Shedding Light on Shadow Values

One of the most revealing exercises that my clients engage in when we work together has them uncover and dig into their deepest, most important values. This work is one of the ways they start to better know themselves. It opens up an awareness of specific areas in which they can take action to start to change their daily experience at work and at home to be more aligned to what really matters to them.

While each person’s priority values and what they mean to them are unique, there are two values that show up more often and more consistently than others. Across age ranges and throughout professional levels, the values that are cited more frequently than other values including, family, health, or happiness are…

Security and freedom.

As we dig into what these words mean, people tend to have similar ways of defining security and freedom. Common phrases to describe what this means include some form of the following.

  • “Not having to worry”
  • “Knowing I’m safe”
  • “Being certain that I can provide for my family”
  • “Taking a vacation when I want”
  • “Knowing that I have a respected professional position against my peers”

The definitions start to reveal a definite theme around money, and a strong positive correlation between money and safety, happiness, and acceptance.

As we continue digging further into their definitions an interesting thing happens.

There comes a point in the process when we start to get see that definitions of and conditions for these values to be met seem to be sort of illusory.

Freedom becomes constricting.

Security starts to feel tenuous.

Many clients find that how they define these two values orients significantly toward particular conditions being met and specific outcomes being observed. They also find that this is restraining, restrictive, and setting them up to feel precarious and insecure; the opposite of what they want and value.

They start to see the conditions, assumptions, and expectations they set for themselves around living according to those values is compromising rather than enhancing their experience of them. They start to feel how that’s contributing to their dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment.

From there, comes the question:  how are these values serving me to contribute to my happiness?

A range of honest answers may arise.

One answer might be, plainly, “they’re not at all.”

Another might be, “as I’ve defined them in the past, they don’t, but if I think about them differently now, they could.”

Still another might be, “there are other values that I hold more dear, that if I meet those every day, I’ll by default be addressing these desires for my life.”

This kind of recognizing that what we think matters in our lives may actually be shadows that have darkened our understanding of what truly does, opens up possibility. It opens up opportunity to make different decisions, to exercise powerful choices, and to be more confident in the process.

When we are clear about our deepest values we can actively live and work to express and align with those values.

I invite you to do a little values inventory for yourself. What are they? What do they mean to YOU? How are they supporting your most fulfilling experience of success? How are they holding you back? What might the answers to the last two questions suggest about what might be really important to you?

Step out of the shadows, the light of success and fulfillment will follow.