Visible purpose and values

Visible Purpose and Value…
How to hold what we hold dearest in mind…

I love my ritual morning river walks. Especially as the season is so obviously changing, the beautiful transformations in nature around me are often a spur to reflection – and strange and interesting memories can come to the surface. This morning was one of those times.

As the fine mist of drizzle hardened into rain, I felt the drops penetrate the thinning leaves as I walked through the tunnel of leafy trees. Very soon, they will provide no shelter. Similarly, as the COP26 conference draws to an end this week it has seemed that this planet we have called home is less prone to be a reliable source of shelter…

We often look at Autumn and all its beauty with great sentiment. We can embrace what is actually the beauty of the process of death in nature, and tolerate the starkness of Winter because we know it will regenerate in Spring. I often write and speak about the magic of ‘rupture and repair’ – but we are now facing a new reality, that if we do not act, we may push nature, and the precious home that is this planet beyond repair.

The discussions and protests around the urgency of climate change have challenged us all to a serious review of our values. And the need for more conviction and consistency in living true to those values. For me, my love of nature needs to be matched by a much greater commitment to reducing my consumer habits and my carbon footprint.

To that end, this week has been the start of an experiment that we truly hope will develop into lasting change – to tilt our family of committed carnivores into a predominantly vegetarian way of life. And to be honest, it’s a challenge. I nearly reached my limits last night when I wanted to make stuffed mushrooms, then in a struggle to imagine what could go with that (which wasn’t steak) I then stuffed peppers! Much chopping, stress, and shortness of temper later…voila – tasty though it was, the meal got christened ‘Get stuffed!’…
I am so, SO used to the well-worn track of meat, carb and veg, or meat and salad, it is taking a toll on my foodie imagination…And it’s only Wednesday!! 

So today’s reflection is going to centre on how to double down on our values and purpose – and how that can help make change stick – as well as help build up our individual and family sense of self esteem and identity from the inside-out…When we are in touch with our sense of purpose, what we do seems more meaningful – and that can be so useful in elevating our consciousness around the inevitable clutter and small – and not so small – stress points of family life.

And two ways to ramp up our efforts to make change sustainable – as opposed to a burst effort…is as follows:
• To positively reframe your sense of identity around the change you want to see – eg from ‘I am giving up smoking’…to “I am a non-smoker”. Or the caveatted – ‘I am trying to cut down on meat’ to ‘I am mainly vegetarian’. Our self-talk – and the way we describe ourselves to others is very important in consolidating our sense of self. And when we anchor ourselves in who and what we want to be – rather than ‘all the things we are not yet’ we are more likely to make meaningful change. We move forward with more certain steps from a place of abundance and conviction.
• To bring the vision and purpose into being by having a rich discussion and focused exploration of it. What it will look like, feel like, what the impact and importance of it is… 
• THEN make it accessible. In my coaching I will often seek to find metaphors and symbols to act as an emotional hyperlink to that all-important sense of WHY. We can plan what and how we will do something but our motivation and commitment is the lever for making that change stick. When we are dynamically attached to that sense of purpose, the impetus to change has more energy. When we have a passionate sense of why something is important – even if it’s the drudgery of changing nappies or night-time soothing to sleep…we can withstand added challenge and hardship. To be able to summon it when we need it is what makes the symbol so powerful.

When I was a student, I remember visiting my friend’s family home in London and being struck by an enormous reproduction of Guernica in pride of place in their living/ dining room. I asked about it to make conversation over dinner as their guest. I will never forget them telling me of the resonance that painting had in their lives, in their family identity.

Her parents, softly spoken, small of stature, gentlest of people, sat up straight. They looked at me and answered my question with fire in their eyes. They told me about the Pinochet era in Chile, and how they had had to flee in the dead of night. Hastily packing light to move quickly and escape notice, boarding a plane, arriving in dreary London, cold, but free from the tyranny of the fascist regime.

They had settled and stayed in this very flat and one of the first things they did, was to acquire and hang Guernica at the centre of things. As in Spain, the painting had become an iconic anti-fascist statement. To display this banned work in your home in Chile was to risk everything. And it meant everything to them: who they were as Chileans, as refugees, who they had become as Londoners, their social and political stance, what they stood for: peace, freedom, liberalism, family, integrity, home.

For me as a vanilla, C of E, run-of-the-mill English-heritage teen, this rock-solid sense of a distinctive identity, a standpoint, the sense of family, and the principled values of a dissident community struck me profoundly. I have never forgotten it. And feeling again this morning, the full force of the memory of the symbolic quality this image had for them all; the power it had to strengthen their backbone and ground themselves in their principles, it makes me think and wonder…

What is YOUR Guernica? Is there a piece of art, and image, that you can call to mind – maybe it is already displayed in your home…that has a true resonance with your sense of who you are – what you stand for…? And what you want to pass on…through the generations.

Our brains are meaning-making machines. And what our brains rest on and revisit ‘wires in’ – is strengthened. It becomes a way of being. Whilst we are all rushing around ‘doing parenting’…how easy is it to call to mind what we want our sense of ‘being’ to be? And how can we make that live and breathe in the way we talk about and keep fresh a lived sense of what we are all about as parents, and as a family?

What are your key values?

What image might sum up your sense of purpose – what you are here on this earth for?

In your family life – what do you stand for? What are the values and principles you want to instil into your children?

They are in the act of becoming. How can you help them steer their own moral compass?

If someone were to ask your children what your values were – what do you think they would say? How accurate do you think they would be?

What do you do to make your values clear? And how congruent are you between what you say and what you do?

In so many recent webinars, I have been talking about the value of being more mindful of our core values and sense of purpose as parents. When we are present to our values, we feel a sense of connection – with our authentic selves. Who or what it is we want to be and feel in family life, and in our core relationships.

How can you symbolise those important drivers? And make them have a greater presence, be more accessible purpose and fulfilment hyperlinks…Could it be something in your environment, a talisman that you wear or carry, or display so that you can refer to that aspirational, inspirational vision more often?

Points of challenge / experimentation:

  1. Reflect and call to mind an image, a piece of art, something visual that powerfully captures one or more of your core values. Or ‘says’ something really meaningful and resonant to you.
  2. Ask your children and teens to do the same and share the stories and perspectives.
  3. Look around your most important shared spaces where you are together as a family. Reflect on what it is you see that reflects your family’s identity, your values.

Here’s my resonant image at home…I often have it as a backdrop in my webinars and training sessions about managing change and uncertainty, managing our minds, handling loss, change, and grief…It’s also spurred numerous discussions over the years as it has hung over the dining table about the chaos and turbulence of life…as well as what makes for peace and stability…What reflection points resonate for you?With love and gratitude,Emma.

More to explore