Episode 020: Aligning Your Work with Your Core Values
In a normal week, you’re working 40 hours a week (but let’s be honest, you’re probably working more than that), and your work takes up more of your time than anything else that you do.So shouldn’t your work provide joy and satisfaction, instead of dread and the misery?
In this episode, I discuss how to align your work with your core values and why this is vital to your health.
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Before we get to today’s episode, just a reminder that my 21-Day Sugar Detox Group Coaching program begins next week on January 15th!
If you’re not familiar with the program, go back and listen to Episode 008, and then join me for a live online workshop on The In’s and Out’s of the 21-Day Sugar Detox on Sunday, January 14th. I’ll be giving a preview of the program and answering any questions that you have about it. Head on over over to the show notes for this episode to find the links to register.
Alright, let’s get to today’s episode.
When I first started on my journey as a patient in functional medicine, one of the biggest a-ha’s that I had (and there were many), was realizing all the different ways that stress shows up in our life.
It shows up in a million different ways: there’s emotional stress. psychological stress and financial stress. These are the ways I thought of stress, but there’s also nutritional stress from eating poor diets which can lead to food sensitivities and intolerances. There’s magnetic stress from sitting in front of a computer and being on devices all day, there’s stress from not getting enough sleep - I mean who doesn’t have that problem these days, there’s stress from overtraining and overexercising - which is what I experienced, there’s spiritual stress from feeling disconnected and alone, and there’s probably a lot more types of stress that I’m drawing a blank on.
And stress is wrecking our lives. Because with every single type of stress we experience, there’s a physiological reaction in our bodies to it. And while some stress is good, an overload of it, especially bad stress, can create inflammation, ripening the environment for sickness and disease.
About a year ago, I started my 100 Conversations Project where I set out to interview people on what’s their biggest source of stress and how it shows up for them.
And by far, the most common theme that showed up in every single conversation I had (and it was upwards of 30+) was that work was their biggest source of stress.
Let’s think about that for a minute.
In a normal week, you’re working 40 hours a week, but let’s be honest, you’re probably working more than that, and if you take out the 40 hours a week that you should be sleeping (but probably are getting less than that), your work takes up more of your time than anything else that you do.
And you probably spend more time with your colleagues than you do with your own family and friends.
So shouldn’t your work provide some sort of joy and satisfaction, instead of the doom and gloom, the dread and the misery that I heard about from every single person I spoke with?
When I dug deeper into these conversations, what was glaringly obvious was that when the work was the primary source of stress, it was misaligned with the person’s purpose and their core values.
Back in 2003, I was working for a mid-sized tech company that wasn’t managed very well. There were a lot of shady things that went on - politics, personal vendettas, backstabbing, just a lot of dishonesty and treating people poorly.
It felt contentious to be in that environment every day. So it comes as no surprise that I hated my job and I viewed it as the single source of stress in my life. I had some really unhappy years working there, but for the longest time, I did nothing about it.
It felt safer to stay in a place where I was so unhappy than to actually do something about it.
My failure to take action that led to years of sleepless nights, burnout and emotional eating and overtraining to cope with the misery. And it created a ripe environment for IBS, SIBO, hormonal imbalances and even Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Eventually, I reached my breaking point where I finally decided that I was tired of being unhappy. It was exhausting and I was tired of feeling so...unwell.
When I finally decided to take action and do something about it, I realized that really, it wasn’t my work that was my source of stress, it was me. You see, I had changed jobs a few times, yet still had the same attitude toward all of them.
So what was my problem?
I thought that the work that I was doing was in total misalignment with my core values and what I really wanted to be doing.
I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, not be stuck doing seemingly meaningless work that didn’t make a different in the world.
So what could I do?
I knew something that to change for me to find joy in the work that I do, but I couldn’t just quit my job. I still had bills to pay.
I had to find a practical solution. And that was to shift my mindset and learn how to bridge the gap so I could align my work with my values.
You’re probably thinking, “Well Naomi, that’s nice for you, but how would I do that?”
Well, I’ve narrowed what I did into to four steps.
1 | Awareness
The first step for was to have awareness. Really, I think this is the first step for any type of change you make. You have to have an awareness of your problem, and at the root, what the true cause of that problem is.
For years I blamed my job and everyone I worked with. While it certainly wasn’t unicorns and roses, the reality is, I had the power in me to do something about it.
When I finally was honest with myself, that’s when I was ready to acknowledge that while the work environment that I was in was in complete misalignment with what I valued for myself, I had the power to do something about it.
2 | Reflect
Once you’re aware, ask yourself these four questions: How did your work situation come to be? What are your core values? Do they align with each other? If they don’t, how can you bring them into alignment?
The best advice I give you is to quiet the noise and look inward. Meditation and journaling are great tools to do this.
Write down what your core values are, then do a brain dump of everything that stresses you out, not just things related to your work. And most importantly - why.
See where the gaps are - an exercise called “Early Morning Pages” can help you with this. I wrote a blog post on Early Morning Pages that I’ll link to in the show notes.
Once you see where the gaps are, brainstorm on how you can bridge the gap.
What can you do to align your work with your values?
3 | Make An Action Plan
Once you determine how you can bridge the gap, create a plan to put it into action.
You have more control over this than you think!
It may mean having tough conversations and making job or lifestyle changes, but it also can just be shifting your mindset, or finding other ways to practice your core values.
4 | Implement Your Plan
Now that you’ve mapped out your plan, take action and make it happen!
So getting back to my story, you all know that I still have a 9-5 as a program manager. In fact, this week marks 10 years in this role.
The first four years of it were miserable. I was so out of alignment between what I did, day in and day out, versus what I held important to me.
So I went through the process that I just shared to figure out what brings me joy, what’s in my zone of genius and then sought ways to bring that into my work.
I like take complex initiatives and breaking them down into small achievable tasks, and slowly work my way to a solution. Well guess what - that’s pretty much what a program manager does. And I’ve come realized that not everyone has a this talent - so I actually am making a valuable difference in someone’s life every time I write a project plan because it allows the other members on the team the freedom to do the work that they enjoy doing. It clears the barriers.
I also know that my purpose, my value-add, is to encourage freedom in others through motivating, real and constructive honesty.
So when roadblocks do arise (as they always do), I’m able to coach them by asking probing questions that spark insight and a different perspective and encourages freedom.
At the end of the day, clearing barriers and removing roadblocks makes a difference in the lives of the people on my team. It lessens their stress so they can find fulfillment in the work that they do within their own zone of genius.
What I’ve come to realize that my ability to do this, is a form of coaching that completely aligns with my values.
And I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more fulfillment in my 9-5 than I have these past six year.
And this fulfillment that I get from being a Program Manager goes hand-in-hand with my work as a nutrition educator.
I’ve been passionate about health, fitness, and wellness for the past 14 years, wanting desperately to work in this field.
Well, I finally did something about it when I went back to school for it. And now I’m able to use my education, experience, and skills to make a direct difference in the quality of life not just for my clients, but for my colleagues too.
And the amount of fulfillment that brings me, just warms my heart. Now interestingly enough, there were some unexpected shifts that happened in my 9-5 just before the holidays. Some changes happened in my role and with my responsibilities that I didn’t see coming, nor did I welcome.
But at the end of the day, the nature of the work that I’m doing isn’t changing, and it’s still in alignment with my core values. And most importantly, it’s in my power to do something about it.
So I can honestly say that I no longer have the Sunday Night Dread. And I know that you know what I mean by that.
When you work in alignment with your core values, you’ll look forward to going to work every day because work doesn’t feel like “work.” You’ll feel inspired, motivated and fulfilled. You feel empowered.
Your passion and enthusiasm will overflow and work will no longer being your biggest source of stress, because you love the work that you do.
And people will feel your new vibe and notice the change in your energy. And eventually, you’ll find yourself surrounded with like-minded people to keep your trajectory going.
Powerful things happen when you align your core values with your work and surround yourself with a like-minded community.
So if you feel like you’re one of the ladies I interviewed, and that work is your biggest source of stress, go through the process that I outlined, and see what you can do to bridge the gap.
It doesn’t necessarily mean having to quit your job or find a new career. There are ways that we can make little shifts to bring what we hold valuable into our work.
It’s where you spend the most amount of time - and it should be something that brings you joy and satisfaction, not every some of the time, but all of the time.
I think that’s a good place to wrap things up this week.
As always, thank you so much for listening. I know your time is valuable so I appreciate you taking the time out, every week to spend it with me.
I’ll see you next week!
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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.