Taking Your Values With You Into Difficult or New Arenas


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena. Delivered at the Sorbonne (Paris)

on April 23rd, 1910.

Often times all we have going into a hard conversation, a life transition or in the beginning of a new habit are our values. Brené Brown often talks about how when we walk into the different arenas of our lives, the only thing we get to take with us are our values. In supporting clients as they face challenging life moments, I often ask them what 1-3 values are they going to take into the experience with them. When we are clear with what values we are going to bring with us and use to frame our communications, actions and beliefs, it allows us to feel more clear and empowered in how we show up with ourselves and with others. For example, if I am clear that I am going into a hard conversation with the values of kindness and fairness clearly stated to myself, my responses and my willingness to listen during the hard conversation are going to be different than if I am not in alignment or aware of the values I am trying to live and practice.

So the next time you are about to step into a difficult arena of your life such as communicating with your partner, setting a boundary or standing up for yourself, ask yourself the following questions to help you feel better prepared:

- What values would you like to embody and utilize in this upcoming experience?

- How will your communication change if you speak in alignment with those values?

- Who do you know supports you in your values that may or may not be with you during this experience? Who are your support people?

- What permissions do you need to give yourself to be brave enough to take your values with you into this experience? (Examples include, I need the permission to ask for support or I need permission to be gentle with myself as I practice this new skill etc.)

- How do you envision this experience going if you are in alignment with your values?

By journaling or talking through your answers to the above questions you can become more self-aware of the values you are wanting to utilize, the supports and/or permissions you may need and what you are hoping the experience will provide. When we align our values with our actions the outcome often looks, sounds and feels different than when we do not. I hope this practice allows you to feel more empowered in stepping into brave new arenas with your values safely in place to help light your way.

Sara Hughes-Zabawa, LCSW

Sara works from a holistic approach, focusing on issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, chronic pain, disordered eating, faith transitions, stress management and serving the LGBTQ+ community. She offers coaching/consultation and therapy services to individuals, couples and families.

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