How have your values changed as your story has changed?

I like to use a tool called the T-chart with my students. It's a simple way to map out how far you've come past that black-and-white, before-and-after moment when your life changed forever. My student Danielle did an amazing job of this and I wanted to share her chart with you.

You can do this one, I promise. Grab a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle and label each side. Danielle chose Values Then and Now. You can do Beliefs, Priorities, Habits. Which feels right for you? Writing it down makes it so much more tangible and allows you to experience the benefits of the practice. Share it with me if you try!

This is 40.

One of my earliest memories is celebrating my dad's 40th birthday. It was a surprise party and I got to lead him around to the back of the house where all of my parents friends were waiting on the deck. There were circular cement stones on the side of our house - a little path leading to the back. This is where my memory is clear, leaping from one stone to the next, each of them surrounded by bright green summer grass. Feeling joyful and special to be involved in a secret. An adult secret no less. It was 1987 and I was eight years old. 

Over the next year my husband turns forty and my daughter will be eight. I can't help but to compare and contrast my parents lives to ours, my childhood to hers. How do you measure a good life? Compare it to your parents, I guess.

Most parents want a better life for their children than they had for themselves. What does that mean, exactly? Materials things - like a fancier house, better paying jobs, a bigger retirement account? By those comparisons we are falling short. When I dive into the details of my past - that's where I can see comparisons that make sense. Like how, in his 20s, did my dad get to Yale for his doctoral degree from Buffalo, NY where his mom had recently died and his father was not exactly a model of support?

That journey must have taken determination and a deep belief in himself. I hold those values dear to my heart and try to keep them in the forefront of my day to day. It does make me feel close to my dad and like he is still part of my life when I can act in the light of his best qualities. 

Naturally, I also observed and internalized other aspects of my parents' lives that I did not want to emulate. In this instance, I'm trying to bring something different to my life based on what I absorbed from theirs. Both are important - the values we adored in our parents and the ones we have known for a long time that we wanted different for ourselves. 

What values are guiding your decisions? Where did they come from? Are they similar to the values in which you were raised or different?  Maybe you were raised mostly by your single mom because your dad left when you were five. Maybe you were adopted after ten years of infertility struggles. 

Whatever it is - your story began with your parents. Reflecting on how their choices and actions influence you today is critical to understanding who you are as a person. 

Your Story is Your Strength - I so firmly believe this.