Knowing your values can help you adapt in tough times

Why are values important? 

Let’s face it, 2020 has been an interesting year. During these troublesome times, you might be experiencing a sense of loss and a lack of meaning and purpose. Leaving you feeling disengaged, moreover stuck. If you feel stuck or pushed into a corner there is hope. Knowing your values can assist you in getting some momentum. Over the course of the next few weeks, AdaptNow will elaborate on values and provide you with some practical strategies to create more meaning and purpose in your life. Helping you to adapt to the circumstances you might be facing.

What are values?

Values are your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave. Values can be considered words or verbs that express how you want to act in the present moment and on a continuous basis.  By being guided by your values you open yourself up for a life that is full, purposeful, and engaged. 

Here are three reasons why knowing your own personal values can help. 

Values provide you with guidance, moment by moment

Think of your values as the direction that you are travelling. For instance, at any time I can ask an aeroplane pilot, are you busy travelling North? The pilot can immediately double-check if he/she is travelling North and course-correct if necessary. Your goals, on the other hand, are the destinations you want to reach. A goal is a binary answer. Meaning that you either reach it or not. Goals can’t be lived out in the present moment. 

The power of our values, therefore, can be seen as a guiding light that channels our actions and how we deal with our emotions in the direction of your goals. Therefore, knowing your values helps cultivate resilience and flexibility into your daily life. It helps you course-correct your habits and mindsets into a direction that provides you with meaning and purpose. 

Values align our actions and habits

Our values are rewards that we carry around with us wherever we go. What I mean by this is that often we need to engage in tasks that are important but not the most immediately rewarding experiences. For example, having a difficult conversation or standing up for what you believe in. 

Often the immediate feedback that you receive from your environment is not the most rewarding. For instance, the task can be very boring, or just emotionally draining. 

Let me elaborate:

Imagine that you are on a journey to a place that is very dear to you, however, in order to reach this place you have to travel through a scary forest. You don’t know exactly what awaits you in the forest but you know that as long as you travel North you will eventually be closer to your desired destination. As you are walking through the forest, checking in with your compass helps you stay on course and provides you with the feedback that you are on the right path. This feedback is vital for cultivating more meaning and purpose in your life. This might even allow you to enjoy and open up more to what is in the forest. 

Connecting with what brings you meaning and purpose becomes the reward, which helps you consistently move in the direction you wish. 

Values provide you with a choice

Values provide the roadmap for the changes you want to see. Think of values as a verb (a doing word)… ‘valuing’.  What this implies is that we always have the choice to do value. Moment by moment you have the freedom to choose and act in line with our values. Luoma and colleagues describe valuing eloquently: “We engage in an act of valuing each time we do something that is purposive or instrumental. We value various qualities of outcomes; we value ways of living; we value ideals; we value what kind of friend, lover, partner, parent, child, or worker we are”. 

Action Steps

Here are some questions that will help you clarify some of your values:

  1. What are your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave? 
  2. What personal qualities and strengths do you want to act on or live by every day?
  3. What actions will you still do if no one knew you were doing this?
  4. In what way do you want to show up in the good and bad moments that you will be proud of in ten years from now. 


Harris, Russ. ACT Made Simple (The New Harbinger Made Simple Series) (p. 218). New Harbinger Publications. Kindle Edition. 

Stoddard, Jill A.. The Big Book of ACT Metaphors: A Practitioner’s Guide to Experiential Exercises and Metaphors in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy . New Harbinger Publications. Kindle Edition. 

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