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Honor Your Values... But Not Too Much

health & vitality mind & meaning Nov 26, 2020

As we enter the holiday season, you may find yourself reflecting on what is most important to you. What do you value the most in your life? 

Honoring your values is key to your fulfillment in business and in life. 

Your values are the beliefs that you hold about what is important or desirable. They are the driving forces that guide your decisions and direct your life, often without your conscious awareness. They determine how you spend your time and money, what you consider to be right or wrong, and how you respond to the events in your life. 

For example, if you value security and stability, you are much more likely to put money away towards your retirement than to spend it on an exotic vacation. On the other hand, if values such as fun, excitement, or adventure are higher on your values list, you’re more likely to choose the vacation. 

Being aware of the values that we hold- such as freedom, respect, achievement, control, fairness, harmony, etc.- allows us to direct our thoughts, emotions, and actions towards those things that are most important to us. And, knowing our values hierarchy- the relative importance of each value- allows us to make decisions with more ease because we’re clear on our priorities. 

If you’re curious to identify your top values, check out Episode 18 of The MINDset Game® podcast here, where I guide you through a proven values clarification exercise. 

Generally speaking, when your life is congruent with your highest values, you feel content and energized. On the other hand, when your values are violated in some way by yourself or others, you can feel negative emotions, which triggers a desire to take action or honor your boundaries. 

Is it possible to honor your values too much? 

When we get over-attached to our values, it can limit our perception and potentially lead us to make poor decisions, which can make the situation worse for ourselves or those around us. 

If we perceive that our values are not being met or that they might be taken away, we shift into an incoherent state that drains our energy and distorts our thinking. We then tell ourselves all kinds of stories about what the situation means - some of which may not even be true. These false narratives seduce us into overreactions or bad decisions, such as blaming or resenting the people or issues that are important to us, which can damage relationships. 

For instance, leaders who highly value a sense of control struggle during times of uncertainty. Their heightened need for certainty, paired with their perceived fear of the unknown, can be so intense that it feeds their anxiety with constant negative projections and assumptions about what could happen in the future, such as potential budget cuts or layoffs. They tell themselves a narrative about all the possible worst-case scenarios. In turn, this raises their anxiety level and creates a stressful environment for their team, hindering problem-solving, and creativity.   

Suffering is always caused by an over-attachment to a deeply embedded value, which inhibits our ability to see other perspectives because we are so invested in our story of what is right or wrong. It’s our ego brain trying to protect us, sometimes to the point that we become obsessive and we’re willing to do almost anything to honor our values. This is when our values can actually hinder us. 

The good news is that suffering is optional. How can you honor your values without depleting your energy? Here are a few steps that can help. 

Step 1: Identify your values by asking yourself, “What is important to me in this context of my life?” (e.g., career, health, family, etc.). Then, prioritize your values from most to least important. 

Step 2: Know your triggers. Observe yourself for a few days and notice how often you get triggered by an over-attachment to a value. You can also notice the physical responses to those triggers, such as tension in your head, neck, or body. The key is to catch yourself reacting as soon as your emotions are triggered.

Step 3: When you find yourself being triggered, lessen your emotional distress by taking a few deep and slow breaths, pretending as if you are breathing in and out of your heart or chest area. Focusing on your breath helps to balance your mind and emotions so that you can take charge of your energy.  

Step 4: From this more objective place, notice whether the threat is real or if it’s just a story that your mind made up. Ask yourself what you would tell someone else if they had this problem. This detached observation allows you to dissolve the over-attachment to your value(s) so you can look at your narrative from a more neutral lens. 

Here’s the bottom line. It’s healthy to honor your values in a balanced way because it leads to alignment and fulfillment. However, if you over-attach to a value and find yourself getting caught up in distressing thoughts, negative emotions, or physical sensations such as tension, take a few moments to breathe, balance your mind and emotions, be more objective, and make even better decisions.  


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