Values…What Rules You? 

Lately for my blog writing, I have been inspired by a stream of consciousness style as opposed to a more researched approach. Last week I wrote about grieving and what that has been like for me. Today I am going to roll with values as the topic for the blog because that is where my heart and mind are. 

I have been thinking a lot about my values recently. When I first started grad school I remember I was assigned a paper in my Intro to Counseling Theories class and the task was to write about my values. Aside from doing a values card sort with my therapist, this was the first time in my life that I had taken the time to think through my values. I recently reread the paper that I wrote about four years ago, and was surprised to see that my values have not really changed all that much, even though I feel I have grown as a person a lot over these last four years. 

What comes to mind for you when you think about your values? I often ask clients this question and I am most typically met with a curious gaze and thought provoked replies such as “hmm I’ve never actually put my values into words before” or “I don’t really know what my values are.” 

I think values can be a helpful thing to think about when traversing difficult affairs in life whether it is recovery from disordered eating, or navigating a relationship change, or making a decision to move for a job. Values can help guide your thought process and choices, they can bring you more clarity in times of challenge, and they can help you to understand yourself better. 

I shared a little about this last week, but since losing my brother about six months ago I have been having a bit of an identity/existential crisis. My emotions have been all over the place and I have found myself questioning all sorts of things that seemed to be ultimate truths for me before. This is where my values have come in. That’s not to say that I have all the answers or that my values have given me all the peace I need. However, they have given me a sense of grounding even though this season of life feels a little chaotic and out of control. 

As you read this you may be wondering, what is a value? How do I know what mine are? According to Google, values are a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life. There are lots of fun ways you can figure out what your values are, but a good place to start is to reflect on what you cannot live without. Basic needs aside, what gives your life meaning and fulfillment? 

Let’s say a top value for you is connection. When you are trying to think through the best course of action for yourself when making a tough decision, you can reflect on this value and ask yourself, “Which choice or outcome will move me towards my value of connection?” This reflection can help you to make the tough decision with your value as your guide. 

Reflecting on your values can also help you to understand yourself better. Knowing that you value kindness may help you make sense of why it is important to you to have a conversation with each person you come across in your day to day life. Or your value of equity may explain your willingness to work at a lower paying job while working towards a more just society. 

It can also help to know the top values for people who are important in your life because it can give a better sense of understanding of where they are coming from and what drives their decision making process. Knowing that your partner values autonomy may allow you to have peace when they tell you they need some alone time. Or understanding that your coworker values timeliness may help you to see why they get upset when you are consistently late to work. 

Even if you do not know what your values are, they continue to have an influence on your life decisions and direction. Getting to know your values better can be a great way to understand yourself further and also the people around you. Can you share with us your top five values in the comments? We cannot wait to hear what guides your life and feels most important to you!