Core Values 2

What Your Values Tell You About You

Your values describe what you think is good, true and worthwhile. Advertising, media, popular icons and people close to you can influence values, but only you know what connects you to yourself.

Values change as you age, although some values remain constant all through your life. For example, once you valued keeping up with the latest fashions. Now you value comfort that never goes out of style. If you still value variety, however, a wide spectrum of people and experiences is important to you.

When values change some people leave or enter your life, either gradually or abruptly. Or you may be the one who does the leaving or entering. Shifts in values attract people and circumstances, and they also send them away.

Sometimes values are in conflict, as when you are torn between wanting a better job or business and staying with what you have.  It’s as though two people inside of you are fighting over which direction to take.  One part of you values knowing what is going to happen, and the other values challenge.

Leaving is not always the way to resolve inner conflicts. Perhaps you can be more assertive: ask for or create a new project. You can improve your attitude about what you are doing, or you can set better boundaries, like saying no to unreasonable requests.

If these strategies work the subconscious calms down and you sleep well at night. If not, start the process of discovering the place where you will reach your full potential.

The Right Niche

The right niche in work (and life) matches your values. You do not have to strain or push or compete to achieve your goals; all you need to do is be who you are.

It will take several attempts before you reach the spot in the garden where you thrive. After all, trial and error is the way you get to know what you value. In that sense, there are no mistakes, just choices that were the best you could do at the time.  If you learned from them, you made better choices.

You may be aware enough to discover your niche earlier in life, but usually midlife and beyond is when you know what works and what will not work for you. But no matter how self-aware you are resistance rears its head when you decide to change.

One part of the brain is wired to keep everything the same, even when it does not work. Positive change is the most threatening of all because it eliminates everything that has outlived its usefulness.

As an example, no one you know enjoys their work and makes the money they need. For them, work is a long slog until retirement, if they live that long.  They try to make up for their dissatisfaction with travel, shopping, socializing or addictions. What happens when you are in the right job and you make the money you need?

Emotional and financial success creates a chasm between you and those who are not figuring out what brings fulfillment.  A few may be glad for you, but most will feel uncomfortable around you, and you will feel uncomfortable around them, until you realize it is not your job to make them happy.

Tolerating the Unknown

Addiction counselors say the hardest part about recovery is the fear of being alone in the world. Loss of the addictive agent and the “friends” that go with it creates a void that is hard to tolerate.

The temptation is to go back to what you know to alleviate the fear and loneliness. But if you bear with the anxiety of not knowing, the day comes when nothing can tempt you to go back to the past.

Tolerating the unknown can be learned, given the elasticity of the brain.   Begin by slowing down the pace of your life. This will give you time to think things through before and after you make choices.

Don’t drink alcohol for three months so that your mind can clear. After that, moderate your intake. Breathe deeply, meditate, exercise and eat a balanced diet. Healthy habits rewire negative assumptions about life and work, as will exposure to new ways of thinking about the occupants of your inner world.

No Bad Parts

In his remarkable book, No Bad Parts, Richard Schwartz shows how to connect with young, injured parts of the self and their equally young defenders.  Rather than be angry with or ignore parts like the inner critic, Schwartz says to be curious about why it is so critical.

Calm, caring dialogue with what you dislike about yourself is not easy, Schwartz says, since the likelihood is that you are “blended” with these parts: you think they are you, and all you want is for them to leave you alone.

The Internal Family Systems model Schwartz created eliminates shame, which allows you to observe defensive and vulnerable parts of yourself without judgment. Compassion for both “protectors and exiles” brings them out of a dangerous past into a safe present where the Self is in charge.

As you work on discovering who you are at this stage of life, it is wise to put distance between you and people who do not support the changes you are making. Free from these influences, you will gain appreciation for yourself and life in general.

Your Top Five Values

After you read through the list of fifteen values below, select the five values that describe what you need now to feel content. Make sure each value is in harmony with the other four. For instance, if you select security and creativity those values will be at odds, since creativity likes the unknown, whereas security prefers what is known.

  • Security: the need to know: certainty, predictability
  • Status: how you appear in the eyes of others
  • Compensation: money and/or benefits for services rendered
  • Achievement: mastery of a task, the ability to do a project well
  • Advancement: improving and progressing
  • Affiliation: the need to associate with like-minded people
  • Recognition: special notice or attention for individual or team effort
  • Authority: the power or right to command, direct and manage
  • Independence: freedom from the control of others
  • Altruism: concern for the welfare of others
  • Creativity: finding new, improved ways of doing anything
  • Ethical Harmony: moral values are reinforced in the work you do
  • Intellectual Stimulation: desire for people and work that encourage thinking
  • Variety: diversity of activities, people and tasks
  • Aesthetics: love of the beautiful and sublime

After thinking about your choices for a few days, you may discover another value is more important to you.  Good. Keep in mind that what you do consistently is what you value, not what you say you value.

Do not be influenced by what you think you should value. For example, don’t pick independence if you need to be part of a team (affiliation).

Once you settle on your five values ask yourself, do these values align with what I say and do? Who else has these five values?  Does my employer, client or customer value what I value? How many of these five values are not being met in what I do for a living, and in my relationships? What do I need to do to get these values met?

The answers to the above questions will explain why you are not where you belong. But take heart, the solution may be as simple as getting one missing value met, such as aesthetics. In that case, working and living in a beautiful, orderly environment brings inner peace.

On the other hand, you may realize how you live and work demonstrates what is important, not only for you, but also for the people you serve and love. In that case, celebrate. You are in your niche, the place that matches your top five values.

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

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