How to live authentically

Positive Steps
Sadhbh Dunne

If you were the winner of tonight’s Euromillions jackpot, how would you imagine your life changing? After you’ve taken all of the lavish holidays and bought all of the fancy cars, would there be a noticeable shift in how you live your life? How you answer this hypothetical question relates back to your individual values. If you’re curious to learn about the importance of values and how to pinpoint yours, read on.

In simple terms, values are the things that are most important to you. Things like honesty, popularity, security, wealth or friendship. They are different for everyone, and there is no exhaustive list. There is no limit as to how much someone can have, and for you the order of these values may look different in various aspects of your life, such as personally, in the workplace or societally. They may overlap at some points, but it is often the case that values can change over time in line with your experiences.

When a client comes to me with a particular goal they want to achieve, a good starting point is to ask them to think about why they find this goal important. Often it relates to how they want to be seen in the world – that is, other people’s perception of them.

The saying that ‘what other people think is none of my business’ is never truer than in such instances. If you are dedicating resources to trying to impress or fit in with other people in a way that goes against what is important to you, you will struggle to feel contentment.

In an effort to live authentically, values serve as great motivators and give our lives meaning. They can link with our sense of self and have positive implications on our mental health.

In contrast, a value conflict can cause stress, discomfort and a feeling of being off kilter. The BBC television show ‘The Traitors’ gives us a front-row seat to the participants’ conflicting values.

The turmoil of weighing up their options is palpable, and it doesn’t take long to identify which participants will go against all of their values in an effort to get close to the cash prize. How would you respond in a similar situation, where you felt this misalignment?

Something might feel off to you, but unless you have a clear understanding of your values it can be difficult to identify where this feeling is coming from.

When considering your values, be honest with yourself. Think about past situations when you felt most satisfied. Most proud. What need were you fulfilling at this time? Were you alone or with a group? If you need some help you will find a list of values online that may be helpful in guiding you. You will begin to understand that they are ranked with one being important above all else.

The outcome of a values exercise I did a couple of years ago remains with me and is something I refer back to frequently. It explained for the first time why I attributed such meaning to an area of my life that I hadn’t recognised in this way before. Having my eyes opened has kept me focused on the options that support this value and has definitely helped me avoid getting sidetracked.

Being clear on your values will give you increased clarity in your decision making, a confidence that you are making the best choice for the present and future you. When faced with a decision, consider how your choice would help you to live, either in accordance with or against your values. After a while it won’t be something that you need to consciously think about each time, rather it will be an intuitive approach that won’t require second guessing. Now, don’t forget to double check your lottery ticket!

Sadhbh Dunne is a qualified life coach based in Westport.

She is the founder of Ember Coaching ( and can be reached at

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