Putting Value on What You Do

Does what we are choosing reflect what we most deeply value? Jack Kornfield

Yesterday I spent  a few hours with a good friend who also happens to be a very inspiring woman.

At the age of 46 she had a crisis of belief in her work, despite being in her “dream” job heading up a public sector department. She left burnt out and disillusioned.  Whilst pondering her next move she took up track cycling, discovered she had a natural talent for it and, within nine months, was winning events at the World Master Track Championship.  Over the next four years she won eight World Masters track cycling titles including a world record in Women’s sprint in 2002.

Now, nine year’s later she is training again with a new goal of setting a new world record in the 60+ age group.  In the meatime she has set up her own business as a life coach and personal trainer and started a women’s cycling network with over 100 members. So I was shocked to hear this woman, who has achieved so much, questioning the value of what she does and whether she should be concentrating on a earning more money instead.

It made me wonder, why is it that our work achievements need to have £s attached to them before we believe they are worthwhile?

Yet, I also totally understood where she was coming from.  Used to having a high paying job for most of my adult life I continualy struggle to find another yardstick by which to measure my success. When I first set up my own coaching business I had very few clients and my earnings were, well, peanuts.  My heart used to sink whenever a well meaning friend, family member or business acquaintance asked me whether my business was going well.  I instinctively felt it wasn’t, despite the fact that I’d started a new business from scratch, won my first clients and been elected to the board of a key coaching professional body.

And, more importantly, I was loving my work, collaborating with wonderful people and finding each day exciting and challenging.  Still, I felt a failure because I wasnt earning nearly as much as I used to.  Or as much as I felt I OUGHT to.

So what is this “ought”and why is it so hard to eradicate from our sense of self-value?  The simple answer is that it’s there because we allow it to be. We can tell ourselves over and over again that our goal isn’t to earn a lot of money but somehow we just don’t “feel” it as a truth.  Why?  Because we don’t spend time building other sources of self-value to replace it.  We may think we do, but too often we don’t take time to build a crystal clear image of success that resonates with our deepest held values – and we don’t measure our progress against that.  So, its not surprising that our default position always reverts back to money as a measure of success.

So now I’ve developed my own definition of the value created by my work.  I remind myself whenever I can that I am a success if my work:

  • allows me to use my favourite skills and talents;
  • involves the right mixture of independent tasks and collaboration with people who I admire and whose company I enjoy;
  • requires continual learning and pushing of boundaries consistent with the creation of the life I want to live;
  • contributes to a purpose that reflects what I most deeply value;


  • I am able to pay the bills that I need to pay to keep me and my family safe and happy.

Now when people ask me how my business is going, I simply smile and tell them how incredibly rewarding it is.

So how do you measure the value of what you do?


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