What are Values?
Whilst there seems to be a million definitions out there of what values are- ultimately values are the things most important to us. Seems simple enough, yet so many of us are deeply unsatisfied and unhappy in our lives. Some people believe this is because so many of us are living out of alignment with our values, meaning our behaviours don’t match up.
So let’s unpack it a little more …why are values so important?
We develop values from a young age, they grow and shift depending on our experiences. Values become how we most aspire to be, the deep beliefs we have about the world and how people “should” act within it. When we or someone else is behaving out of alignment with our values it will irk us, grind our gears, get under our skin, it will feel that it just isn’t right.
For example; I value honesty, and then I observe a friend lie to their partner, this bothers me despite the fact it doesn’t have anything to do with me. Another example; I value hard work, but have been relatively unproductive this past week and feel pretty awful about that because I know I could have worked harder.
Values are NOT goals
Values and goals often get mixed up, and yes they can be overlapped. We can & perhaps even should (not that I particularly like the word should) set goals that are in alignment with our values – we are more likely to be motivated towards them, they are more meaningful for us and thus likely to bring us more joy and sense of achievement when we reach them. However values can never be reached, they are not an endpoint that we can get to and then never have to think about them again. I have always liked the analogy of a compass – our values are like a direction we want to move in (like north), we can have stops along the way (such as goals) but we never reach north, there is always more north to be travelled.
Why are Values important – why identifying your values is helpful?
This is another reason I like the metaphor of a compass because when we identify what our values are (not society’s values, not our parent’s or partners’ values, OURS), we can use this to guide our actions. Even if it brings short-term discomfort when we behave in alignment with our values we are more likely to feel good about our decisions in the long term. When we consistently make decisions in alignment with our values we start to find we are building a more meaningful, authentic and satisfying life for ourselves—one decision at a time. So by having a clear idea about what your values are, you can use them in making these decisions, time and time again.
Values in therapy – an ACT approach
I am a huge fan of utilising values work with clients as it is something that was very meaningful to me in my healing journey & it aids in the personalisation of therapy. What I mean by this is, that I am not telling you what you should do based on my point of view. You are guiding yourself towards what you want to do based on your values (the person you want to be, the life you want to live, the relationships you want to have). This also makes it a very culturally safe approach in therapy when utilised effectively. Getting clear on your values, and working on value-driven action is a big part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which has been shown to help a range of mental health difficulties. This is unsurprising to me as focusing on values to guide decision-making has made a radical difference in my life, leading me to a more authentic version of myself, who makes decisions I am proud of (most of the time) and with practice and consistency has been building a more fulfilling and meaningful life – Which I believe has been one of the biggest protective factors against going backwards with my mental health since being on this journey.
Values in action
Want to get started?
If you are already aware of a value of yours that has come to mind whilst reading this article. Write it down. Then rate how in alignment you are currently living your life with this value (0 = not at all, 5 = completely aligned). Is there room for improvement? If yes, what is one thing you could begin to work on, that doing more of that would get you moving in the direction of this value? Even if it is just a smidge more?
Need some help with this? We all need support and guidance sometimes, especially when it comes to something new. Feel free to book an appointment with me & we can get started working on why values are important for you, together.
To make an appointment with Samantha Sheppard go to Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129.
Author: Samantha Sheppard, B Psych (Hons).
Samantha is a registered psychologist with experience working with children and adolescents (and their families), young adults and adults. Samantha empowers others with their mental health using a non-judgmental, compassionate approach and particularly resonates with a social and emotional wellbeing framework.