Our lives can get so busy, no wonder we can lose sight of what really matters to us, and to have lives that leave us wanting more. One strategy to help you get more out of every day, and to regain your vision of how life might be better, is to consider the importance of values.
The Importance of Values
It might sound obvious to suggest that it is important to live by our values. However, I end up doing values-based work with nearly all of my clients. Why? Because in our sessions we discover that they:
- Don’t know how they need to be behaving to have a better life; or
- Don’t have a sense of what a “good” life looks like, and therefore struggle to find the motivation for change;
- Are experiencing problems as a result of conflicting values;
- Are not living according to their values.
These struggles are not limited to people seeking counselling, but are very common across the population. Part of the reason for this is that our values change over time, and with changing circumstances. Our values also carry different weights in different contexts (eg the values that are important to us at work, are probably not the same as those which are important to us in our intimate relationships).
Even those who are highly successful and function well will need to periodically review their understanding of their values, and align their efforts with these, to ensure that they are living their best life.
From a therapeutic perspective I find it very useful to clarify my client’s values for reasons in addition to those listed above. Why? Because my idea of a good and fulfilling life, or of what positive things people’s lives could be filled with without depression, anxiety or eating disorders etc, may be very different to theirs. Understanding my client’s values therefore helps me keep our in-session efforts aligned and on-track.
Aligning your Lifestyle with your Values
Here’s a quick self-assessment you can try, to help you determine if you are living your lifestyle in accordance with your values – and if you aren’t what steps you could take to change that.
Step 1 – Draw three columns on a large page of paper (A4 or letter). In the first column write down the values that are important to you. They may be related to money and work, relationships, health, or activities. For example they may include things like “financial stability”, “having loving relationships”, “being fit and healthy” and “being creative”.
Step 2 – Now look at the order that you have written them in. In the second column re-order them according to the degree to which they are driving your behaviour. For example, if you have a value of “being financially stable” or “being successful at work” and are prioritising this in your life – over and above leisure activities or family time – then it would be placed above values related to leisure and family.
Step 3 – In the third column, write down the real priority of these values. Think about what you would want to do more of, and the types of activities and relationships that give you satisfaction, joy or belonging. Although many people find that relationship and leisure-based values tend to shift upwards and work and career related value shift downwards in this activity, there is no right or wrong and every person will be different.
Consider what your table tells you. Is the emphasis in your life consistent with your values?
If they are out of line, have a think about how you might bring your lifestyle closer to where you want it to be. Consider in particular what would you be doing differently. Brainstorm and map out different possibilities.
Step 4 – Now choose some of these things to start doing now – these things need not be big or life-changing in themselves. For example, if you want to have more affectionate relationships you might aim to give your loved ones or friends more physical displays of affection. You can make powerful, meaningful changes in your life by making a series of incremental changes.
Values can Change
There are many different ways to help people explore their values, and to reflect on how well their lifestyle is working for them — this is just one. Your values are likely to change over time and a process such as this can provide a useful starting point for generating ideas for the direction in which you would like to head. Repeat it as you see fit.
If mismatches between your lifestyle and values are impacting on your health and wellbeing and rectifying this is important to you, consider coming to see me at M1 Psychology and ask for values-based work to be integrated into your treatment.
Author: Kelly Gall, BSc (Hons), M Psych (Health), MAPS, MCHP.
Kelly Gall is a Loganholme Psychologist who is passionate about helping clients to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing and overall functioning. Kelly develops tailored, holistic and evidence-based treatment plans that incorporate psychological, physical and social strategies aimed at empowering her clients to achieve relief from psychological symptoms and improve their health and effectiveness.
To make an appointment with Loganholme Psychologist Kelly Gall, please call (07) 3067 9129 or you can book online today.