Values Clarification and Positive Change

In my work as a mental health therapist I consistently hear people discussing their goals for making some type of positive change in their lives. Given that, at one point or another, I encourage them to focus on values clarification. Initially they are sometimes confused by why I’d suggest this and just what it has to do with their goals for therapy. 

Clarifying our values is an important part of making intentional change. It helps with making positive decisions, improving our sense of self-worth, and assisting with setting and meeting many of the goals in our daily living. For example, your decision of the way you’ll spend an hour of your free-time can vary greatly given a focus on your values. Will you spend it in front of a television set; on the phone catching up with a family member or friend; or maybe taking a walk? Whether we’re aware of it or not, we make decisions such as this on a daily basis. Imagine the changes we can create in our lives by intentionally allowing our values to guide those everyday decisions. Being aware of our personal values is a first step which will assist us in living our lives in a way that is meaningful and helps us to feel good about ourselves.

What are Values?

What do you think of when you hear the word “values”? Some people think of morals, principals, ethics, or priorities. All of these relate to values. Values are personal beliefs or ideals of what’s right and wrong, as well as what is important to us.  It’s what we stand for, so to speak. Values affect how we think and behave, which is one reason why it is important to become clear about what values we have, which values we may want to adopt, or even some we no longer subscribe to.  

By mindfully identifying your values, you can decide on where best to put your energy.  Do you want to spend your free time reading about something that interests you, playing basketball with a friend, or creating a work of art?  Your values can give you direction, so that your time is spent in a way that is meaningful to you.  Sadly, some people end up living their life in a way that does not coincide with their personal values.  For example, they might be very successful at their job or career, but make little time to spend with their family, in spite of the fact that they value their family more highly than their career.  Being aware of and acting upon your values will help you to avoid looking back at your life and viewing it as “wasted”. It can also help you to become more consistent, reliable, and gratified.

A question for thought: How well do my choices of how to spend my time coincide with my personal values?

Author: Ronda White