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One Big Idea: Shadow Values

What is a shadow value?

A shadow value is a value that a person or organization is not aware that it holds and does not explicitly state but is nevertheless revealed through behavior.

Where did the idea of shadow values come from?

The idea of a psychological "shadow" comes from Carl Jung. It refers to parts of our inner world (mind, psyche, emotions) that are outside of our awareness but drive our feelings, thoughts, and actions.

These are shadows because everything we’re aware of is in the light, while everything we’re unaware of (but still exists) remains hidden in the shadow.

From this view, psychological shadows are very active and influential in each person’s life, but by their very nature, they are difficult for a person to see and acknowledge in themselves.

Jim Collins, a former professor of business at Stanford University and best-selling author, coined the term "shadow values" to mark the difference between what companies and business leaders say they value and what their behaviors reveal about their true values. Shadow values can be seen in what people and organizations do, resist doing, pay close attention to, ignore or avoid, and spend money on or resist spending money on.

For Jung, psychological shadows create all sorts of dysfunction the more they’re repressed and denied. Similarly, it becomes more difficult for people and organizations to live up to their stated values the more they deny their shadow values.

Jung also believed that psychological shadows can be life-giving and spur personal growth and new creativity when they are discovered and accepted into a person’s sense of self.

The recognition and acceptance of shadow values can do the same.

For example, if a company has a stated value for diversity and inclusion, but all the decisions are actually made by one person, an examination of shadow values might reveal that the company has a shadow value for efficiency or minimizing conflict. If that company recognizes and accepts these values, it can spur a process for finding new organizational strategies that encourage efficiency and minimizing conflict while also promoting diversity and inclusion.

Why should parents care about this idea?

As parents, we all know of values parents should hold: love, care, protection, and honesty are a few. And so we might explicitly state that these are our values.

But what are the shadow values revealed by our actions or inaction? If we are very demanding of our kids, then perhaps we have a shadow value for wanting our children to perform well for others and thus gain respect and admiration of others. Or perhaps our demands have to do with a shadow value for being in control.

By recognizing and accepting our shadow values, we can commit ourselves to new actions that align the stated values we want to hold with the shadow values we actually hold. Or if our newly discovered shadow values are ones we don’t want to hold, we can commit to letting them go.

An example is a parent becoming aware of how upset and emotionally activated they get around their kids playing a lot of video games. Their stated values in regard to their kids’ free time might be love, care, and protection. But their hovering, controlling behavior suggests potential shadow values.

Through open discussion with their partner and honest internal reflection, they might come to see a shadow value around a desire for their kids to perform in ways that others would admire (like ballet instead of Roblox!) or a desire for their kids to develop similar interests as the parent.

By recognizing these values, that parent can then commit to either letting them go or finding ways to live them out which also align with the stated values of love, care, and protection.

How can parents use this idea in their daily lives?

Two powerful practices for discovering our shadow values are honest self-reflection and open communication with other caring adults in our life.

  • Honest self-reflection can begin with answering the question: "What do my behaviors say to my kids?" "Regardless of what my intentions are, how might my kids interpret my behaviors?" "How did I view similar behaviors in my parents?"
  • Open communication with safe adults begins by seeking out others who are emotionally open and have our best interests at heart. We can facilitate these conversations with questions such as: "What do you think I really care about?" "What do you think triggers me?" and "In what ways do you think I self-sabotage in living up to my highest values?"


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One Big Idea: Shadow Values

Exploring your shadow values can lead to a healthy evaluation of which hidden values you want to let go of and which you want to live with

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What is a shadow value?

A shadow value is a value that a person or organization is not aware that it holds and does not explicitly state but is nevertheless revealed through behavior.

Where did the idea of shadow values come from?

The idea of a psychological "shadow" comes from Carl Jung. It refers to parts of our inner world (mind, psyche, emotions) that are outside of our awareness but drive our feelings, thoughts, and actions.

These are shadows because everything we’re aware of is in the light, while everything we’re unaware of (but still exists) remains hidden in the shadow.

From this view, psychological shadows are very active and influential in each person’s life, but by their very nature, they are difficult for a person to see and acknowledge in themselves.

Jim Collins, a former professor of business at Stanford University and best-selling author, coined the term "shadow values" to mark the difference between what companies and business leaders say they value and what their behaviors reveal about their true values. Shadow values can be seen in what people and organizations do, resist doing, pay close attention to, ignore or avoid, and spend money on or resist spending money on.

For Jung, psychological shadows create all sorts of dysfunction the more they’re repressed and denied. Similarly, it becomes more difficult for people and organizations to live up to their stated values the more they deny their shadow values.

Jung also believed that psychological shadows can be life-giving and spur personal growth and new creativity when they are discovered and accepted into a person’s sense of self.

The recognition and acceptance of shadow values can do the same.

For example, if a company has a stated value for diversity and inclusion, but all the decisions are actually made by one person, an examination of shadow values might reveal that the company has a shadow value for efficiency or minimizing conflict. If that company recognizes and accepts these values, it can spur a process for finding new organizational strategies that encourage efficiency and minimizing conflict while also promoting diversity and inclusion.

Why should parents care about this idea?

As parents, we all know of values parents should hold: love, care, protection, and honesty are a few. And so we might explicitly state that these are our values.

But what are the shadow values revealed by our actions or inaction? If we are very demanding of our kids, then perhaps we have a shadow value for wanting our children to perform well for others and thus gain respect and admiration of others. Or perhaps our demands have to do with a shadow value for being in control.

By recognizing and accepting our shadow values, we can commit ourselves to new actions that align the stated values we want to hold with the shadow values we actually hold. Or if our newly discovered shadow values are ones we don’t want to hold, we can commit to letting them go.

An example is a parent becoming aware of how upset and emotionally activated they get around their kids playing a lot of video games. Their stated values in regard to their kids’ free time might be love, care, and protection. But their hovering, controlling behavior suggests potential shadow values.

Through open discussion with their partner and honest internal reflection, they might come to see a shadow value around a desire for their kids to perform in ways that others would admire (like ballet instead of Roblox!) or a desire for their kids to develop similar interests as the parent.

By recognizing these values, that parent can then commit to either letting them go or finding ways to live them out which also align with the stated values of love, care, and protection.

How can parents use this idea in their daily lives?

Two powerful practices for discovering our shadow values are honest self-reflection and open communication with other caring adults in our life.

  • Honest self-reflection can begin with answering the question: "What do my behaviors say to my kids?" "Regardless of what my intentions are, how might my kids interpret my behaviors?" "How did I view similar behaviors in my parents?"
  • Open communication with safe adults begins by seeking out others who are emotionally open and have our best interests at heart. We can facilitate these conversations with questions such as: "What do you think I really care about?" "What do you think triggers me?" and "In what ways do you think I self-sabotage in living up to my highest values?"


What is a shadow value?

A shadow value is a value that a person or organization is not aware that it holds and does not explicitly state but is nevertheless revealed through behavior.

Where did the idea of shadow values come from?

The idea of a psychological "shadow" comes from Carl Jung. It refers to parts of our inner world (mind, psyche, emotions) that are outside of our awareness but drive our feelings, thoughts, and actions.

These are shadows because everything we’re aware of is in the light, while everything we’re unaware of (but still exists) remains hidden in the shadow.

From this view, psychological shadows are very active and influential in each person’s life, but by their very nature, they are difficult for a person to see and acknowledge in themselves.

Jim Collins, a former professor of business at Stanford University and best-selling author, coined the term "shadow values" to mark the difference between what companies and business leaders say they value and what their behaviors reveal about their true values. Shadow values can be seen in what people and organizations do, resist doing, pay close attention to, ignore or avoid, and spend money on or resist spending money on.

For Jung, psychological shadows create all sorts of dysfunction the more they’re repressed and denied. Similarly, it becomes more difficult for people and organizations to live up to their stated values the more they deny their shadow values.

Jung also believed that psychological shadows can be life-giving and spur personal growth and new creativity when they are discovered and accepted into a person’s sense of self.

The recognition and acceptance of shadow values can do the same.

For example, if a company has a stated value for diversity and inclusion, but all the decisions are actually made by one person, an examination of shadow values might reveal that the company has a shadow value for efficiency or minimizing conflict. If that company recognizes and accepts these values, it can spur a process for finding new organizational strategies that encourage efficiency and minimizing conflict while also promoting diversity and inclusion.

Why should parents care about this idea?

As parents, we all know of values parents should hold: love, care, protection, and honesty are a few. And so we might explicitly state that these are our values.

But what are the shadow values revealed by our actions or inaction? If we are very demanding of our kids, then perhaps we have a shadow value for wanting our children to perform well for others and thus gain respect and admiration of others. Or perhaps our demands have to do with a shadow value for being in control.

By recognizing and accepting our shadow values, we can commit ourselves to new actions that align the stated values we want to hold with the shadow values we actually hold. Or if our newly discovered shadow values are ones we don’t want to hold, we can commit to letting them go.

An example is a parent becoming aware of how upset and emotionally activated they get around their kids playing a lot of video games. Their stated values in regard to their kids’ free time might be love, care, and protection. But their hovering, controlling behavior suggests potential shadow values.

Through open discussion with their partner and honest internal reflection, they might come to see a shadow value around a desire for their kids to perform in ways that others would admire (like ballet instead of Roblox!) or a desire for their kids to develop similar interests as the parent.

By recognizing these values, that parent can then commit to either letting them go or finding ways to live them out which also align with the stated values of love, care, and protection.

How can parents use this idea in their daily lives?

Two powerful practices for discovering our shadow values are honest self-reflection and open communication with other caring adults in our life.

  • Honest self-reflection can begin with answering the question: "What do my behaviors say to my kids?" "Regardless of what my intentions are, how might my kids interpret my behaviors?" "How did I view similar behaviors in my parents?"
  • Open communication with safe adults begins by seeking out others who are emotionally open and have our best interests at heart. We can facilitate these conversations with questions such as: "What do you think I really care about?" "What do you think triggers me?" and "In what ways do you think I self-sabotage in living up to my highest values?"


What is a shadow value?

A shadow value is a value that a person or organization is not aware that it holds and does not explicitly state but is nevertheless revealed through behavior.

Where did the idea of shadow values come from?

The idea of a psychological "shadow" comes from Carl Jung. It refers to parts of our inner world (mind, psyche, emotions) that are outside of our awareness but drive our feelings, thoughts, and actions.

These are shadows because everything we’re aware of is in the light, while everything we’re unaware of (but still exists) remains hidden in the shadow.

From this view, psychological shadows are very active and influential in each person’s life, but by their very nature, they are difficult for a person to see and acknowledge in themselves.

Jim Collins, a former professor of business at Stanford University and best-selling author, coined the term "shadow values" to mark the difference between what companies and business leaders say they value and what their behaviors reveal about their true values. Shadow values can be seen in what people and organizations do, resist doing, pay close attention to, ignore or avoid, and spend money on or resist spending money on.

For Jung, psychological shadows create all sorts of dysfunction the more they’re repressed and denied. Similarly, it becomes more difficult for people and organizations to live up to their stated values the more they deny their shadow values.

Jung also believed that psychological shadows can be life-giving and spur personal growth and new creativity when they are discovered and accepted into a person’s sense of self.

The recognition and acceptance of shadow values can do the same.

For example, if a company has a stated value for diversity and inclusion, but all the decisions are actually made by one person, an examination of shadow values might reveal that the company has a shadow value for efficiency or minimizing conflict. If that company recognizes and accepts these values, it can spur a process for finding new organizational strategies that encourage efficiency and minimizing conflict while also promoting diversity and inclusion.

Why should parents care about this idea?

As parents, we all know of values parents should hold: love, care, protection, and honesty are a few. And so we might explicitly state that these are our values.

But what are the shadow values revealed by our actions or inaction? If we are very demanding of our kids, then perhaps we have a shadow value for wanting our children to perform well for others and thus gain respect and admiration of others. Or perhaps our demands have to do with a shadow value for being in control.

By recognizing and accepting our shadow values, we can commit ourselves to new actions that align the stated values we want to hold with the shadow values we actually hold. Or if our newly discovered shadow values are ones we don’t want to hold, we can commit to letting them go.

An example is a parent becoming aware of how upset and emotionally activated they get around their kids playing a lot of video games. Their stated values in regard to their kids’ free time might be love, care, and protection. But their hovering, controlling behavior suggests potential shadow values.

Through open discussion with their partner and honest internal reflection, they might come to see a shadow value around a desire for their kids to perform in ways that others would admire (like ballet instead of Roblox!) or a desire for their kids to develop similar interests as the parent.

By recognizing these values, that parent can then commit to either letting them go or finding ways to live them out which also align with the stated values of love, care, and protection.

How can parents use this idea in their daily lives?

Two powerful practices for discovering our shadow values are honest self-reflection and open communication with other caring adults in our life.

  • Honest self-reflection can begin with answering the question: "What do my behaviors say to my kids?" "Regardless of what my intentions are, how might my kids interpret my behaviors?" "How did I view similar behaviors in my parents?"
  • Open communication with safe adults begins by seeking out others who are emotionally open and have our best interests at heart. We can facilitate these conversations with questions such as: "What do you think I really care about?" "What do you think triggers me?" and "In what ways do you think I self-sabotage in living up to my highest values?"


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