Values the superpower during tough times

During times of uncertainty, we all want clarity and a sense of direction. The difficulty in making these decisions when the road ahead is not very clear. 

With the unemployment rate of 30,1% and with rumours that might increase drastically over then next year. Many people feel very overwhelmed, feel stuck and don’t know what to do. 

Knowing your values can help you have more clarity and a sense of direction and adapt during these times.

Your values provide you with the roadmap of the actions you need to take. Therefore, even though the future seems unclear, knowing your values can help you have more clarity, determine the next step and how you want to face these challenges. 

This article will help you understand what values are so you can ‘adaptNow’. 

What are values?

Imagine you are driving in the countryside at night. You know you have to follow the road, but you can’t exactly see where you are going. Values are the guiding headlights that keep you on the road even if you are uncertain and can’t see too far ahead. Your values are the ‘spice’ you want to add to your trip and how you want to define the trip. 

Other ways we can use to describe values are a chosen life direction, desired personal qualities or passions.

See a value rather as something dynamic than something static. A value is like a flavour you want to add to something. You can, for instance, add a flavour of adventure and persistence whilst updating your CV or doing your budget. 

How does this help?

There is a lot of evidence in psychological research that highlights the benefits of cultivating qualities of being (values) like persistence, optimism, gratitude. Research by Fredrickson noted that our ability to adapt can broadened by experiencing positive affect, like optimism. 

I am not saying that you should only focus on the positive, but suggesting that during times of immense stress, overwhelm and uncertainty using your values can help you cultivate these desired qualities and increase your chances to adapt and access your surrounding resources. 

Stated differently, if you think about the driving metaphor we used earlier. Switching on the lights, even if you can’t see far and driving is better than remaining stuck. By accessing and choosing your values in the present moment, helps you move forward. 

Moving forward increases your chances of getting where you want. Because you are driving you don’t have to worry about the battery going flat, and therefore, you can even put on some delightful music in the car to sing along with during this stressful drive.

To discover and use your values, it is important to know what the defining characteristics are. Here are three characteristics that help explain this. 

Characteristics of a value:

Inherently there are certain characteristics that your values will always have. Values are always practised in the present moment, it describes the manner in which you want to act, and are always freely chosen. 

Values can always be practised in the present moment

Values are always accessible in the present moment. You always of the freedom to choose the flavour you want to add to an activity. This can’t be done in the past or the future. It is always practised in the present moment. 

Saying this, values should not be confused with goals. Goals are binary outcomes, a yes or no result. You have either achieved your goals or not. Values are quality of actions that you can always access in the present moment. 

For instance, getting a new job is a goal, you either get one or not.  But practising, persistence and courage whilst job searching are accessible in every moment. By aligning your actions with your values provides you with more mental space to see opportunities. 


Values describe the manner in which you want to act. 

We can’t always choose our circumstances or our situations but we can choose how we want to act. During any situation, we have a choice to act in a way that our future self will be grateful for. This is what Russ Harris describes as The Choice Point 

Although our current outcomes are not ideal, we can cultivate a certain way of being during this time. We can choose the flavour we want to add to our current situation. This metaphorical aroma then allows us more space to see opportunities and connect with what is important to us. 

Values are freely chosen

Values are not something that is opposed upon you through your religion, parents, culture or society. It is a chosen quality of being with which you want to act during situations. At any given moment you have the opportunity to act in a way that aligns you with who and what you want to be. 

Even if the road is unclear, you can still select the way in which you want to take on the road ahead. 


1.Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Positive Emotions Broaden and Build. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 1–53.

2.Harris, Russ. ACT Made Simple (The New Harbinger Made Simple Series) Ch19. New Harbinger Publications. Kindle Edition. 


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