Is Your Wishbone Broken?

I remember Sunday roasts as a young child – middle of three in my family. It was either lamb or chicken - and I often hoped it was the latter so I could be the first to find the wishbone and break it with mum. That pinky-to-pinky moment seemed so purposeful - as if that was all I'd need do to get whatever I wanted. 

Simple times.

While it’s not a tradition I do a lot of these days – I was sharing those memories with Stephen (husband) recently. You know those old moments that became part of family folk-lore that can take you back in a nano-flash?

So when I found a wishbone after a meal recently - still in-tact - instead of breaking it, I let it dry out because as I held it in my hand it seemed like a metaphor in the making. And that’s the thing with life analogies and metaphors – we’re surrounded by them if we look – a bit like most things we want in life.

In my work, I often hear people say they value love or compassion – yet when I hear their stories I often find they’re doing anything but being loving or compassionate to themselves or others.

So, wishbone in hand I thought this is as good a time as any to check in and ask about your ‘values’.

One thing to make clear first up: values are not goals.

  • Goals are something you can check off and say you've done.
  • Values are more about the way you go about achieving your goals and living your life.

A value is like heading north – true north – for me it directs the way I want to live my life. The ‘who’ I want to be from the inside out. Guided by creative insights.

How we live our values are found in every area of our lives: health, relationships, work choices, volunteering – anything involving the giving and getting of living.

When I think of a wishbone (especially now as I consider it as a metaphor) one side seems like our ‘head’ and the other our ‘heart’ - neatly joined in the middle.

In the act of ‘making a wish’, our pinky-pinching action usually breaks off one side.

This seems a perfect representation of what happens when we don’t live by our own values. Head and heart get ripped apart – with one side dominating more than the other.

If in the breaking of the wishbone we tear the heart side of ourselves away, what we’re left with are thoughts around our experiences and how we interpret them.

Sometimes those thoughts are just ruminations on a never-ending mill recycling old reflections which never get anywhere, rarely getting resolved. It’s a looping cycle of continual worry.

It happens to many of us. I know it happened to me. Cut off the heart – so as not to feel anything – just keep focusing on logical thinking and everything will work out. Except it doesn't. While the logical mind hopes for this - the truth remains conveniently and clinically covered.

It’s so easy to get trapped believing ‘it’s only me thinking it’ – but what happens is while we honestly believe we’re heading ‘true north’ we’re actually attracting a lot of negativity into our life.

So while we may believe our values of love, generosity and compassion – or whatever yours are – are what you’re attracting into your life – in reality it’s the opposite – unless you’ve cleaned out our thoughts and know how to stop them festering.

A similar thing happens if we break off the other side of ourselves and let our heart rule our decisions. If our emotions are let run wild our heart may not lead us in the right direction.

I know this only too well.

So what do we need?

Naturally we need the balance between the two: head and heart working in tandem.

a creative mindfulness exercise using the non-dominant hand

a creative mindfulness exercise using the non-dominant hand

Let’s consider what a wishbone is used for in nature.

It’s part of a bird’s skeletal structure known as a furcula*.

A furcula helps birds fly as it can expand to 50%, offering great flexibility so as when a bird’s wings drop down during flight the furcula moves with it – creating an elegant ease of flexible movement.

And while we may not have a literal furcula between our head and heart - I wonder if our voice is not a similar thing as we make sense of thoughts and emotions and their link to our own values.

From the emotional side of things – most of us value being loved. As we’re looking for that love, there are three universal questions to keep in mind. Three questions to guide us while heading true north.

The first one involves trust.

And by necessity this links both head and heart. Can the experience be trusted, can the other person be trusted and the ultimate question – can you be trusted?

Do you trust yourself to make the right decisions?

To know how to think. To know your values. To live by them confidently. And live those values in a way that anyone can say ‘you value love and compassion’ because it’s easy to see so in your actions, hear it in your words and feel it from your emotional presence.

The second question is about care: ‘Do you care for me?’

Friendships and relationships are based on this. We each need to know we have it in our lives.

So my question is: Do you care for yourself?

If you’re letting your thoughts, ruminations and worries rule your life and ‘thought loops’ are what guide you – then you’re not caring for yourself. There’s possibly a very real emotional disconnect between head and heart.

It is with self-compassion that you can begin trusting yourself by knowing that you love and appreciate yourself.

So the issue is around these three: trust, love and care.

In the exercise (Part 2) you’ll be writing down your values and asking yourself whether your wishbone has been broken and whether you're relying on your head more than your heart – or the other way around.

We need both aspects so we can live our values – living in an emotional world where you’re constantly tugged or living in your head so it’s easier not to feel means living in a mis-aligned state – neither with your values or your true north.

And as a result, you’ll attract more of the things you don’t want into your life because what you give out (often unknowingly) you’ll receive back.

Rumination and negativity is received in kind. So are emotional roller coasters.

It’s in trusting yourself and in this process – of living more fully with head and heart – that each one of us has a better chance of living more in line with our values.

In the exercise, there’s a second layer where you can reflect on the balance needed and the action steps you can take to bring this alignment back together so that you can have a beautiful flexibility and the direction you want to go knowing you can trust yourself to reach there. More on this later.

*The furcula ("little fork" in Latin) or wishbone is a forked bone found in birds and some dinosaurs, and is formed by the fusion of the two clavicles. In birds, its primary function is in the strengthening of the thoracic skeleton to withstand the rigors of flight. (wikipaedia)

Please leave a message and let me know what sort of things you'd like to attract more of in your life. And if this article resonates with you, let me know by 'liking' it. With thanks and gratitude, Barbara Grace