Aligned and Thriving Podcast | Strategies for Work Life Balance

How being aligned with your values supports work life balance?

January 15, 2024 Judith Bowtell | Career Development for Achieving Work-Life Balance Episode 1
Aligned and Thriving Podcast | Strategies for Work Life Balance
How being aligned with your values supports work life balance?
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome to Aligned and Thriving: Strategies for Work-Life Balance, the podcast where we delve into the foundations of creating a meaningful work-life balance. I'm your host, Judith Bowtell, and I'm thrilled to have you join me for our inaugural episode. This marks the beginning of a series of conversations with individuals who have crafted diverse strategies for achieving work-life balance.


In this episode, I'll share the inspiration behind creating "Aligned and Thriving" and how it can assist you in fostering a more balanced working life. I'll also take you through my personal journey, from being an overworked government executive to running my own business focused on self-development, career coaching, and leadership programs. Join me as we explore the importance of aligning with your personal values in various domains of life.


Podcast Episode Summary and Key Points:

  • Discover the motivation behind creating "Aligned and Thriving" and how it supports a more balanced working life.
  • Explore the role of personal values in shaping our thoughts and actions.
  • Uncover the neuroscience behind values, particularly the influence of dopamine and key brain regions.
  • Understand the impact of social context on personal values and how they evolve over time.
  • Learn the process of discovering your personal values and common pitfalls to avoid.
  • Gain insights into the transformative journey of aligning with personal values and its numerous benefits.
  • Recognize the signs of misalignment and how it may manifest as a midlife crisis, presenting an opportunity for reflection and realignment.
  • Embrace the idea that aligning with personal values leads to comfort, motivation, and support, ultimately contributing to a well-balanced life.


Head, Heart and Hands article referenced: 

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We're thrilled to embark on this podcast adventure, and we can't wait to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Subscribe to "Aligned and Thriving" now to unlock a world of inspiration and practical strategies. Join our community for additional support, and remember, be kind to yourself, take care, and stay well. 

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Episode 1 - How being aligned with your values supports work life balance?

[00:00:00] Welcome to Aligned and Thriving Strategies for Work Life Balance. I'm your host, Judith Bowtell, and I'm so happy to have you join me today for our first episode. Not only is this our first episode, but it is also one of three that will set the foundations for the conversations we will have in this series with people who have developed different strategies to create work life balance that is meaningful to them.

[00:00:29] If you are truly challenged with work life balance or having meaning and purpose in your working life, I encourage you to take the time to listen now to understand why this is happening and what you can do to make your life more fulfilling. Today we are going to look at what inspired me to create Aligned and Thriving and how it can support you to have a more balanced working life.

[00:00:50] We will explore what sits behind our personal value systems, how we can utilise this to improve our life course. And finally, I'll give you a guide to how you can connect to your own personal values, which for me is one of the first steps in creating a more balanced working life. Making this podcast has been on my bucket list for some time now, as I'm passionate about supporting individuals to live happy, healthy and satisfying working lives.

[00:01:17] Part of this passion arises from my own story. More than 10 years ago, I was an overworked and overstressed government executive. Trying to improve my life by doing more and pushing myself harder, especially through diet and exercise. As a result, I seriously injured my back and developed a subclinical eating disorder that started a mental health journey that ended, well, not really ended, but became a diagnosis and the support I needed for ongoing major depression.

[00:01:50] But the biggest turning point for me was when I was on the phone to a headhunter. Who was telling me, very kindly, that I had not been selected for a promotion. Now this was a job that I'd been preparing for, and working towards, and positioning myself, and making lots of sacrifices. It was the obvious next step for me, and many people just thought it was going to be mine.

[00:02:13] However, someone with a lot more experience applied, and quite frankly, I would have chosen her too. She was terrific. But what made this a turning point, though, was my initial reaction to the news. Instead of feeling shattered or crushed or even disappointed, all I felt was a massive sense of relief. I literally felt a knot between my shoulder blades, which I didn't even realize was there.

[00:02:40] Undo and release. All the tension I've been holding about this promotion just dropped away. And then a tiny little voice in my head could just be heard saying, Yippee! I don't have to do this. I can do something else. And they say you get messages from the universe three times. First as a feather, then as a rock, and finally as a big bloody truck.

[00:03:13] I was lucky to catch the rock and listen to the feather, and then from there I started to make changes in my life. Fast forward 12 years from then, and I am now running my own business and self development, career coaching, and leadership programs. I practice self compassion regularly, I prioritize my mental health, and I've embraced a non diet and intuitive approach to physical well being.

[00:03:36] My life is hardly perfect, but it's certainly more balanced than it was back when I was working so hard to be successful by what were then my own standards. I am telling you this story of my own recalibrations to demonstrate that we can change our lives. Not overnight. but through many steps and strategies.

[00:03:58] I believe that there are no quick fixes to having more time to yourself and what's important to you, but there is a way that you can bring more balance, happiness and satisfaction into your working life. So the aligned in aligned and thriving, it's about the importance of aligning with your personal values in various aspects or domains in your life.

[00:04:22] Values in psychological terms could be defined as. Internalized cognitive structures that guide choices by evoking a sense of basic principles of right and wrong, a sense of priorities, societies, cultures, and other social groups have value based norms, priorities, and guidelines, which describe what people ought to do if they are to do the right, moral, or valued things.

[00:04:48] In other words, Values are abstract ideals such as equality, tradition, wealth, creativity, that shape our thoughts and our action. Personal values can motivate individuals to action and shared values can do the same for groups or communities.

[00:05:07] We are each shaped by our social and cultural background to prioritize different values and our life experiences also influence our priorities. There is also research that has found that we can be influenced to act in prosocial ways because of values based messaging. For example, we might wear a sun hat in summer after seeing the slip slop slap ads that promote the values of health, fun, and belonging.

[00:05:34] So what does the science, or the neuroscience, say about values? Why are their abstract ideals or cognitive structures so powerful in motivating us to do one thing and not another? This is what the consultants at HEAD, HEART and BRAIN have to say. Most of the research starts with the neurochemical dopamine, which determines how the brain processes reward and hence what it values.

[00:06:04] Dopamine is found all over the brain. Two brain regions are important and used by neuroscientists to study value. One is the nucleus accumbens. And the other is the ventral medial prefrontal cortex. So just a press pause and remember, I'm not a neuroscientist. The nucleus accumbens sits behind our frontal cortex and has long been thought to be a key structure involved in mediating motivational and emotional processes.

[00:06:35] The ventral medial prefrontal cortex is located in the frontal lobe at the bottom of the cerebral hemispheres and is used in the processing of risk and fear, as it is critical in the regulation of amygdala activity in humans. It also plays a role in the inhibition of emotional responses and in the process of decision making and self control.

[00:07:00] It is also involved in the cognitive evaluation of morality. The amygdala, as you may know, is located deep in our temporal lobes, and performs a primary role in the processing of memory and decision making. It is probably most known for processing emotional responses like fear, anxiety, and aggression, and triggering our fight flight response to keep us safe from predators, like tigers.

[00:07:28] Or the parking inspector. Or our own internal self critic. But back to head, heart and brain. So these parts of our brain, the nucleus acubens and the ventral medial prefrontal cortex, form a coherent system of value within the brain. 

[00:07:48] The system is an old and all purpose one that probably developed to provide motivation to find food and shelter and other survival needs. It developed to seek primary rewards but has been adapted to other things that people find rewarding, such as an attractive face, chocolate and money. This dopamine system is useful when we must make decisions, especially when offsetting the value of one choice.

[00:08:15] over another. These types of decisions are more complex than a rational choice between alternatives where one is clearly better than the other, like a hundred dollars rather than cleaning the oven, or being part of a happy and cohesive team rather than a fractured and dysfunctional one. In situations where we must choose between very different things, dopamine helps where rational analysis does not.

[00:08:42] In these situations, the value we derive feels different to us. Chocolate feels different. to being given a hug or a hug feels different to getting a bonus. But because these are all processed in the same reward system, it allows us to measure the relative value we place on these choices. And hence the reward received. Neuroscientists think of this as a common neurocurrency of value. So I'm just pressing pause again.

[00:09:13] In summary, we have a system in our brain that motivates us to take care of ourselves and think out things we find personally rewarding. Dopamine helps us to make these choices. And choices aligned with our personal values give us a greater sense of reward. Again, I'm not a neuroscientist. But let's go back one last time to what head, heart and brain have to say.

[00:09:39] This does not mean there is only one type of value. What is of value to one person may not be valuable to another, and what is important now may not be of value in another context. For example, social context can change what people value. When in a group, people generally value the norms of the group.

[00:10:00] They may not value these norms in a different context, such as when they are on their own or with their family. Also, think about how value changes over time and circumstances. So for myself, I valued excitement and adventure in my 20s, but now my focus is much more on making a positive difference in the world.

[00:10:21] I always find that by understanding the biology and science of why something works, really helps me to be much more confident in trying out new ways of thinking and understanding the world. For me, understanding underpins changes in thinking or mindset changes. Therefore, this journey into neuroscience was to understand why gaining clarity about your own personal values is like opening a door to a simpler yet much richer life.

[00:10:49] Of

[00:10:49] course, this does not happen overnight. We do not wake up one day and decide that today is the start of us living our life according to our values and be full of motivation to do the right things from then on. Often what happens is that, particularly with my coaching clients, they identify a cluster of values that feels right.

[00:11:12] At that moment, there is often a sense of ease or excitement or even joy. Something has clicked. We have resources to support us to make positive change, then my clients go home back to work and check in with how much of their work and life aligns with these values. And that's when it hits that their life at this point is more unaligned than aligned or that their life is aligned to values that no longer deliver rewards they now want. For me, this is a moment of clarity. But for others it can feel like a midlife crisis.

[00:11:54] As what you used to find satisfying and meaningful family, wealth, ambition, achievement, feel empty and meaningless. But rather than buying a Ferrari or having a second marriage, a midlife crisis is a chance to review, reflect and realign. Doing this gives us a guideline or framework to start making changes.

[00:12:16] Safe, modest tests that moves us into alignment without disrupting everything in our life at once. It gives us a chance to see where values are in conflict. For example, when love comes up against truth, where achievement comes up against self care. And most importantly, we learn to use our emotional intelligence or our heart more than our heads to check in on how balanced our life is.

[00:12:48] By how we feel in certain circumstances. A life out of alignment with your values can feel overwhelming, stressful, even boring. A life aligned however feels comfortable, like a great pair of shoes or a well fitting bra. Bringing your life Into alignment looks different for everyone, which is why this podcast series introduces many approaches and strategies that have worked for our mentors who have found their own paths to live a more values aligned life.

[00:13:26] And the benefits of many, it sets us up to do the things we want to do to have a better life. It motivates and supports us. It gives us energy and vitality. Our personal values are both guides and motivations for creating a well balanced life. Being aligned with these values allows us to trust ourselves more, honor our decisions and develop more self respect and confidence.

[00:13:49] We are more able to focus on what is important, live a purposeful life and achieve our goals more easily. And all of this is within a foundation of increased feeling of peace of mind.

[00:14:04] So how do we discover our personal values? There are many ways, but usually we start with a list of somewhere between 50 to 100 words that represent abstract ideals, like trust, empathy, fairness, personal growth. You can find these lists online, including at my website, www. australia. gov. au. Albanylane. com.

[00:14:30] au. What I do is I ask my clients to make a stack of 100 cards with one card for every value. Then through a process of elimination, we reduce that stack from 100 to no more than 10. The key to this process is to find the values that most resonate positively with you now. That is the values that provoke a feeling of happiness or expansion, optimism, or possibility.

[00:15:03] MindTools, an online personal development training and resource provider, suggests that we focus on times when we were happiest or proudest and most fulfilled. In the same way, I work with my career development clients to find the times when they felt most confident and satisfied.

[00:15:21] We want our clients to connect to the values that provide maximum motivation because they connect to a reward that has a powerful meaning for the individual right now. Here are some of the common traps that people fall into, however, when identifying their value. Sometimes people choose values because they should.

[00:15:43] Be important to them, even if they aren't, this is especially true for clients that are highly influenced by external cultural and social norms. Family, for example, is often a challenging value for some people, whether they have a traditional family or not, rejecting the value of family can feel like a rejection of people you love and care for.

[00:16:06] But for many people, it's just not as motivating and rewarding in a sense of value. And that's okay. Sometimes people choose values that are aspirations or something they would like to have. Many clients pick values like calmness or empathy or generosity, believing this is something they should do in their life.

[00:16:28] However, values are not things you do. They are concepts that guide you and are ultimately intrinsically rewarding. People choose values to fix something they believe is wrong with them. Health and wealth being are often chosen here. Same with fairness, kindness, compassion. And finally, clients may also choose values that just make them look good.

[00:16:51] That is, they are more focused on the external judgment of others. Rather than their own internal guidance. In my practice, I first work with clients to warm up their ability to use all their senses and emotional responses to a range of situations so we can discover what works best for them. So by the time we get to exploring personal values, they have a greater degree of trust in themselves to know what they want as apart from what they should do or what looks good.

[00:17:22] So like many others, I had my own midlife crisis as my changing value system moved further away from the reality of my working life. It took some serious physical and psychological injuries to bring me back, but it opened a whole new world of possibility and opportunity.

[00:17:40] And I'm fortunate to have had this chance. So what can you take away from this first of our podcast series? Well, you can take away that values have a basis in neuroscience, especially on the role of dopamine in processing rewards and shaping decision making. Sometimes reviewing our personal values can show up many areas of misalignment with values that have outrun the usefulness and need to make space for new priorities.

[00:18:07] Being unaligned may also show up looking like a midlife crisis, but it can also be an opportunity for reflection and realignment, rather than a drastic reaction. And also that aligning with personal values is a transformative journey with various benefits, bringing comfort, motivation, and support, leading to a well balanced life.

[00:18:30] Overall, I would like to encourage you to keep reflecting on your personal values, on the experiences in your life that fill your cup and leave you content. Work life balance is not about doing or achieving.

[00:18:47] It is about alignment. and a value you can connect to at any moment of the day. So join me next week when I take you through how to use your personal values to determine clear priorities, make difficult decisions and navigate challenges in your working life. And if you need more support, please check out our new Aligned and Thriving community by linking to the details in the description.

[00:19:13] Remember, be kind to yourself, take care and stay well.

The Inspiration Behind Aligned and Thriving
Personal Journey Towards Work-Life Balance
Understanding the Role of Personal Values
The Neuroscience Behind Values
How Our Brain Processes Value
The Role of Dopamine in Decision Making
Understanding the Concept of Value
The Importance of Aligning with Personal Values
Discovering Your Personal Values
Common Traps in Identifying Personal Values
The Transformative Journey of Aligning with Personal Values
Conclusion