Did you know that examining your values can change your life?
In recent years, mental health practitioners have become increasingly aware of the importance of working with an individual’s values and the ways in which doing so can help people live more meaningful lives.
“Values” can be an abstract, sometimes confusing concept. Values can be confused with goals, which are an end result, something to be met; values are continuous. People also can confuse them with rules, but rules usually are imposed by others and are about control, right versus wrong. But you choose your values, which are about freedom and preference.
Like a map or compass that can be used to help us navigate where we want to go, our values are a tool that we can use to change direction. Values can be our guide, helping us identify what matters most in our lives and move us in that direction. Living a valued-based life can motivate us to keep moving when things get difficult. Values help us put things in perspective and provide the clarity we need to design our life based on what is important to us. They can also help us determine our ideal behavior in this world and reflect on our current behavior.
To help us understand how to use values to improve our lives, we must begin by getting to know ourselves and exploring the values that exist. The good news is, choosing values is based on you, and therapy can help you do this. Your therapist might ask:
- What is important to you now? (Note that the question is not about what was important in your past or what is important to your friends, parents, or others in your life.)
- What do you want your life to look like now? If you envision yourself as content or happy, what would you be doing?
- If you were successful or rich, what then would you do with your life, what would matter to you?
Once your values are chosen, you can turn them into goals. Let’s say you value adventure. What would living out that value look like? How would you behave differently? Are you currently living a life of adventure? What is moving you toward or away from living this value?
Your answers may help you determine the specific steps you can take to live a values-based life. You can then choose daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals that move you closer to living that life of adventure. Perhaps you try a new food weekly, go on a hike monthly, or travel to a new place yearly: The possibilities are endless. Once you establish your values, setting goals becomes an easier and more creative process.
Values really do help us live more meaningful lives by allowing us to live from a place of individuality, creating lives of action, flexibility, and purpose.