a lot to accomplish. It is important to remember here to take it one step at a time so we don’t get overwhelmed and end up quitting altogether. Perhaps we are trying to do everything all at once or none at all. Finding a balance is crucial in case we feel stressed, or we may feel excited to do a lot of things at once. The coach can share a client’s excitement and also be there for them if they feel stressed. Depending on who we are, we can make the best choices for ourselves. These choices can lead us to healthier relationships, fulfilling careers, and potentially be the secret to a happy life. As the client and coach work through their issues, the coach will hold the client accountable for their action and continue to support them in the case of inaction. A client may feel they are not doing enough or have added too much to their plate. This where the coach can intercept and ask the client what they feel like they can add or remove from their action steps.
Just knowing our values and life purpose is not enough. We need to take actions that reflect them too. As we know, change does not come overnight but it can be made with smaller steps. Given that our life purpose is something bigger than us we have to realize it is something we have to work hard for. It is important to give ourselves a reality check to make sure that what we consider our life purpose to be also matches who we are. For example, Sally wants to be a supermodel but that agency will only accept models 5’8 or higher and Sally is 5’2. In this case, it would be better to re-evaluate what Sally wants to pursue to live her truth. The coach can help clients by setting realistic and achievable goals. This can take the form of smaller steps and also provide clarity on how those goals will serve their life purpose.
As discussed in this paper, we see how crucial the role of values and life purpose is in our coaching. It is an integral part of clients’ behaviors and actions which is the very core of coaching. Clients come to us for help to perhaps alter a certain behavior or achieve their goals through actions. This is why it is an important concept and can feel truly liberating for our clients.
Mark Manson. “7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose.” Mark Manson, 19 Apr. 2020, markmanson.net/life-purpose.
Sicinski, Adam, and Adam Sicinski Adam. “Here Are 70 Questions to Help You Unlock Your Life’s Purpose.” IQ Matrix Blog, 8 Dec. 2018, blog.iqmatrix.com/life-purpose.
Smith, Jeremy Adam, et al. “How to Find Your Purpose in Life.” Greater Good, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_find_your_purpose_in_life.
Taylor, Jim. “Personal Growth: Your Values, Your Life.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 7 May 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/201205/personal-growth-your-values-your-life.
“Values Provide Direction.” The Career Psychologist, www.thecareerpsychologist.com/why-values-matter-in-coaching/.
ICA Module Coaching Presence Values and Life Purpose (2015)