3 Steps to resolving inner conflict
Are you feeling conflicted?
Spring is a great time to start new ventures, plan for the year and generally get excited about new stuff going on. We tend to have more energy for this kind of work and it’s easy to start getting active and actually doing the things that makes us feel good. It’s almost like a New Year vibe with more energy behind it.
I definitely feel more excited about what’s going to be happening and what’s possible for my life and career at the moment. I think it’s partly the lighter days, giving us more energy, partly the warmth in the air and especially in the UK, it’s been pretty sunny and warmer than usual this month. I’ve got a whole load of things that I want to be getting on with and I’m eager to get started.
The other side of this can be a feeling of fear that creeps in when we start looking at any kind of plans that change the status quo of our lives. That kind of “hmm, not sure I can really do this” or “now’s not really a great time” or “I’ll bear that in mind for another time”.
There often seems to be some (logically) very good reasons not to do the things or make the changes. It’s all about fear – your mind keeping you safe from the horrible things it imagines might happen if you change your job or partner or house or habits.
Even though you know it needs to change because you’re not happy, you start to doubt whether you really need to change anything at all. I mean, you’ve gone this long and everything’s been kind of ok hasn’t it? Ok, you might not be over-the-moon happy or even content but you’re ok and that’s what matters.
When we start thinking about change and new things, some strange ideas pop up and start giving their opinions! For me, it’s usually financial fears and also a bit of “what will people think”.
That’s because there’s a conflict between values that are important to me but that are pulling me in different directions. We all have values that are the pillars of what drives us in different directions. They are the things that guide us through life and help us decide what’s important to us. They are things that help you measure how well things are going too.
Values are usually attributes that are important to you such as love, wealth, security, honesty, commitment, freedom, health. These aren’t necessarily things that you always embody but they are things that drive your decision making in life and that (in some cases) you value in other people.
For example, one of my top values is freedom so I love having options. I’m not great at meal planning, but I know it’s important for me to have a little bit of structure, so I plan a few days at a time, rather than a month at a time. One of my other top values is authenticity. I value it in other people, so I aim for that myself. Life is easier for me when I’m being myself.
The problem with values is that sometimes, you may find they don’t seem to work together very well and that’s when conflicts arise.
I often struggle with this because I’ve previously had a strong value of security and that often does not work well with freedom. In fact sometimes, they’ve felt like complete opposites and that’s why I found it so difficult to move away from a comfortable career to something brand new.
On the one hand I had Freedom in my ear – this is the time, let’s go and spread our wings and find a new way. We’ll burn down the old crap stuff and start again, we’ll do it our way on our terms and it will be wonderful.
On the other hand, I had Security having a meltdown – what??? You can’t do this, what about the house you’ve worked for, the comfortable financial situation, you can go on holiday when you want, you can eat nice food when you want, go out for dinner and see friends when you want to. You’ll never be able to do that if you leave your job.
There was so much going on and at the time, Security won for a long time. I think now that’s partly because I’d spent so much of my twenties and thirties feeling anxious about everything and that I’d never have any real security – financial, emotional or physical.
Now, Freedom often wins but it’s not necessarily always a good thing!
The thing is that we all have values and the top 5 tend to be the ones that are driving the show most of the time. If you’re feeling conflicted about a situation, I’m willing to bet quite a lot of money it’s because you’ve got two values clashing.
So what do you need to do?
1. The first thing is to work out what your values are. I’ll put a list at the end of this blog of some of the most common. If you’re struggling, pick ten then try to narrow it down to five. (It's worth noting that there's no right or wrong to values work, it's all about what is important to you with no judgement)
2. Take a look at the situation you’re struggling with and see if you can work out how these values are affecting you. You should be able to find the clash here.
3. See if you can find a middle ground or decide what is more important to you in the situation you’re facing then shape the solution around this.
I’ll give you an example – I like a variety of food to eat but I didn’t like planning so used to find I would go to the supermarket and buy stuff that I enjoyed eating, but wouldn’t come away with many actual meals to make. I’d also end up wasting a fair amount of food.
As I said above, I like freedom but I also don’t like waste and enjoy a certain amount of structure. So I decided to start meal planning in order to have a proper shopping list. I’d plan weeks at a time but would soon get bored and then end up not eating everything I’d bought.
So I compromised. I saw that I liked the freedom, but also didn’t want to waste food and know what I was going to be eating instead of making it up every day. I now meal plan for about 4-5 days and go from there. I check what I already have, and find a balance between what I want with no restrictions and what I know will make things easier for me.
Sometimes there’s a clear winner in these situations and an obvious answer, sometimes it takes a bit of work to get there. But whatever the situation, it will at least help you identify the source of the conflict and help you see things more clearly.