Get In Touch With Your Values

Lindsay Shortliffe - Palo Alto Psychologist

Every person has values that affect the way in which they interact with the world.  These are qualities, goals, life domains, etc.  that a person prizes or prioritizes as important to them.  Values can be influenced by culture, family beliefs, religion, education, and a variety of other experiences.  Often values inform the way you act or decisions you make without you even thinking about it.  Unfortunately, people sometimes get off track and start living in ways that are not consistent with their values.  They might be making decisions based upon what feels good in the moment or avoidance of something that is uncomfortable.  While we all do this from time to time, if you regularly are living in ways that are inconsistent with your values, you may find that you do not feel very good about yourself, that you are feeling stressed, or that you are generally feeling down.  It is hard to feel positively about yourself and your life if ultimately you are not living in ways that you believe are right for you.

The following exercise can be useful in thinking about what your values are and whether you are living them as fully as you would like to be.  It can also be helpful when you are trying to make decisions in your life, as this prioritizing of values can remind you of what is most important to you.  Remember, values can change over the course of your life, as experiences influence you, so something could be important to you now that was not important to you before or vice-verse.


  1. Look at the following list of values.  On a piece of paper, make 3 columns: “Very Important To Me”, “Important To Me”, and “Not Important To Me”.  Write down the values in the columns according to how important you feel they are to you.  You do not have to be currently living the value as though it is very important to you for you to put it in the “Very Important” column.  For instance, you may really value physical health, but you find it difficult to get yourself to exercise regularly and eat balanced meals.  Still, physical health can be in your “Very Important” column if you really value it.  Feel free to add values of your own that are not on the list below.
  2. What do you notice about this process?  Is it easy to determine how important to you these values are or did you have difficulty deciding which column they should go into?  Were there surprises?
  3. Now look at your “Very Important to Me” column.  Circle your top 5 values.
  4. Think about times you have really lived these values fully, how it felt, and how you felt about yourself.  Ask yourself am I living this value as fully as I wish to?
  5. Each week pick one of your top 5 values to dedicate more energy towards.  Think of new ways to live this value more fully and commit to taking action.  For instance, if you rank family as a top value, think of new ways to reach out and show family you care about them or consider what it means to you to be a good family member and try to live this more fully.


Achievement                  Adventure                  Attractiveness

Beauty                            Being Genuine           Being Liked

Challenge                      Comfort                       Compassion

Contributing to the World                              Cooperation

Creativity                     Dependability             Ecology

Faithfulness                Fame                            Family

Fitness                         Forgiveness                Friendship

Fun                              Generosity                   Genuineness

Growth                        Health                          Happiness

Honesty                      Humility                      Humor

Independence           Inner Peace                 Intelligence

Intimacy                    Job Success                 Justice

Knowledge                Leisure                  Love (giving and receiving)

Mastery                     Mindfulness                Moderation

Monogamy               Non-Conformity         Nurturing

Openness                 Optimism                      Passion

Perseverance          Pleasure                          Power

Purpose                    Rationality                    Responsibility

Romantic Relationship                                 Safety

Self-acceptance      Self-discipline              Self-confidence

Self-knowledge       Sexuality                       Spirituality

Stability                    Tolerance                      Tradition

Virtue                        Wealth


2 Responses to Get In Touch With Your Values

  1. Barbara Holcomb says:

    This is a great article. Enjoyed thinking on these things. : )

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