Values Define Your Destiny (Part 1): Releasing What You Aren’t – Keith Kurlander – HPP 135
Many of us understand the importance of living a values-based life. However, most people don’t feel fully aligned in their career and consider it a sacrifice. This incongruence can cause stress and lead to significant symptoms of anxiety and depression. In part one of this 3-part series, Keith discusses how easy it can be to find yourself misaligned in a career and what you can do about it. He’ll share his own story of entering the workforce feeling incongruent, and a unique exercise that you can use to release values that aren’t your own. Ultimately, many people want to feel that they can be themselves serving in a career where they see they have something meaningful to contribute.
Career Is a Big Part of Our Lives – 3:17
Now, the reason I’m going to really hit on Career is because many people find themselves working in their lifetime. This is very interesting, the average human being works close to 90,000 hours in their lifetime. Now, that’s a lot of time. The only thing that the average human being is doing more hours in a lifetime than work is sleeping, and that’s if you sleep well. And if you’re listening to this podcast, you may not sleep well, because we’re a mental health podcast. And a lot of people who struggle with mental health don’t sleep well.
Inner Conflict of Making The Wrong Career Choice – 9:21
So I’m going on this bus ride. I have this contract right in my hands. And what’s going on for me is I’m in a deep, deep inner conflict of am I signing my life away? Like to me I was like, am I signing the deal with the devil? Now I was not in something like, Wall Street’s the devil and all that like that’s fine if somebody’s in that, but that’s not what I was in. I was in an inner conflict of like, is that really me?
Shocking Employee Statistics – 13:55
So 80% are not engaged at work. 20% are engaged at work. When we look at thriving, not just engaged, but we look at who’s thriving and really finds meaning in their work, I’m talking about 9% globally, okay, so that that’s kind of a striking statistic to be aware of, which is talking about 10% of the planet that actually feel like they are psyched about their work, 10%.
The Panic of Living In Somebody Else’s Values – 18:35
So I fell down on the floor. And I’m like, heaving trying to catch my breath. Basically, a panic attack is the best way to describe this. But what starts coming through me are all the thoughts of the values that weren’t mine. And they just start pouring through me, okay, all these thoughts of like, you know, be a doctor or be a lawyer, or be a banker.
An Exercise to Help You Release Values That Aren’t Your Own – 27:13
So in your spreadsheet, you write out at a minimum 100 messages, maybe you’ve released some of these already, it doesn’t matter of how you should be, how you should behave, what you’re supposed to do with your life, what you’re supposed to do with your career, who you’re supposed to be with, the shoulds, and you just write them out one after the other.
Keith Kurlander 00:11
Thank you for joining us for the higher practice Podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander, with Dr. Will Van Derveer, and this is the Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.
Keith Kurlander 00:28
Hey there, welcome back to the show. So today, I’m going to do the show a little differently than usual. I’m going to do a three part teaching series about values. So this is part one of three parts, there’ll be a three part episode. And values is something that I’ve spent a good 10 to 15 years going pretty deep into about how values can help, for one, shape us, which is sort of an obvious conversation on some level that values will shape who we are, our personal values and the values we’re relating to in ourselves. But outside of the obvious, I’ve really taken a deep inquiry into how we can get to know our own value system more directly, then how that translates into really being able to shape our future and having influence over our lives? And from a kind of life design conversation, there’s this notion, this concept of life design, that we can have a large influence over our lives and meet a lot of the desires we want to meet in one lifetime and achieve what we’re trying to achieve and strive towards something that is outside of ourselves.
Keith Kurlander 01:51
The role of values plays in that and how knowing our values and how that can motivate us and how we can actually sort of hack our own behavioral systems so that we’re really living in accordance with who we see ourselves to be in creating a life that feels like we’re part of a life that makes sense to us about who we are. So mostly, I’m going to focus this conversation on the area of career. That is not the only area in life that we would ever talk about when we talk about life design and living the life you want, there’s a lot of areas of life. For many people, career doesn’t play out in a traditional sense. And so, I’m going to focus on these conversations around career but there are a lot of other areas of life that this conversation should go into when we talk about values to find your destiny can be about how you are a part of the family and running a family household and raising children, which could be a career in and of itself, which I’ll talk about. It can be about how you, there’s certain activities that you love doing. It could be about values of different types of service. So, there’s a lot of areas of life I could speak to there. But with that said, I think career is very important. Now, the reason I’m going to really hit on Career is because many people find themselves working in their lifetime. This is very interesting, the average human being works close to 90,000 hours in their lifetime. Now, that’s a lot of time. The only thing that the average human being is doing more hours in a lifetime than work is sleeping, and that’s if you sleep well. And if you’re listening to this podcast, you may not sleep well, because we’re a mental health podcast. And a lot of people who struggle with mental health don’t sleep well. So maybe work hours trump your sleep, if that’s you, and for sure, that’s been me. And the other piece, why I want to focus on careers is because when we think about 90,000 hours, in your lifetime at work, there’s another little piece to this that’s very interesting, which is if we just kind of play with the notion for a moment of the Malcolm Gladwell in his book, that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. In your work life, I mean, you can master eight to ten things in a lifetime with that many hours if you’re putting in 90,000 hours. Now there’s a lot of other pieces I’m going to talk about with career, there’s limitations in terms of how we can work and jobs so that we can actually get depending on where you are and if there’s other aspects of marginalized populations to speak to and I’m going to talk about these things. So I think a good way for me to really dive in here with you about values and career and then knowing how to get to knowing who you are, and the process of releasing what you aren’t, which is what the real topic of today is. How do you release the values that are not yours? So you really know you’re moving in your career, on values that are your own, and that you’ve really digested and you’ve made them your own. So I want to start with a story of myself. Some of you who are listening to this episode, have heard this story in different forms. I’ve told this story many times. This is a time in my life when I was graduating college, so often young people, let’s say age 18 to 25, and definitely older for some, but it’s definitely a big time off. What do I want to do in this world? That question is moving through a lot of young adults. What do I want to do? What do I think I want my career entry point to be about? Of course, that was something going on for me in a big way when I was in college. Now, my story’s a little more radical. A little more disturbing than some, but it can be disturbing for people. And many, many college students are struggling with this choice. And many adults, which I’ll get to soon, are struggling in this to later in their life. So this story starts with a train ride to the World Trade Center. Now the World Trade Center, this was in 1997. So the World Trade Center was before 2001, before 911 Twin Towers were there. And I am first on a bus and then on a train. And on this bus ride, I am going to Bear Stearns. Bear Stearns was the third largest brokerage firm in the world. At that time, they went down in 2008. In the housing bubble crisis, they didn’t make it through that very well. So maybe I was foreseeing that. And they didn’t want to be a part of that. I don’t know. But what happened to me was I was on the way, I had graduated college, it was the summer that I graduated college. And they wanted me to spearhead their y2k project. And let me tell you what that is. So if you remember y2k, the big fear was that when the code the digits of 1999, the last two digits rolled over to 2000, that the way that software was written, that when we go to 99, to 00, computers are going to interpret that essentially, that software is going to interpret that as going backwards in time. And it’s going to cause a major glitch. Now, the brokerage firms in New York and Wall Street, were very concerned about this. So they found me through an internship process that I was in the summer before where I found all this money for them that they had lost Bear Stearns and they, I kind of rose through that. And they were like, This is our y2k expert, and we trust this person, and this person is actually going to be on a taskforce of 10, it’ll be 10 people from the 10 largest firms in the world, these 10 people are going to solve this problem for us. And so they wanted me to do what they wanted to, for me to sign a contract with them for three years, work on Wall Street and solve this problem. So I’m on this bus ride. And then it becomes a train ride, but I’m on this ride. And I’m going in and I’m looking at six figures in 1997 as a salary and for me, you know, coming out of college like that number now is like, it would just be the equivalent math just to kind of take this in. So my salary now that they were going to offer me would probably be like 253 50 with all the other benefits that were in there. So it’s a big salary, right for a young person coming straight out of school.
Keith Kurlander 09:21
So I’m going on this bus ride. I have this contract right in my hands. And what’s going on for me is I’m in a deep, deep inner conflict of am I signing my life away? Like to me I was like, am I signing the deal with the devil? Now I was not in something like, Wall Street’s the devil and all that like that’s fine if somebody’s in that, but that’s not what I was in. I was in an inner conflict of like, is that really me? Like am I gonna be like a wall street person? Is that who I’m meant to be right now with my life? Is that how I’m meant to serve like I’m obviously good at the aspect that this job required. I knew that. But I was like, Is that what’s important to me? So I was on this bus ride asking this value question, but I assumed I was doing this, I was just asking the question, I was in a deep conflict that was anxious. But I was totally assuming that I’m taking this ride, okay, to go sign this contract, and work there for three years, and be in the World Trade Center and be on Wall Street doing that thing. So this is my moment. Did I not have this knowledge back then of what I’m actually dealing with like, who am I? What are my values? And what are not my values? Now, I didn’t know obviously, at this time, I was young, I didn’t have these frameworks. I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew I was anxious. I was scared. I didn’t quite know. I had some thoughts, right? Some value based thoughts flowing through my head on this ride, like Is this me. But mostly my thoughts were like, this seems like a great opportunity, I might as well just do this for a few years. And get through that. And I was like, I could do anything for a few years was kind of like the message I was telling myself. So let me digress here for a moment. So I’m going to pause from that story. And we’ll come back to the story. The story gets interesting. I’m leaving us off here if I’m not even in New York yet. I’m coming from New Jersey, actually, on this ride, getting to New York. And I kinda like tripping out, freaking out. But I think I’m taking this job. So let me pull back here, I want to talk about values three, why I walked through the story with you. So when we look at careers, this is a career oriented story, right? About values. When we look at the state of affairs globally, we’re not doing well on this planet in terms of people feeling good about their work, and people feeling engaged, we’re actually doing pretty poorly as a global culture, and also within countries. And what you’ll hear here in a minute, is that actually, the United States is actually doing better than most, which is interesting. It’s not what I would assume, but it’s true. So globally, and you can look this up, you can go to the Gallup state of the global workplace, they do this regularly. When you look at what they’re serving, basically, what we find here is that about 20-21% of employees. Now this is looking at employees. So this is about the career track of an employee. It’s not about entrepreneurs, starting your own business, but there’s a lot more employees on the planet, right? So when we look at employees, what we find is that about 20-21% of employees are not really engaged at work, meaning they are disinterested, they don’t really know why they’re there. They are trying to hang on to get their job done. And when you look at the amount of people on social media right now, who are employees, it’s high unless you’re in a position as an employee where you can’t be. There are direct labor jobs and things where you just can’t be. But anyways, this is an important statistic. Now, here’s where it gets even more important, globally, when you look at who’s thriving. Okay, so this kind of takes it to the next level. It’s not just about who’s engaged, who’s not engaged. So 21% are not that engaged. Okay. Sorry. 21% are engaged. I think I flipped that on you. 80% are not engaged. If I just flipped that. Let’s just take a second there. So 80% are not engaged at work. 20% are engaged at work. When we look at thriving, not just engaged, but we look at who’s thriving and really finds meaning in their work, I’m talking about 9% globally, okay, so that that’s kind of a striking statistic to be aware of, which is talking about 10% of the planet that actually feel like they are psyched about their work, 10%. Now, when we look at the United States, it gets slightly better. 70% aren’t not engaged, versus 80% are not engaged globally. But half of employees in the United States are actually pretty stressed about their job and feel chronic chronic stress about work. And these statistics if you dig a little deeper, more people than not feel stuck in the world professionally. They feel stuck in their job in some way. So the global state of affairs is not great. When we think about people being satisfied and fulfilled and meaning about their work as employees, it’s low, it’s not good. So why am I telling you these stats, because these stats are indicative, in my opinion of a values problem. We don’t get educated about understanding values and personal values and how to differentiate personal values, and then how to act on personal values. And make sure you live a values based life and a values based career, that’s not a part of education growing up. So most people fall into careers that they think they’re interested in, only later to find that they’re not. So I’m going to come back now to my story, I’m on this bus ride. And I’m going into the subway station now at the World Trade Center. And for me, the World Trade Center, the Twin Towers, they represented something for everyone, right? And it, whatever that is, okay. And it’s, it was different for everybody, these tall, you know, tall buildings in New York City, and there was a feeling about these buildings for me. So I’m going underneath these buildings into the subway stations, and I, my panic is rising right now. Okay. Remember, I’m heading over to Bear Stearns to one of their offices to sign this contract for three years. And there’s a lot of money involved. And I got this panic rising, and I’ve got thoughts of Is this me as a nod and that kind of stuff. Not a lot more context than that other than a lot of anxiety. And so I got into the subway station, and then all of a sudden, this was like a psychedelic journey for me. But it wasn’t that I wasn’t on psychedelics, really used psychedelics that often, at that time at all. And everything starts getting strange in terms of the way I’m seeing things and hearing things. I’m sort of having auditory, like manipulation, where sounds are getting drawn out. And my vision is getting slightly blurry, and my heart rates are going up. So my heart’s really beating faster, and faster and faster. And I’m sitting there in a subway station, and I’m like, what’s going on? And before this moment, it was anxiety. And, you know, when this kind of rush happens, where you’re, you know, you’re sort of increased level of fear, part speeding up in cold sweats. Then I start going into like, Oh, my God, like, I think I’m having a heart attack. Something’s happening here. That’s not okay. Right. So I’m not, at this moment. I’m just like, I think I’m having a heart attack. I’m about to pass out. I feel horrible. I’m scared. I’m like, now I’m starting to like going in and out of even being able to tell what’s going on around me. So I’m dissociating, and really in a deep panic. And then all of a sudden, it was very interesting that it happened to me this way. It was like a lightning bolt of insight came into my system. And it was, it was this eruption of panic, that kind of exploded in me.
Keith Kurlander 18:35
So I fell down on the floor. And I’m like, heaving trying to catch my breath. Basically, a panic attack is the best way to describe this. But what starts coming through me are all the thoughts of the values that weren’t mine. And they just start pouring through me, okay, all these thoughts of like, you know, be a doctor or be a lawyer, or be a banker. They’re just all these random thoughts cards coming through me. And I just like I’m watching them in total panic and freaking out on the floor. You know, I’m in this, I’m in a suit. And I’m not even like a suit person somewhere in the suit. It didn’t resonate with me. And I’m in this thing, and I’m crying. People are walking by me. No one’s helping me. I mean, it’s New York, that doesn’t often happen, where you know, someone would stop but so I’m on the floor, like freaking out on the subway station floor. It’s dirty and I’m, I’m a mess. And these thoughts are moving through me like, buy a house, buy a car, get married early. It doesn’t matter what you do. Just take the opportunity. You must strive when you’re young. Because all these responsibilities are going to come later. Thought after thought. Don’t just discover yourself. There’s nothing to discover there. Take a good paycheck when you can. So all these thoughts are burning through me. And I’m watching them. And I’m in total panic. But somehow I’m tracking these thoughts. And the insights start coming that I’m talking about as these thoughts are just piling out of me. And I’m like, Oh my gosh, like this is, I’ve picked up all these values, all these ideas about who I’m supposed to be, I pick these up wherever, like I didn’t, I didn’t know in the moment where I was getting these thoughts from. So I’m like, in this process of recognizing that these are not my thoughts, these are not my or my thoughts, but these are not my values. And it starts to really start to really sink in like, this career path isn’t mine. It’s not mine, it’s someone else’s. And there’s nothing wrong with it, I wasn’t having a thing about there’s something wrong with the career path. It was just like, This isn’t me. And I’m just like releasing and releasing about all these messages that I had inside of me that I thought were mine. Like, I actually didn’t even know I had these messages in me. I didn’t have a lot of distinction from them at that point. Like I, I thought, again, like I was like, it could be really, you know, a great thing for me to be on Wall Street and do that, like, that sounds exciting to me. And I thought that I actually had a value there. And there’s probably some value there for me. But as it was really coming out and releasing for me, I was like, Oh, this is not me. This is someone else. This might be my parents, this might be the community I grew up in, this might be messages I was hearing on TV in some way and taking them in, or the culture I grew up in on the East Coast. There’s a lot of places that over time I understood where these came from. And so in this process of me starting and I should say that, you know, making a choice to not take a job, on some level might not sound like a big deal, right? Like, you might be like, Oh, this, okay, but it’s not that big of a deal. If you don’t take a certain job. Like it’s something for me, it was like, the most biggest existential crisis in my life of like, Am I really going to not take this position. And I, at that point, I had, like, $50, in a bank account, like I had no money, I didn’t have a place to live. I had no idea what I was going to do. So for me, it was a big crisis, because I was like, Can I actually get by? Can I figure this out? Knowing that I have no idea where this is going? If I don’t do this, I have no idea. All this time in college these four years, right? There’s like, Okay, I had all this time to discover myself and all this time to look into something and study something and this and that. Like, can I really like to go out into the world and start that over again. But with no structure around me, no school, and I’m just gonna, like, find some job, pay me some money, and get by and not know what I’m supposed to do with my life. And for me, it was a big, big moment and crisis and very scary. And I think for many young people, this is extremely scary. But as we see in these stats that I told you earlier, this problem of being in jobs and careers that don’t don’t align with us is actually a real problem. A lot of people feel this in the world. And often we can get by in the world and not have to think about it, or maybe we don’t get to think about it, and we just have to go to work and pay our bills. And we still feel it, right? So even if we don’t get to consider making a change, because it’s like, there’s just no way that anyone you know, certain people in certain places just can’t see what else is out there. We still have to feel it. So I got up from the subway floor. And the first thing I did was tear up the contract. I was like, I’ve ripped it right there. You know, I’m having this whole, like experience, hundreds and hundreds and 1000s of people over the course of probably, you know, 30 minutes where I’m having this experience of passing by me and I’m in like some big dramatic musical play out there where I’m like, you know, I’m like crying and I’m guitaring and I’m having this whole process and then I’m like tearing some big, you know, some big dramatic moment where I’m like tearing up a contract for myself, like nobody, like people are watching this, but it’s like having this big dramatic moment, right? Like it was a dramatic moment for me of being like I’m not doing that I’m not. I’m not going to live a life that isn’t based on my values. So I was able to compose myself and get up. Throw that out. That contract out in the garbage And I’m going to pause the story there. Because there’s more sections of the story to tell about what happens next. But I want to introduce something for people here, which is that, you know, if you know somebody that can relate to feeling like there’s something off. Again, this is I’m talking about career, but it can apply to other things, where you’re like, I don’t feel congruent in some way with what’s happening right now. Maybe I’m close to feeling congruent with my career, or my job, and maybe I’m far away from it. Or maybe it’s like, really far away. So there’s a releasing exercise, I sort of, it’s not that complex. But I use this with a lot of people over the years, when I was working with clients to try and speed up the process that happened for me, because a lot of this often happens very, very slowly for people over time. Right? It’s like, there’s like a little value you separate from, but like, you still feel off your systems like knowing I’m not fully aligned. And I have to say, like a life where you feel aligned in your values, and particularly in career versus life where you don’t, it’s not confusing. It’s like, oh, my god, I can’t wait to get up in the morning to go to work. And sure, we have some hard days. But everybody’s got a hard day, right. But then when we are aligned and congruent with our values in our career, it’s a very exciting life. Overall, I mean, that just that alone is exciting. It’s so there’s so much passion, and you feel so much self worth. And I’m going to get into that and about why you feel so much self worth. So this releasing exercise that I’ve been working with over the years is kind of simple. But it’s really, I’ve seen it really help a lot of people. And I think it’s a great exercise for anyone to do to see if there’s anything left in the values category that aren’t your own, that you haven’t looked at. And it’s kind of simple, you go to a spreadsheet. And then if you’re still going journal, old school notebook, and you like to write a lot, that’s fine, too. So in your spreadsheet, you write out at a minimum 100 messages, maybe you’ve released some of these already, it doesn’t matter of how you should be, how you should behave, what you’re supposed to do with your life, what you’re supposed to do with your career, who you’re supposed to be with, the shoulds, and you just write them out one after the other. Now, some of these may be your own values that you’ve integrated, and they do feel like yours, don’t worry about that. You just write them out. 100 minimum, this could be 300 sentences, right? I’m in my case, like, I’m supposed to have a career that, you know, is highly ambitious, that many people look at as successful in this culture. And then one of the messages I was purging was like, and that’s doctor, lawyer, banker, something of those of this order, right? So like, message after message, be about who you’re supposed to marry and can be about what you’re supposed to do with your time and what you’re not supposed to do with your time. These can be hundreds of messages, I’ve done this for myself. And, you know, I think that it’s fair to say we have hundreds of messages that are just boggling around in there. And maybe they don’t have much weight on those anymore but maybe they do that really don’t represent who we are, right. And then what I ask people to do with that is to cross out the messages after you’ve written them all out, you go back and you look at it and go, does this represent me? Is this who I am? line item number one?
Keith Kurlander 28:47
No, you cross it out. And you cross it out, and you cross it out, and you cross it out and you cross out messages 10, 20, 30, 100 messages, 200 messages, you just cross them out and you cross them out. And you really stay connected to your body in this process. And you really allow yourself to attempt to release your hold on these messages, or I should say, to help release the whole these messages have on you so that we can release these values driven messaging about who we’re not. This is a step toward who we are. So this is what happened to me in that subway station and that train ride and the bus ride. Like this was the thing that happened to me where I was intrinsically going through this metamorphosis around what what’s not me and I was trying really hard to fit in a box that wasn’t me. And it wasn’t me and some part of me, which I will get into and another part of this coming up was screaming could say from the heavens. If you like that language, about like, hey, like you can do this and you’ll be good at this thing. You’ll be very successful at this. And you’ll make a lot of money at this. And you’ll have a very pretty eternal life, it’s going to all look good, but it was screaming down at me. But you’ll always know it’s not who you are. And it’s not even close. In this case, there’s something else here for you. So, that message is inside of all of us. And there’s fine tuning, it’s not always that drastic of like, Oh, this isn’t you, you know, this career is not you. And there’s jobs like yours. And you know, when you’re 21, it’s easier to be like, am going on a train to nowhere. Versus like, when you’re 50. And let’s see, if you have kids, right? Like, you probably think about this, like, you’re not going to just go on a train to nowhere. In that case, like there’s a stage and a responsibility and a sort of strategic process to deal with that issue. If you’re greatly incongruent with your life, that’s okay. Like you take your time. But it’s always good to fine tune this instrument around releasing what you’re not. So that you can really clear that out consistently, because these messages will bubble up over time, once you didn’t have to relate to different values you didn’t have to relate to. Because at different stages of your life, right? There’s, let’s say you’re becoming a parent, like now you’ve got a whole new set of messages in there that you never even thought about, until you were a parent. So these messages will bubble over time. It’s good to do this exercise from time to time to release who you’re not, I’m going to end here, and I’m gonna kind of close here. And then in the next part of this, we’re gonna go into knowing who you are. So that’s going to be part two, knowing who you are, and I’m gonna tell a little bit more about my story, my getting on a new train to nowhere, which is what happened to me. And I’m going to get into more values theory in part two. So we can start to kind of wrap our heads around here together, how do you understand values? And why do they? How could we even end up in values that are not our own, and then what happens to our behaviors when we’re in values that are our own and we’re acting on them? And what happens is we’re not acting on values that are our own, our behaviors change. And so we’re going to look at that. And that’s all really looking at a lot of more impulsive, pleasure seeking behaviors for when we’re not really acting on things that are really in our own values and, versus like very strategic long term fulfillment behaviors when we’re actually moving toward a vision for a future of what we want it to look like. So that’s part two. So come back for part two. Thanks for listening. We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the higher practice Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.