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Posted: October 27, 2004

Professional Caregiving

Life Out of Sync with Goals or Values?

I am sure you have met him. I have. He's seemingly successful in his business, but let's look a little closer. Sam oversees a large division in his company -- his father's company, to be precise. He has moved up through the ranks over the last 15 years, getting into the business straight after a brief stint in college. He is earning more than he expected, has moved into a large home and is raising the family he's always dreamed of.

So what's the problem?

Sam can't exactly put his finger on it, but after a seemingly innocuous board meeting the previous night, Sam just felt a shift in his gut. The feeling just snuck up on him, overnight. ?Things? ? and he couldn't get more specific than that -- just didn't feel right.

This is a composite of stories I have heard from clients, caregivers and others seeking a way to reconnect with their core values, their life dreams or goals that have been put on the back burner waiting for that right moment ? or the caregiving challenge to end.

The lethargy or disconnect felt can be a signal that its time to re-examine those items held in abeyance. We have seen, sadly so, that peers, not necessarily aged, have been stricken with illness, job loss or premature death which has awoken in us the reality that our lives as we know them don't go on forever. Instead, if we want to make a mark, leave a legacy, try our hand at something new or creative, now is the time. NOW.

Even if realistically you cannot afford to step out of your life structure, you certainly can begin to make the plans to break down the steps to accomplishing this next adventure in bite-size and do-able pieces. Sometimes the smallest changes have the most impact. Fifteen minutes every night with your kids at bedtime, or a half hour meeting each week with your team to reassess direction. These can have far greater impact than quitting a job or moving away.

Signs that our lives are not in sync with our values or life goals can show themselves in a number of ways. Know anyone struggling with these symptoms?

-- Less energy to get out of bed in the morning (note, ?less' is the key here ? a change in what is normal)

-- routines less easily managed

-- moments of ?far off' dreaming?increased distraction and more difficulty concentrating

-- twinges of fear that these changes might be depression, might mean something is wrong

-- experiencing disconnects with the meetings and job activities that once were exciting

What is this saying to Sam ? Have you ever been there?

It's clear that something is definitely going on with Sam . This newly present dissatisfaction has been showing up in feelings of negativity, boredom and sometimes even physical complaints ?such as aches and pains, sleeping changes, lowered libido. Probably he is even less pleasant to live with. Is he grumpier? Have a shorter fuse?

Maybe it is time to examine where the disconnect is showing up.

First, let's reframe the feelings as gifts, because the discomfort experienced is so nagging that it forces an internal checks and balance review and this will lead to something new, something missing in your life. Well, it suggests it -- no one can force this on you. But to alleviate some of this, we might begin exploring where, when, with whom and maybe even touching upon the why ? Why do you think this might be happening? Are your choices out of sync with your abilities, your vision, or core values and beliefs?

How do you turn this into momentum to bring about some change? Think of each symptom you have listed and consider it one more push toward a reexamination of your choices. Perform a core value check ? listing what you would do if you found out you had only six months to live ?. What would your priorities look like? Others like to play the IF game ? IF you were to win $2 million tomorrow, what would you do with it? This can be a private exercise, or you and your spouse, team, family can do this together as a springboard for discussion about making some changes that will impact your lives.

Examine your list and compare them with how you are spending your time now. How well do they match? See any clues to finding greater satisfaction? And what can you do about it?

Sometimes these exercises point to an untapped source, but beg the questions: Not enough creativity in your life? Too much away from home activities?

Other times, it's more about inner work, such as reconnecting with the appreciation, acknowledgement, or generosity in your heart that hasn't been expressed lately or even acted upon.

Life review doesn't have to occur when we see the end approaching. The best time to do it is when you still have time, energy, and ability to take steps toward greater life and work satisfaction.


Sylvia Nissenboim is a licensed clinical social worker and who has been working in the field of adult day services in the St. Louis area. She is the director of four adult care and enrichment centers for the American Red Cross and also operates a personal and professional coaching firm, LifeWork Transitions, specializing in caregiving concerns, adult day care management and other aging services, such as virtual coaching and family care giving support groups. She co-authored The Positive Interactions Program, is a national speaker, and has served as president of the Missouri Adult Day Care Association and as a member of the Missouri Governor's Advisory Council on Aging..

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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