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Living Your Values

The idea of “living your values” is one that I often talk about with clients and can be helpful in building self-esteem, improving well-being, working through tough situations in life, and gaining understanding in relationship problems.

What are your most important values? Do you use these to improve well-being?

Here are a few thoughts on “living your values.” Take what you like to improve your life in some way.

To start with, what do I mean by ‘values?’ These are personality traits, or the ways of being that are most important to you. They may be honesty, responsibility, creativity, or giving a certain amount to charity, or the things that are most important to you in life, such as your family or the work you do.

If you want to, you might explore Dr. Martin Seligman’s list of common values and find those that are most important to you by going to the Authentic Happiness website and find their 240-question VIA (Values in Action) Survey of Character Strengths. It doesn’t take long and after you finish you get a list of the 24 character strengths (values) in the order of importance to you.

Then, what do I mean by “living your values?” Is it:

LIVE your values? …or…

Live YOUR values? …or…

Live your VALUES?

It is all three?

When you LIVE your values, you make them extremely important in your day-to-day life. You demonstrate them, you act on them. If your family is important to you, then you do the things that demonstrate that to yourself and to them. If the work you do is important to you then you strive to do your best at it. If optimism is important to you, you show it in the way you look at life and the things you say.

When you live YOUR values, you don’t let others decide what your values are. YOU decide for yourself.

And when you live your VALUES you know them well and you let them strengthen your sense of self-worth. These characteristics are part of what makes you the unique person that you are and you honor that.

How does this translate to improving your life? Here are a few ways:

If your self-esteem is low or you want to strengthen your sense of well-being, make a list of what your values are. Why are these important to you? Consider how act on these values, and how you may not be acting on them. If there are areas you are not acting on them in a way that feels right for you, change that. Taking action in this way strengthens both self-esteem and well-being.

Is there a problem in an important relationship you have? If you can identify a difference in values between you and the other person, does this change how you see it? Sometimes when you can see it this way, it makes it easier to understand each other’s viewpoint. Does it present a possible solution or at least a compromise?

Are you having trouble making a tough decision in life right now? Perhaps it is a conflict between different values you hold. For instance, if a woman in an abusive relationship is faced with the decision to leave or stay, she might have multiple values in conflict. Personal safety and well-being may be values on one side of the equation, while honoring her commitment to the relationship (marriage vows) may be on the other. This creates a conflict, and makes it hard to decide what she must do.

How can you improve your sense of well-being by living your values?

by Catherine Wilson, LPC

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net