When we are experiencing anxiety, depression, stress or other mental health problems, some psychological theories suggest that a contributing factor is that we are not living a life that is in line with our values.
Values versus goals
Sometimes values can become confused with goal setting; however, there are some key differences between these. Goals are when we set ourselves a specific target that we would like to reach, and we are able to objectively see when that task has been achieved. On the other hand, values are something that you care deeply about and we use to direct the decisions that we make – somewhat like a compass. For example, if you value close relationships, this is something that you may keep in mind and use to guide life decisions, but it is not strictly a “goal” that you could reach or “tick off the list”.
Why are values important?
It is important to take time to consider our values these are the things that make life worth living. Without having a clear knowledge of what our values are, we may be engaging in behaviours or making choices that conflict with what we really care about. When we are not acting in line with our values, we are likely to experience feelings of conflict or anxiety. By clarifying what we value in life, it can help us to determine what is truly important to us and make decisions in line with that to make sure we are living a life that is rich and meaningful.
How do I find out my values?
Values clarification is something that you can do with a psychologist, however it is also something you can do yourself. Generally, what you do is look through a list of different values (easily found online! See the link below) and sort them into two categories – those that you definitely value, and those that you do not. From those that you selected in the positive category, you then go through and choose your top values (generally a top 8). Following this, you can look at different domains of your life (e.g., work, education, family, social relationships, spirituality, hobbies) to determine how aligned you are with your values in each of those domains. Click this link for a great values clarification exercise.
Once you determine what your values are, and how closely you live your life in line with these, you can use this information to make changes to your life or guide your future decisions. This leads to a richer and more meaningful life – which we are all deserving of.
My next blog post will focus on what to do when you find that you have some values that conflict with one another – stay tuned!!