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Living Your Values

When we let our mind and emotions determine our actions, it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes however our mind and feelings lead us down paths that we would never choose if we knew what was on the other side. This is something we should forgive ourselves for, but to live our most meaningful lives, it’s helpful to let our actions be determined by our values. When we have a good understanding of our values, we can filter through and detach from our thoughts and feelings based on if they are helpful/unhelpful in fulfilling our values. Living our values is NOT a final destination (which is why things that you WANT don’t constitute as values i.e. having a house, starting a family). Values are the living and breathing embodiment of what is meaningful to us--which means values are the basis of how we want to live our life each day, not what we want to have.

Values are typically taught by our caregivers at a young age. But values can and probably should change over time. This means when we come to identify ourselves as independent, we may find that a couple of the values we learned from our caregivers may not be serving us well anymore. Continuing to hold on to those values as our own often leads to miserable and self-destructive circumstances. You may find that your parents taught you values through implicit messages (such as your parents always putting pressure on you to excel, but at the expense of work-life balance). Values are sometimes expressed through underlying motivations. For example, if I put myself out there to help people constantly but go home with no energy to take care of myself everyday, is that action an expression of a value “I want to be the person that helps people” or is it an expression of the value “I want to be needed so that I can feel important.”

Values are better understood through statements about the kind of person you want to be. One or two word value statements don’t tell us anything about how we live out “hard work” or “family first.” Below you’ll see a few sectors of life. Take your time with each one and make at least one (or more if you can think of more) value statements in the format of “In this area of my life, I want to be _____________” or “In this area of my life, I want to be the kind of person that ____________.” These are “being” statements that will help be somewhat of a compass to your actions. So you could say, instead of the value “Hard work,” “I want to be mentally present at work as much as possible.” In the value of “Self-Care” one could say, “I want to be the kind of person that holds themselves accountable for staying well.” or, “I want to be the kind of person that has the courage to say ‘no’ if I know I can’t give more of myself in that moment.” or “I want to be the kind of person that is more aware of what I need to take care of myself.” This makes values a lot more individualized. Some of these areas may not apply to you at all. You’re welcome to skip. At the end, there are three blanks for you to choose any areas of your life you feel were not explored by the previous options.

Areas of life: For a quick exercise, take a moment to think through a couple or even all of these different aspects of life and think through statements of how you want to live out these areas or what kind of person you want to be.

Work values

Sprituality/personal growth




Physical health




What do you notice about your values? Are you currently living these out the way you want, or do you notice that you have values that are unfulfilled at this time? Can you think of other areas of life that incorporate values that are meaningful to you? Don't forget to stop by the forum and share with others about how your values help you determine your choices!

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