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Why Not Ask Yourself This Question?

February '21

For a moment, call to mind something that truly bugs you. It’s an odd request, I know, but bear with me. See if you can find two things that are guaranteed to annoy you. They can be huge (the fact there are hungry people in the world), or seemingly small (someone zipped in ahead of you to take the last open parking space at the drugstore). Go ahead – be petty, be grumpy, get righteous! Got two things? Great! Make a mental note of them and tuck it aside.
Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist, once wrote:   

“Wholly unprepared, we embark on the second half of life …we take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as before. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening become a lie.”

During the first half of our lives, Jung believed we move forward by adapting to our outer world, as we learn to form relationships, make a living, and generally follow the dictates of the society around us. In the afternoon of our lives, however, the route to fulfillment lies in adapting to our inner world. Midlife’s central task is to discover we truly are and find ways of expressing that essential Self in the world.

A large slice of that authentic Self is comprised of your values – those principles or qualities that are intrinsically important. Consciously, or not, you express your core values every day. But do you know what they are? While you might agree that integrity and kindness are values you respect, would they make it into your top four? The answer may require a bit of delving. Like a deep-sea diver, you will need to head below the surface of your conscious mind to uncover your preeminent values.

Once you discover these core values, you can define them. For one person integrity might mean, “walk the talk”, “tell the truth”, and “honesty”, but for another integrity could mean “wholeness”, “cohesiveness” and “alignment”. I always include values-clarification in my work with new clients, since honoring their core values is the key to developing a fulfilling life.

And the “What bugs you” question is a part of that values-clarification process. Values often hide under irritation. Because values are important ideals for us, we get upset when we, or others, disrespect them.

I invite you to revisit your answers to the “What bugs you?” query. Can you recognize the values that lie behind your responses? For example, two things that aggravated one client were: 1.) a neighbor’s intrusively loud music and 2.) wasting time stuck in traffic. Her top value (unearthed during our foundation session) was inner peace, which she defined as “feeling calm,” “time” and “peaceful surroundings.”

Can you see how her responses to the query of what irks her reflect a lack of respect for her core value of inner peace? Loud music disrupts “peaceful surroundings”, and wasting time stuck in traffic eats up “time” – both defining elements of her value of inner peace.

How about you? I’d love to hear more about your pet peeves and the values they reveal.

If you have been a long-term subscriber of Midlife Discovery, you may recognize this newsletter that I posted over 10 years ago. I tore my left knee meniscus a few weeks ago and am scheduled for arthroscopic surgery this Wednesday. The combination of the time required for using a walker to get around, and all the unanticipated doctors visits, questionnaires, and phone calls needed for the upcoming surgery, including heading for a Covid test in a tent, meant that I haven’t had time to write this month’s newsletter. My apologies for this reprise, but do hope you’ve found it useful.

Meanwhile, spring is on its way!






  1. Marybeth Toomey said on March 1, 2021:

    Thanks for the reprise if such good insights, as always, Bonnie. I hope your surgery snd rehab goes well and quickly!

  2. Linda Andrade Rodrigues said on March 7, 2021:

    Sending prayers and best wishes for a speedy recovery, Bonnie!

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