For more than 60 years, my Grandmother Roberta and her friend Winifred attended Women’s Club luncheons, volunteered at the church, partnered in bridge games and vacationed together with their husbands. Each lived to 100 years of age.
When Winifred was in her early 90s, she shared her birthday party plan with my grandmother: She wanted to prepare and serve lunch to her family.
What really got Grandma Roberta’s attention was that Winifred said she wanted to make a pie. When my grandmother told me the story, I could tell that she was surprised and awed that someone their age even aspired to do such a thing.
It was clear there was something else going on. Grandma’s respect and admiration for her friend was inspiring her; she decided that she was ready to return to the kitchen, tie on her apron and dust her rolling pin with flour to make pies for her own next birthday. This didn’t sound like my grandmother.
When you’re talking with someone who’s doing and behaving in ways that they personally find meaningful, you know it. Or not.
From what I knew about Winifred, making pies gave her a way to connect with her family, and may have represented that she could still challenge herself as she got older. Grandma Roberta usually showed her care for us in other ways.
This is the territory of personal values, which is a tool that helps people reflect on, get clear about and use each day to live meaningfully.
Who hasn’t had a similar experience?
It’s so easy to be inspired by what someone else has, did or plans to do. We applaud, admire and encourage others’ interests and accomplishments.
Without even realizing it, we begin to tell ourselves stories about how our life will be better or different if we do what she’s doing.
Yes, it may turn out to be rewarding and fulfilling. Or, we just add one more thing to our to-do list. When “it” becomes more about someone else, it’s no longer a reflection of what’s important to us, because it’s not our own value.
With experience we gain wisdom. Winifred did indeed serve her family a birthday lunch with homemade pie. By the time my grandmother had her next birthday, she knew how she preferred to celebrate: with family, at a restaurant, where someone else made the dessert.
Practice: How to stay connected to your own values
“Winifred” is my code, my own reminder, to connect with my values. It comes into play when admiration of someone else’s endeavors sends me down the path of thinking “I could do that, too!”—even though it's not a fit with who I am.
Here are some questions for you to consider:
- Who or what is the Winifred in my life?
- How can I more fully do what I value?
- What if I inspire someone else by living my values?
I help mindful and ambitious women get on a path to a career they love, which includes gaining insight into your own values. Are you ready to elevate your professional potential with concrete action and self-care? Check out my services page to see how I can support you.