Identifying Personal Values
Amidst the constant stress and activities in our daily lives it is easy to lose track of what we truly care about and value. Identifying and working to further incorporate personal values into our lives can not only be fulfilling but also deepen our sense of purpose and meaning.
Make a list of the personal qualities and values you most resonate with and specific ways that you can incorporate them into your life.
The word “values” has many definitions, but in this case it means personal qualities and ways of living that you believe in and resonate with. Psychologist Steven Hayes describes values as “chosen life directions” that are “vitalizing, uplifting, and empowering”. A value is not merely a goal, but can be thought of as a continuous process, direction, and way of living that helps direct us toward various goals and live a meaningful life.
Identifying your values:
There are various ways to identify your personal values including choosing which domains or areas in your life are most important to you, and specifically what you value within each domain. Which areas of your life and how many you choose can vary. They can include relationships, work/career achievement, parenting, self-care (health, leisure, etc.), spirituality, community involvement, and education/learning.
- Begin by taking some time to reflect deeply on what areas of your life and ways of living give you the most meaning, interest and sense of fulfillment.
- Feel free to use any of the areas listed above or think of your own.
- After you have chosen a few areas, evaluate how important each one is to you and rank them accordingly.
- Next, closely and honestly examine how present this value is expressed in your current life, including daily activities, lifestyle and relationships.
- Make note of any values that are highly ranked but not highly present in your life.
- Begin to brainstorm and list any concrete ways that you can make this value more prevalent in your life. These do not need to be major life changes but can be small actions or activities. For example, if you value spending time with your family, perhaps making an effort to have family dinner together four times a week, or read a bed time story to your children every other night.
- Continue to think of different ways to further incorporate your values into your life and test them out, noting what works and most importantly, enjoy the exploration!
Identifying and incorporating personal values into one’s life is a long-standing tradition emphasized in many cultures and religions. The practice specifically described here was adapted from the work of leading clinical psychologists Steven Hayes, Susan Orsillo, and Lizabeth Roemer.
Realizing that we are not truly living the life we want to live or embodying what we value can be difficult and even painful. Please remember that above all, maintaining a compassionate and gentle approach to yourself and discoveries is critical to the process and for creating real change.