You’re listening to the Women in Medicine Badass Radioshow with Dr. Sharon Grossman, episode number 4. Welcome back all my WIMBAs! Super glad to have you back and I am super excited today to share with you this episode which is going to be all about the importance of aligning with your values, so let’s jump right in. You’re listening to the Women in Medicine Badass Radioshow with Dr. Sharon Grossman, episode number 4. Welcome back all my WIMBAs! Super glad to have you back and I am super excited today to share with you this episode which is going to be all about the importance of aligning with your values, so let’s jump right in.
What is a value, first and foremost? A value is something that you deem to be important, worthy, or useful. It’s a principle or a standard of behavior. So we all have values. The question is why are they important and why is it important to be aligned with those values? Here’s how I want you to think about this. When you are working in a job, it’s important that you are aligned with that job’s values. You have personal values and your organization has its own organizational values, its mission, and working in an organization where you are aligned is going to help you not feel as burned-out.
When you are misaligned with your values, there’s a couple of things that can happen. First of all, you might experience a perspective shift. What I mean by that is that you can more easily become disengaged in the work. You might feel more cynical, and you might be more pessimistic. The other thing that can happen is that you might actually end up revising your values in order to make the situation work out. So if you’ve got a lot of work to do and you’re really interested in doing a good job, you might then try to do everything you can to get the work done and dismiss or deem important all else that you have normally to do. That’s where work-life balance goes out the window. If you no longer exercise, if you are sacrificing your sleep to get the work done, if you’re not hanging out with your friends, if you’re not doing anything fun because you’re constantly focused on work, then that is a way where you’re revising some of your values. If before you valued work-life balance, now you’re singularly focused.
So now I want to share with you something that I wrote in my book, The 7E Solution to Burnout, that talks more specifically about values.
“We all seek meaning in our lives. When we are clear about what we value, we can direct our decisions and behaviors to be more purposeful. Do not let ego get in the way of your decisions. Instead, be true to yourself and others.
When you know your values, you can optimize your environment. This is key to avoiding burnout. If you are a doctor, for instance, you might consider whether you prefer a fast-paced work environment where you expend energy throughout the day (e.g., an emergency room setting) or a slower-paced environment that focuses on relationship building (e.g., a health clinic). Your values can shape your preferences and inform your decisions.
One value that determines how I live my life is balance. I love my work, I love my family, and I love my time alone. To feel complete, I have designed my life so that there is time for each of these aspects.
When you are not intentional about creating your experiences based on your values, you can easily fall out of balance, primarily if you are focused on only one aspect of your life, like your career.”
In addition to being aligned with your organizational values, it’s also important that you get more aligned with your own values as you are doing the work. And the way that you can do that is by going more into depth on the projects that you are working on. This helps to create a sense of meaning and helps you really connect to the purpose of why you do the work that you do. So think about when you show up to work tomorrow, what are the things that you need to do and how can you do it from that place of value where you think about why it is that you’re doing this work? What is it that’s bringing you to this job and how can you stay attuned to that value as you go about your day?
Abraham Maslow talked about how there’s different needs that we as human beings have and your highest level needs are around what he calls self-actualization. And there are some values that he associated with this state and I want to share those with you so that you can reflect on where you are with regards to each of these values and that’s going to help determine how close you are to really being self-actualized. And what I mean by that is that you are living your life to its potential. You are living more fully. So if you don’t feel right now that you’re living a very fulfilled life, you don’t maybe have the sense of purpose or the meaning that you want, then really pay attention to these values and ask yourself how you can get more of those in your life.
So first of all, integration. How can you stay integrated in your life? So this is really counter to what we just said about how sometimes when you’re misaligned with your values you might revise those values and you might start to focus primarily on just one thing which might be your work. Integration is really about work and Life coming together so that you have that well-roundedness. Is that a problem for you and if so what can you do about it?
Next value he talks about is self-regulation. This is huge and this is a huge part of what I teach because so much of our suffering, the stress that we feel, the anxiety, the overwhelm, and the burnout are a result of not managing our own emotions and those emotions are a result of our thinking. So if you are not really strong yet in self-regulation, just know that it’s a skill. It’s something that you can build. It’s part of Emotional Intelligence, and just like any skill, it’s just a matter of having the mindfulness, the self-awareness, and to be able to actually practice and get more fluent in that. So that’s something that if you don’t have that then maybe you’re not as fulfilled as you could be.
Another one that he talks about is playfulness. When we are so focused on work, work, work, when we focus on doing, doing, doing, we sometimes forget that there’s more to life. There is fun to be had. How can you play even in your work? And then how can you play outside of your work? What can you do to get engaged with your family, with your kids, with your friends, and maybe even just with yourself? How can you have more fun in your life?
He also talked about effortlessness. Now sometimes we have this notion that work has to be hard, that things that seem hard have to require a lot of effort. And the truth of the matter is, when you can get your mind into a state of focus, when you are really disciplined, then things don’t have to be as hard as they otherwise seem. The reason most of the time work seems so hard for us, that it’s so effortful is because there’s some resistance on our part. We are fighting against the current. And if you can just get really aligned with your values and feel that sense of purpose in your work, and you can really optimize the way that your mind is thinking, then work starts to become effortless and you can start getting to that state of flow that allows you to get more done and the time just flies by.
Simplicity is another value that Maslow talked about and I love this principle. I love this value. We think things have to be so complicated and when things are simple we doubt their value. We think that it can’t be this easy. It’s too good to be true. The truth of the matter is that most things in life can be simplified down and when we have these basic ideas back in place, life isn’t a stressful, right?
So he’s got all these values associated with self-actualization. So again, it’s integration, self-regulation, self-sufficiency…I don’t think I talked about that. Self-sufficiency–that’s the idea of really being self-reliant, maybe not to a fault where you’re super controlling, you’re not letting anybody else in. And I’ve been guilty of that, but really being able to rise to the occasion and not be so dependent on other people or be in this helpless state that you can’t figure things out on your own. So self-sufficiency, playfulness, effortlessness, and simplicity. Or, I like to kind of water it down to something even more basic which is leading a balanced, happy, and easy life. So just something for you to really reflect on.
Now, with all that in mind, there are three top values that I have found that people have related to their work. And these come down to flexibility, trust, and purpose. So with flexibility, this is something that you would want in your organization. So if you’re working, let’s say, for a hospital and they want you to put in a certain number of hours, and you have some personal things that come up–maybe your child has a play at school, or maybe you want to take a vacation, maybe you have a doctor’s appointment yourself, you want your employer to have that flexibility that you can make up the hours at another point. And I think this is a real universal value that everybody has when it comes to their job.
Secondly, trust. You want to be able to trust your employer that they’re going to do things in a fair way, that they’re going to live up to their promises because ultimately, when you work for somebody it is really a contract where they promise you certain things and you promise certain things in return. You are going to put in your work in order to receive from them benefits, compensation, and all these things.
So this actually really brings us into what you need to distinguish between which is intrinsic versus extrinsic types of values. So when do you think about your current job think about what think about what are some of the intrinsic values that are true that you have, that you hold, and that you have in this particular job. And hopefully, this job is able to check the boxes for you. So an example of an intrinsic value is autonomy. Autonomy is a huge value when it comes to burnout because when we want more control over our decisions at work, when we want to feel like we’re not being micromanaged and that’s not happening we can more easily burn out. Autonomy is an example of an intrinsic value versus an extrinsic value might be your compensation, how much you get paid to do the job that you’re doing. Now this is important to really get aligned with both intrinsic and extrinsic values because you want to feel valued in your work. So not only are aligning with your values but you also want to feel valued, okay? And when you don’t, you can start to feel frustrated. So that’s you right now I want to have you ask yourself this question: If you are frustrated about anything in your job, think about how to turn that frustration into a value that is not being met. Your job then is to identify what that value is. Once you have that understanding, that self-awareness, then you can go forth with trying to get that value met.
And lastly I want to ask you two more questions which is really important to consider because when, as we said, when your values aren’t being met that’s a recipe for burnout. So first question to really reflect on is: what are the values that led you to pursue your career? So think about all the things that led you to want to become a physician or nurse or anything else that you’re currently doing. There’s a reason. Maybe it was because you wanted to help people. Maybe it was because there was a family member who had some sort of illness and you couldn’t help them and so you made it your mission to become a physician so that you can help other people with those kinds of conditions. So whatever it is for you there’s some sort of value that’s brought you into this field, so get really clear on what that is. And that might be easy. You might already know what that is. But here’s the other question and this is super important. Are these the same values that keep you doing this work? If the answer to that question is no, then you really need to think about what’s changed, what do you currently value, and how can you get your values met in a new way? Being in a job where your values are misaligned is really not sustainable. You need to be super clear on what your values are. You need to really get aligned with those values so that you’re living your life in a fuller way, so that you can get to that self-actualization and lead that balanced, happy, and easy life.