Values and Success

If you are not reaching the goals that are important to you, the chances are your values are in conflict. One part of you wants one result, and the other something very different. To resolve the inner war, ask yourself if what you think you have to have is what you truly need.

Do you recall a time when you were glad you did not get what you wanted because it was not what you needed? You desperately wanted a job and later you discovered the company was in financial trouble. You thought when you obtained a certain object that would fill your empty heart, only to discover it emptied your bank account. Or you had an unshakable attachment to someone and when the relationship ended you fell apart. Later, you realized you did not even like the person.

Values in The Second Half of Life

The second half of life is the time to discover what will give you emotional and spiritual satisfaction. With the distractions of youth behind you — trying on different personas, competing with peers, striving for recognition, pursuing sexual partners, and rearing children — you can figure out what your authentic self wants to do.

According to the late psychologist Murray Bowen, becoming authentic depends on the ability to separate your thoughts and feelings from the family and others. In the face of disapproval or pressure to conform, “you can distinguish between thinking that is based on a careful assessment of facts from thinking that is clouded by emotion.” You can agree with another’s viewpoint or you can disagree, without becoming angry, disconnected or becoming emotionally reactive.

When you are entangled emotionally, or “fused” as Bowen calls the melted together relationships idealized by popular love songs, you can’t think clearly because you do not experience yourself as a separate, whole individual. You and a spouse, lover or family member live in a mutual delusion society, where truth dare not enter.

Looking for Security in the Right Place

The need for security takes precedence over all other needs when you are still young emotionally. If a relationship appears to be unstable, you experience intense anxiety. Just the thought of losing a job, a customer or client can send you into a panic. To allay the anxiety, you give in to others’ unreasonable demands. If you justify this sacrifice as love or practicality, you ignore the fact that you are losing your integrity and self-respect.

Is it possible to satisfy the need for security and the need for self-respect? The answer is yes, when you trust that your intuition will guide you to safety. By intuition, I mean the ability to see the meaning in events, that whatever happens, you are confident you will learn and grow from the experience.

Think of a time when you realized that the meaning in a shocking event was to force you to change. Did help come seemingly from out of nowhere just when you were most afraid? As one of my clients put it when he got fed up with his tyrannical boss and quit, I could hear the angels clapping when I made that tough choice. John had been afraid he did not have the skills to succeed in his own small business, even though his job had prepared him for that option. But the part of him that valued independence pushed him to take the leap.

“That freedom loving part of me knew I’d succeed,” John said, smiling, “it just took a while for the terrified part of me to catch up.”

How to Discover Your Values

Make a list of what you think is good, worthwhile, and true. If honesty is a top value, you do your best to tell yourself and others the truth. If you are most productive when you work with others, you do not try to work alone. When intellectual stimulation is as necessary to you as breathing, the people with whom you live and work also value thinking.

As you can see, your values are revealed by what you do, not what you say. To clarify your values, observe the choices you make over the next few weeks, in small and significant matters. Do your actions match what you say, or do you say one thing and then do another? If the latter is the case, practice until authenticity becomes second nature. Then you will succeed in ways that surprise you.

Nancy Anderson is a career and life consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of the best selling career guide, Work with Passion, How to Do What You Love For a Living, and Work with Passion and Beyond, Reach Your Full Potential and Make the Money You Need. Her website is

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