Over the years I’ve become incredibly aware that one of the main reasons my clients reach out to me is because they feel out of alignment and unsure about which decisions are right for them, their career, or their future.
Through their lives they have become transfixed on what they believed would make them happy, chasing the so-called ‘happiness dream’ of; “If I do X, I’ll then be happy.” Holding strong opinions and looking towards what their next step will be to achieve these ‘goals’.
However, like with most growth, there comes a time where we may feel as if we have achieved everything we set out to achieve, yet, on the inside, we feel restless, insecure, unhappy and sometimes even lost and depressed.
These questions often arise when we have abandoned our values in an attempt to serve ourselves gratification through external sources, whilst conforming to the norms and expectations of those we — unknowingly — crave approval from.
Now, I am not here to make you feel bad or to highlight that you have been doing it ‘all wrong’. I’m merely here to provide solace in knowing that in fact — the reason you may feel out of alignment on this so-called ‘path’ to success, is due to living through a set of values, which are not your own.
Our values are often reflected through childhood and upbringing by our parents, teachers, peers and society in general, and are later encouraged by our culture and reinforced through our life experiences. The values that we choose to live by highlight what we stand for, whilst also guiding our behaviours, decisions and actions. They are the measuring sticks by which we determine what is a successful and meaningful life.
Our core values determine how we show up in life. People that have developed the capacity to live in alignment with their values are more clear, bold and consistent in their decisions and feel confident setting boundaries for anything that’s in conflict with them, which allows them to build and thrive, as they live a rich and meaningful life.
However, when we are out of alignment with our core values, we risk abandoning our authenticity and needs in an effort to conform to the standards and expectations of our environment, leading to; internal tension, destructive habits and regressive behaviour.
There is a harsh realisation in our developing world that both depression and anxiety are on the rise. Numerous studies have come to the conclusion that depression is not only caused by our biology, there is now growing evidence confirming the negative impact of the way we live our personal and professional lives. Lives build upon values that neglect our psychological needs.
If you aren’t familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, he identified the needs as follows:
In accordance with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we as humans have both physical and psychological needs that need to be met in order to feel safe, loved, respected and eventually, to move up the pyramid towards self-actualisation (to feel whole and fulfilled!).
All of the needs below self-actualization are basic needs. Maslow also called these basic needs neurotic needs because if we’re focused on meeting these needs, we’re operating from a place of lack and separation. From the fear of not having, being or doing enough.
We don’t feel ourselves. We can’t operate from a calm, quiet centre. We can’t actualize your innate potential.
Regardless of how evolved or successful you are, we all share the same needs. These needs are our birthright as human beings and when something blocks or challenges these inalienable rights, we begin to exhibit irrational, impulsive and often selfish behaviour.
One of the main challenges in meeting these basic needs is that many of us have never learned to meet our deep-rooted psychological needs in a healthy and productive manner. As a result of social conditioning, and through the people that serve as our role-models, we have developed beliefs and values that drive us further away from our core. Leaving us; chasing achievement, money, degrees and titles, hoping to ‘earn’ the permission to live on our own terms, to express our authenticity, explore our unique potential, and eventually, to live more wholeheartedly.
Every day you have the choice of how you spend your time and where you direct your energy. You define in your mind what makes a successful day or life, however, each one of our definitions of success can look different to the next, and often when we don’t consciously decide what we want, we’ll rely on a pre-programmed definition (which may not align with our own).
For example; as Mark Manson states
“If our definition of success is horrific — like, say, world domination and slaughtering millions — then working harder, setting and achieving goals, and disciplining our minds all become a bad thing.”
I quote this because I too have been in a position, where I — a well-intended and intelligent guy — lived out of alignment, chasing the ‘Amsterdam Dream’, placing me in a position where I had to abandon my authenticity and neglect my needs, for the sake of outward successes and the approval of others. My definition of success was driven by values such as; power, popularity, money and recognition.
It was a vicious cycle and the more I drove myself towards these values, the greater the lack of love, approval and belonging I experienced on the inside.
It was only until I lost almost 2 years of my life due to a devastating breakdown of health that I realised I had been relying on a set of junk values that neglected my psychological needs. Confronting? Yes, to say the least.
Ever since my recovery, my mission has been to help people — including myself — rethink and unlearn the behaviours, beliefs and attitudes that are separating them from becoming what we have the potential to be. As humans, leaders, partners and parents.
In order to reclaim my power, I had to rethink my values, reveal the deeper motivation behind them and unlearn the transfixed beliefs about would make me successful at work and happy in life.
After integrating my core values, it would be an understatement to say that it has allowed me to:
Our values are extensions of ourselves, they pre-determine how we show up in life. This can therefore create tension when we are out of alignment, highlighting the disconnect between who we are now and where we truly want to be. When we realise that we don’t connect with our own values, it often means we are disconnected from ourselves. Consequences of this can be; negative self-talk, self-betrayal, anxiety, and depression.
A great way to look at values that do not serve us is through Johan Hari’s principle in his book Lost Connections, when he compares our disconnected values to Junk Food, stating that junk food has taken over our diets and made us physically sick similar to how junk values have taken over our minds, making us mentally sick.
Professor Tim Kasser further enhances this sentiment by outlining that the more we believe we can buy and display a new way our of sadness into a supposed ‘good life’, the more it will increase our own psychological decline.
We have been trained to look for happiness in all the wrong places; praise for success, status, money, followers, titles, degrees and our looks (the list is endless!). Unless we connect back to our core, to what we truly value, we will continue on a downwards spiral, looking for things in all the wrong places.
Any change in yourself will reflect within your values, but the key is to not configure your values around external sources but shift towards internal rewards that are meaningful to you. One of the best ways to rediscover your values is through exploring the areas of your life where you experience (inner)conflict, feel dissatisfied, find yourself complaining or maybe even projecting your excuses onto the outside world.
It can be hard to acknowledge that you’re responsible for your own circumstances, including the toxic and/or harmful behaviours of others that you’ve been tolerating, however, outward projection (blaming the outside world) or downplaying the consequences will not benefit you in reclaiming your authenticity.
Questions that can help you are;
There is a saying in psychology that we have to take responsibility for what we’re not responsible for. This means that we’re not responsible (as no infant is) for what happened to us to stunt us and fixate us in our early years when our personalities and beliefs were formed. Yet it’s only when we take responsibility for our current circumstances and admit what it is that we are up against that we can begin to take appropriate action.
Action that will be life-changing. For yourself, (your children) and others.
Through my own experience and coaching hundreds of individuals, I’ve learned that life can be lived in a different way, an extraordinary way. A way that allows us to live up to our fullest potential, that empowers us to achieve our goals whilst feeling connected and alive in the present moment. A way that helps us find contentment and peace, brings us the freedom to be spontaneous and make the most out of our individual journeys.
However, this requires us to break free from the junk values that choke our ability to live authentically.
It was Ralph Emmerson who stated;
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
And this has never resonated more. In fact, freeing myself from the burden of conformity has been the hardest challenge I’ve overcome. Harder than the loss, failure and grief I’ve dealt with.
In our 24/7/365 hustle culture knowing your values is often to be considered as a soft skill, which I agree to be true. Getting to know our values may take 90% of the time, but only 10% of the effort. The real challenge, the other 90% of the effort, is in reclaiming our authenticity through making the decisions that are aligned with our integrity and values.
When I take my clients through the process of designing their value system, they often come to the realisation that their choices have been motivated by a repressed internal desire for love, approval or safety, finding themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of self-betrayal — paralysed.
As they become more conscious, they cannot help but face the behavioural patterns that are driving them apart from their core. Behavioural patterns that often show up are:
Moving forward from a place of authenticity requires resolving the beliefs and emotional wounds that are at the root of these behavioural patterns. This can feel intimidating and out of our depths, but with every small step forward, you are moving forward from a place of authenticity.
A lot of information to digest. The emotions that arise during this process are not a malfunction or there for you to beat yourself up. They are a signal for you to begin your journey in articulating how you truly want to show up in your life, to rediscover what matters to you and to start making the decisions that are aligned with your integrity and values.
I invite you to step forward into growth, to explore the situations &/or relationships where you feel out of alignment and to pull back the curtains on your suppressed values. To redefine what’s most important in your life? To define, beyond your basic human needs, what you must have in your life to experience fulfilment?
It’s the antidote to conformity. The centrepiece to becoming what we have the potential to be. And the solution to a better and more united world.
Now go out and explore what’s most important in your life? Discover Beyond your basic human needs, what must you have in your life to experience fulfilment?
Creative self-expression? A strong level of health and vitality? A sense of excitement and adventure? Surrounded by beauty? Always learning?
What are the personal values you must honour or a part of your withers?
And if you’re still with me, I would like to thank you for your time and attention. My hopes are that this article has inspired you to move forward from a place of authenticity and wholeness.
If you have any questions in regards to this article, feel free to reach out to me. Furthermore, I’m just a guy sharing his perspective based on my own experiences, along with the studies and work of believable professionals in the industry. I fully expect that I have made a mistake somewhere in this article, in referencing an idea or tool to the wrong person or not at all. I’ve no intention of taking false credits, so if there’s anything not aligned regarding referencing, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org