The Limits of Reliability.

When Values Fail to Serve, and the Lessons Therein.

Values, as the name implies, are beliefs we find personally meaningful. Many of us cherish our values and yet fail to recognize the power of these principles.

Because I acknowledge these ethics as fundamental to an authentic existence, I became certified in the Point of Value protocol. It’s inspiring to witness clients discover “the why behind the what” of their values. Many find comfort in realizing and understanding their values in three dimensions: foundational, focus and future (or vision) values.

Appreciation for my values is similar to a sense of security enjoyed when I set boundaries. In the case of the latter, when reframed, instead of constraining, boundaries actually liberate us. Likewise, I sense that understanding my current and future values impacts my decisions today. After all, today’s decisions inform the future.

But here’s the thing. At times, holding fast to our values serves to undermine our success. Such a scenario unfolded this past weekend, when I was compelled to make a decision that directly defied my strongly held value of reliability. In hindsight, my choice, while not values-based, was the right one. And it taught me a great lesson.

Let me set the scene. It was Saturday morning. I was due to take a 70-minute drive north to see two good friends: Jonathan at his furniture store, and then Jonathan’s wife Cyd for lunch. I had been in the market for a new sleeper couch, and was successful with Jonathan in the past. He is a true professional, and I love his style.

Being formerly of the retail world, I know that Saturdays are big. So, I felt pressure to meet Jonathan as close to 11am, his opening time, as possible so he could spend some time with me. My conundrum concerned the local farmers’ market, which provides me with about half of our weekly food consumption and runs from 10am to 1pm.

My overly optimistic plan had been to get to the market at about 9:55am, be concise with my shopping, and hit the road to Jonathan’s by 10:15am. I even packed all my gear on Friday night, as to be stealth on Saturday.

Well, life got in the way! I woke to cold, pouring rain, which is seldom a source of happiness. The thought of driving in inclement weather most certainly dampened my mood. As I went about my morning routine, I was feeling a growing sense of irritation, and I hadn’t even started my trip!

As I was departing for the market, I noticed that the winterizing heat device in our fish pond was malfunctioning. Yikes! I couldn’t risk abandoning the poor, chilly goldfish, as the pond was already more than half frozen! 

When I couldn’t get the heater to work, I realized I could use our bubbler to keep the water moving. While it was a relief to have found a solution to keep the fish safe, I felt my frustration dial up, as preparing the bubbler would take a few minutes and time was a-tickin’.

Finally, a sense of reason set in. I took a deep breath and tuned into my emotions. I asked myself WHY I was feeling what I was feeling.

Then I called my friends. I asked Cyd if she would be able to meet on Monday instead. Not only did she prefer that, but Jonathan was THRILLED to be working with me on that quieter day.

I set out to the market with the new plan in place. But while driving down the local dirt roads, I started to bully and shame myself. Eve’s voice was distinct in my brain: “So much for reliability!” and “What, you couldn’t handle a little rain?” Then I asked myself why I was being so immature about some goldfish? We weren’t even due for freezing temps until nighttime!

My rath against myself amped up as I stood on rainy lines at the farm market, my umbrella sitting in the car. Even my rain resistant coat became drenched.

As my market bounty and I made our way back up the mountain toward home, my spirits began to heighten, too. After all, I was drenched, and to be on the road for hours in that state would clearly have dampened my cheery personality.

Then I discovered that, serendipitously, my Monday schedule had been cleared. Clients rearranging their sessions left me with an open afternoon. Plus, I now had a full Saturday with nothing planned. Time for some projects around the house. Getting excited!

But there was still the issue of not living my values. Reliability is a trait I attribute to career and life success. But then I remembered a powerful prompt posed during the values certification process: “Share an example of an event that was problematic due to one of your core values.”

As I marinated on the acknowledgment that, at times, values could actually get in the way, I forgave myself. I realized that postponing one trip was not going to compromise my reliability going forward.

It’s now Monday evening and as I finish writing this article, I’m considering how I was trying to force success. The conclusion: It was when I released my resistance to “making it work” that the plan fell into place organically.

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