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Seeking Purpose Through the Values Work

I’ve got to say, peace month with you all was a blast. I followed along as I posted and really spent the month thinking about and incorporating intentional efforts to cultivate more peace in my life. I’m especially loving mindfulness and yoga and have made special efforts to get outside more often.

The first week of purpose month has us exploring one of my favorite therapeutic concepts (I know I say that a lot, but it’s actually TRUE). This week we will spend some time clarifying values.

Values work is a part of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy modality, which teaches us to practice acceptance towards our present circumstances and to make mindful decisions in light of our chosen values. This work is the reminder that while we often have little control over our present reality, we have choices in how we respond to it. How we make those choices comes down to our values.

Values are similar to the idea of legacy. Our chosen values answer the question of what we want our life to be about.

And while it is important to set goals and make plans related to what we value, values are not goals. We don’t check them off. As we make decisions, as we consider how we want to spend our time and money and energy, as we ponder whether what we are doing in life is work or not working for us – we do all of this through the filter of our chosen values. They act as a compass, guiding toward purposeful and worthwhile living.

My favorite way to help people clarify their values is through the “values game,” using these values cards:

Print them and cut out the individual cards. Then lay them all out (as if you were playing the card game memory, but all cards facing upwards) in front of you or in front of a loved one who is wanting to clarify their values. Set a timer on your phone – give yourself 3 minutes to narrow the cards down to your top 20 life values, 2 minutes to narrow them down to your top 10 life values, and 1 minute to narrow them down to your top 5 life values. Use the timer to help you tap into your instinctual choices, rather than overthinking the values through what you think you are supposed to choose.

It’s important to be mindful of any internal obstacles that come up as you play the values cards. This game is rich with insight into life. For instance, most decisions in our life are between different “good things.” We are rarely making “black and white”-type decisions. In life it is more common that we are choosing how to spend our limited resources between good decision - but deciding what is BEST for leaving the legacy we most want to be associated with our one precious life.

For example, here are my top 5 life values: Connection, Hope, Peace, Contribution, and Wisdom. Once you have clarified your values, they are a wonderful tool for making all kinds of decisions. Even recently, Chris and I were talking about a decision I was having difficulty making, and my husband Chris asked me: “Which option is more in line with your top life values?” I was so grateful for the reminder and, in light of my values, the choice felt much more clear.

Our values answer the questions: What is the next right action? What do I want to be remembered for? What am I looking for in relationships? What am I looking for in my work? These chosen values guide us through so much. If the values work is new to you – welcome! – I love it.

I would love to hear from you as you clarify your own life values. What are your top 5? How do you use your values? What questions are you using the values to answer? How has clarifying your top 5 changed things for you?

Grateful for you all in this little corner of the internet! May we continue to pursue more peaceful and purposeful living.

See you next week for week 2 of Purpose Month!

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