Why writing a values list changed everything

Episode 19 of Turbitt & Duck: The Library Podcast was a flipped episode. Clare Thorpe interviewed Amy Walduck and I about resilience, values, theme songs and perfectionism.. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and being interviewed and surprised myself by talking about my “values list” and why it has changed the way I feel about myself, my decision making, anxiety and confidence.

Defining my personal values was hard (who thought making a list of what’s important to you could be difficult? not me!) and as I mention in the episode, my first couple of drafts were completely off the mark and very focused on what I thought people wanted me to value or what they saw in me. Some of the values were superficial and on reflection, didn’t hold any meaning for me. However, once those twenty two values were on paper, it felt right, to see how I feel about myself reflected back at me. I had my “who and why”. I’ve kept the list with me for several years now and it has played a big part in becoming more resilient and self-aware.

What’s the point of a list?

For me, the purpose of the list was to identify the values I live by and then use it as a tool to navigate life. Mine is a list because the format works for me but I’m sure there are many ways of capturing your values.

How do I use it? When faced with a difficult decision, I use it to trigger a conversation with myself around “why I am finding it hard to decide?, what is making me uncomfortable? Does the project, opportunity, person reflect my values?”.

I use it when I am stressed, anxious or falling into perfectionist behaviour. That’s when I say to myself “Stop. Look at the list. What’s not in alignment with these values? Am I doing the opposite? Where am I pushing to fit when I don’t? How can I change that?”.

Are you wondering what my personal values are?

Authenticity. Integrity. Independence. Enjoyment. Empathy. Originality. Curiosity. Strength. Good Health. Honesty. Decisiveness. Fun. Generosity. Fairness. Belonging. Stability. Openness. Enthusiasm. Thoughtfulness. Happiness. Consistency. Self-Expression.

I can honestly say that having this list that I can open on my phone and ponder whenever I need to, has made me happier, more resilient and able to get to the root of unhappiness, anxiety and frustration quickly. I don’t need to ramble around in my head for weeks trying to figure out why I’m struggling or whether I should be doing something, or why I keep on avoiding a task, the answer is there for me. Even though I’ll do my best to ignore it sometimes, I’m there on the screen.

Have you got a list of personal values? Do you think it makes decision making easier? Do you feel more resilient and capable?

 

 

What I don’t want you to know about me

What started as an email to myself about the importance of being honest and talking about the beliefs I hold about myself turned into this post. Which then became several days of reading and contemplating imposter syndrome, comparison and everybody.

What I don’t want you to know about me (not an exhaustive list)

  • I’m not a specialist, I don’t want to write deep philosophical articles about data, culture, research techniques. (To those who do, thank you!).
  • My search skills are not what I think they should be and mostly pretty random. I can find what you need, it just won’t be very methodical or structured.
  • I worry all the time about not fitting in, being too loud, too extroverted, stress about how I’m not like that librarian over there, or that one there.
  • I worry about whether I bring anything useful or meaningful to Turbitt and Duck.
  • Some days I think I’m a failed librarian, an imposter, an upstart, that annoying person who thinks she knows about libraries but really doesn’t.
  • That because I’m new to the library profession, I shouldn’t have any opinions or anything to say. Because opinions are for legitimate librarians and I’m not legitimate. 

Here’s what I do know about me

  • I’m not a specialist, I can’t and don’t want to write deep philosophical articles about data, culture, research techniques. (To those who do, thank you!). I’m a generalist, and like to know about many topics and really don’t have any desire to deep dive into particular topics.
  • My search skills are not what I think they should be and mostly pretty random. I can find what you need, it just won’t be very methodical or structured. I am teaching myself to be a more systematic searcher and reach out to those I know are great at it to see what I can learn from them.
  • I worry about not fitting in, being too loud, too extroverted, stress about how I’m not like that librarian over there, or that one there. I also spend time being happy with being *this* particular librarian.
  • I worry about whether I bring anything useful for or meaningful to Turbitt and Duck. This is completely untrue and one from the deeper anxiety recesses of my brain. Clearly I bring excellent GIFs to the Turbitt and Duck world.
  • Some days I think I’m a failed librarian, an imposter, an upstart, that annoying person who thinks she knows about libraries but really doesn’t. Just because I am new to this profession, doesn’t mean I haven’t got anything to contribute. HELLO TRANSFERABLE SKILLS and KNOWLEDGE. This one is about acknowledging that fear and doing it anyway.
  • That because I’m new to the library profession, I shouldn’t have any opinions or anything to say. Because opinions are for legitimate librarians and I’m not legitimate. I will never feel legitimate, tertiary study was ‘supposed’ to make me feel that way and it didn’t. So after reading The Happiness Project and some deep discussions with friends, I’m letting myself be illegitimate!

Don’t let your “Everybody Committee” tell who you are and what you can and can’t do

Over the last two days I’ve listened to this episode of Don’t Keep Your Day Job with guest Martha Beck twice and was struck by the discussion about the ‘generalised other’ AKA The Everybody Committee.

To quote Martha:

Your generalized other is actually based on a mental magnification of just a few people, often the most judgmental people you know.

And:

So the brain takes about six people, blends them into a brew and calls them EVERYBODY. And we truly in our hearts believe that EVERYBODY wants or expects or thinks XYZ of us.

Oh. WOAH. Looking back at my original list, how many of them have I, at some point told myself is because “everybody” thinks so? All of them. Letting myself be guided by that mystical and unreliable blob of people isn’t how I want to live life. And it keeps that door open for imposter syndrome and comparison to walk right in, put their feet on the furniture, eat all the food in the fridge and heckle relentlessly.

Have a listen to that episode, read this article by Martha Beck about the Everybody Committee. Make your own list of things you don’t want to people to know about you. Split the page in half, left hand column is all the crap things you think about yourself, the right hand side, your counter arguments.

Close the door to imposter syndrome by sacking that committee and finding a new one.

Applications are now open for my new committee – applicants who supply GIFs and puns will be given preferred applicant status!

 

3 lessons I’ve learnt about how to move from thinking to doing

How many times have you made the decision to start something new: write an abstract, start a new project, join a group or committee, start a blog, apply for a job, and then, nothing happens? It’s easy to convince yourself that the timing wasn’t right, or that it was too hard or you aren’t ready (hot tip: you’ll never be ready), we’ve all done that. When I’m stuck in that “I want to start but am caught in the headlights” position, I remind myself of these three points to force myself into action.

You will make mistakes

I’ve made a lot of mistakes, so have you. Lots and lots of mistakes. Each mistake has been an opportunity for reflection and to figure out how to fix it next time. Obviously I’ve ignored the opportunity to reflect sometimes, wallowed in my mistake and never tried again. Hasn’t everyone?

When you can recognise the learning opportunity that comes with mistakes, then you’re on to something. Find how to fix the mistake, document the process, tell someone you stuffed up and explain how you’ll do it better next time. If I had given up the first time I stuffed something up, well there would be no Turbitt in Turbitt & Duck. And probably no library degree hanging on my wall or…well you get the picture. We all make mistakes. Dare to be bad. And then keep going.

There is no gatekeeper, there is no gate.

You will never be ready

This has been written so many times before by many other people. You will never be ready. So you may as well take the first step, get started and make some mistakes. Apply for that job, ask someone to help you rewrite your resume, start that research, return to study, ask for a secondment, learn how to paint, start that zine, write the abstract.

There will never be the right time for any of these things so you may as well start now.

The starting is the hard bit for lots of people, particularly if you’re partial to procrastination and perfectionism. To you I say, the first version is going to be a bit shit, so you may as well get it out of your system.

You Aren’t Lazy – You’re Just Terrified: On Paralysis and Perfectionism.

Everything you need is within your reach

If you are starting a new project, wanting to know more about yourself, looking at a new field of study or research, wanting to find a buddy to start a podcast with, thinking about writing a conference abstract, everything you need is out there waiting for you.

And if you have a library qualification, you are more than capable of finding what you need to get started.

Reach out, ask for help, connect with people. Don’t be an island. Isolation is the dream killer so be loud and proud about what you’re doing. Turbitt & Duck came about because Amy and I shared our dreams and ideas with each other. I’ve wanted to start a podcast for a long time, but it took opening up to Amy who understood what I was rambling about to make it happen.

Sharing your plans, dreams or project may also give you the accountability that you need to keep going. If you’re worried about getting it “right”, refer to points 1 and 2. Take small steps if you need to, but just start.

Isolation is the dream killer.

What’s one thing you can do right now, one small step, that will start you moving towards your goal?

Stressed? I haven’t got time!

Time management and stress management was the theme of the first #auslibchat for 2018 and if you’re looking for a Twitter chat full of suggestions, puns, GIFs and support, jump over there immediately and bookmark/Pocket/Pinterest/print all the things. Seriously, if you need one reason to join Twitter, do it for this monthly chat. Instead of typing several long tweets with links to resources, it seemed like a nice idea to capture them here.

Here are some of my go-to stress and time management tools, in no particular order:

Learning how to live, work and get through the hard stuff

  1. Listening to stories and ideas about life (personal and professional) is my main stress management tool (particularly combined with point 3 on this list). Individual experiences, what went wrong and right, embracing change, developing new skills or becoming more resilient . . . it might not sound like stress management to you, but it definitely works for me. Listening and learning makes me feel more ok about myself and who I am. Try Discover Your Talent Do What You Love, How To Be Awesome At Your Job, Made of Human, Get Your Sh*t Together, Happier In Hollywood and By The Book.
  2. Cognitive behaviour therapy helped me change thought patterns and identify stressors before they take over. Sarah Edelman’s Change Your Thinking is an excellent introduction to CBT. My other favourite book to understand the mind and how to break free of negative self-talk is F*ck Feelings: Less Obsessing, More Living by Dr Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett.
  3. Going outside on a break or at lunch is hugely beneficial to your mental health. Look at the sky, find some grass and take your shoes off, or just sit. Whatever works, just go outside!

Time is of the essence but also hard to wrangle

  1. Pomodoro keeps me focused for short bursts and then gives me time to wander away for a few minutes to make tea, talk to the dogs, look out the window without feeling guilty.
  2. Putting everything in my calendar, blocking out time for each task on my to do list.
  3. Headphones with music that match what I’m doing is great for keeping focused. (Now I’m working from home, I can dance and work to my hearts content – win!) I’m a big fan of wearing headphones in the office, don’t worry about offending people, just do it if you think you will get more done or need to tune out office chat!

One final thought

Having a friend (work colleague, non-work colleague, partner, parent, neighbour etc) to debrief with when work becomes too much is so important. Find that safe person, they could be online or right in front of you. It’s good to just say all the things and hear “OMG that’s terrible/stressful/have you thought about…”. And if you see someone online who seems to be struggling, reach out and send them a friendly GIF or message, whatever works. It could make all the difference.

P.S. The cards in the image are Affirmators! (50 Affirmation Cards to Help You Help Yourself – without the Self-Helpy-Ness!) and the weekly planner is from Kmart ($3!!!)