How do you manage your anxiety when you’re stuck in the values-action gap?
Think back to when you decided to become a vet. What motivated that decision? Was it Herriott, Vets in Practice or Animal Hospital? Did you want to work with animals and make a difference to animal welfare? It’s likely that your veterinary values and beliefs were shaped as a youngster and this informed your view of what being a vet would entail.
Yet for many, the reality of being in practice and the daily actions we undertake are quite different. Money, paperwork, long hours or running a business weren’t the values we dreamt of as a kid. The difference between why we wanted to be a vet and the reality of being a vet is the value-action gap.
This misalignment can cause anxiety and tension; we’re not being true to our core values and our behaviour isn’t supporting our original motivations. Over time, the disconnection can worsen and our wellbeing suffers.
The term value-action gap was initially coined in environmental literature to describe where what you say and what you do diverge. In that context an example would be placing a high value on the natural environment and yet exhibiting a poor uptake in environmental friendly cleaning products, reducing plastic usage or actively recycling. This is clearly seen in low market share of eco-friendly products versus what people say are important in surveys and interestingly, environmental charities have difficulties managing this misalignment in their staff too.
If you’re sitting there thinking this resonates, then the good news is that there are solutions.
First, solve the information deficit, where you provide information to generate awareness and use education in an attempt influence behaviour. This hasn’t worked well for the environmental lobby, and although VetFutures and our profession is researching and publishing wellbeing for vets, it’s not moved the needle for us yet either.
So, you have to look at personal, social and structural barriers as well. For our eco-example it could be lack of personal interest, feeling like it’s not within your power to make change or a paucity of recycling facilities. We know from studies what it takes to act more sustainably, but when it comes to actions, other factors take over. Where does that put the vet professional?
Recognising your value-action gap requires self-awareness. You must first understand your core values and drivers. Then you have to develop a new set of actions, behaviours and habits that support those core values. Catalysing that change in behaviour can be a challenge, especially if you’re stuck in a rut or feeling burned out.
One strategy for finding the space and energy to reflect and create change is through a reconnection with nature. The human mind is affected and shaped by the modern social world, however its deep structure is inevitably adapted to, and informed by, the more-than-human natural environment in which it evolved.
This is the field of eco-psychology; studying how experiences in nature can help shape our think, enable creativity and boost resilience. It’s not just a walk in the woods, although that helps; it’s structured, facilitated and supported by trained professionals.
So if you’re feeling stressed about your life, work or career and the description of a value-action gap makes sense to you, why not give me a call? I’ll take you through the Emerge Veterinary options of Coaching, our Vet Change Catalyst programme and how working with Natural Change might be as impactful for you as it has been for me.
Emerge Veterinary is the result of my own personal change catalyst experience.