What Do You Want on Your Tombstone?

Posted by on Jul 17, 2012 | 4 comments

I am Shekinah.
Dwelling place of divine expression,
Powerful feline grace,
Soft forgiving earth.
Well-spring of perception, humor and peace.
River of deeply felt compassion and joy.
Loyal Sherpa and spiritual midwife.

My purpose is to live within the questions,
hold the sacred space between the words,
gratefully and courageously receive and create possibility,
and inspire others to fully realize their essence.

Four years ago this week, I began the 18-month odyssey known as professional coach training.  I walked into a sunlit classroom on a Friday morning in northwest Washington and encountered 13 people I’d never met before. By the time I left on Sunday, the above words (officially my “Vision and Purpose” statement) were discovered, recorded and had become part of my DNA.

Why revisit them now? Because I love anniversaries and milestones, for one thing. They are a perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on what’s changed from then to now. But this is the first time I’ve read them in light of my work with introverts. And I’m amazed that four years later, words that came to me before I even knew what direction my life or business would go, still ring 100% true.

As I reflect on why that could be – after all, my head was in a very different place at that time – I come back to what was core to my process.

For once, it wasn’t my head. It was my heart.

I know it’s not necessarily an “introvert thing” to live too much in my head. That said, I think many of us do, because we have a strong internal compass that by default points us inward for wisdom. The loudest voice is usually coming from the echo chamber between our ears. For this reason, I don’t know that I could have been gifted these same words left to my own devices. I needed people who didn’t know me to really see me and to hold me bigger than I hold myself.

There were several layers we had to peel back before we revealed our personal Vision and Purpose statements. The fundamental layer was identifying our values. Values are those ideals that we hold dear, that guide our choices and ultimately define us. I often tell coaching clients, “your core values could be engraved on your tombstone, that’s how fundamental they are.”

You can hear some of mine sprinkled throughout my statement: grace, compassion, peace, the divine, curiosity. They’re pretty lofty; I can’t say I live them consistently or hold them as closely as I’d like. But I remember one of Dale Carnegie’s “Golden Rules”: “Give someone a fine reputation to live up  to.” That’s what my values, as well as my Vision and Purpose statements, do for me. They reflect who I am and who I want to be. They remind me of what’s most important when I get mired in the day-to-day, or feel confused or overwhelmed.

If I’m living my values, that internal compass points to where I need it most powerfully, my head or my heart… or both! The past four years have been busy with that re-calibration. Sure, I’ve been building a  business, coaching, writing, speaking… but I’ve also been slowly shifting my relationship with my inner introvert wisdom. I trust my intuition more and worry less.

Clarity about my values frees me up to, as introvert poet Emily Dickinson so beautifully put it, “dwell in possibility.

BONUS!! OPTIONAL HOMEWORK: How clearly have you defined your core values? Here’s an exercise for you: review this list of values (PDF, opens in new window), and circle every value that resonates with you. Narrow that selected list down to your top 10, then your top four. Remember: those top four are your “tombstone” values, the ones that guide your choices and actions. Once you’ve identified your four, define them. What do they look and sound like? How do you know when you are honoring them? In what area of your life is it easy to live them? What area is not so easy?

If you like, please share what you discern to be your four core values in the comments below.

PS: Do you want to create your own Vision and Purpose statement like the one I shared at the start of this post? Would you like to integrate your values more fully into your life? I facilitate a fabulous process to help you do just that! Learn more here: startlivingyourvision.com


Featured Image: devmoonfreak-stock, http://moonfreak-stock.deviantart.com/art/Blank-Headstone-Stock-88018501, altered by Beth Buelow