By choosing to embrace and practice good values every day, you may not always get what you desire, but you will always be the person you desire to be.
Values Define Us
One of the many things we do in the office is help our clients reflect on who they are and who they want to be. In doing so, we help our clients determine what they value.
Why is this important? Our values are a significant part of what defines us. They are the things that give our life meaning. Do I want to be known as a person of integrity? A loyal friend? A good parent? A competent professional?
What kind of spouse do I want to be? What kind of relationship do I want with God? What matters to me?
Values Give Direction
Values also give us direction. They determine the choices we will make.
When I was in nursing school I had to take many science classes. I don’t love science or math, and I really disliked chemistry. What kept me slogging through those tough courses? My desire to be in a profession where I could help people in a direct way. It would have been very easy to blow off my studies to have fun with my friends. And sometimes I did, but I knew too much living-in-the-moment would make getting my degree impossible. I was very clear on my value of having work that was meaningful and directly helped people. My values provided motivation to persevere.
Now not everyone is such an idealist. That’s fine. Many of my career clients have very different values. Some want intellectual status, others want financial security, others are seeking influence and authority. Others crave variety, adventure, independence or a challenge. Knowing what you value and what you want is part of knowing your destination. Values help you map your route!
Values Empower Us to Try New Things
Becoming clear on our values can offer powerful incentive to break out of unhealthy patterns and risk trying something healthy and new. Values are the motivation to press through painful emotions and impulsive urges. I see this all the time in my practice.
Change is hard, as we all know, but every day I watch people press through the challenge of changing old habits because they have set their priorities and know what they value. As my clients become clearer on who they want to be, they can also begin to identify the patterns in their lives that are not serving them well. With a clear view of their values, they have the incentive to tolerate painful emotions and ignore impulsive urges to give up. Their values are a powerful motivation to resist anything that moves them further from who they want to be. What do I value so much that I am willing to press through any obstacles in my path?
Values Empower Us to Endure
Sometimes people come to therapy because they need to face something painful in themselves or their past. It isn’t easy, but their value of being healthy, whole people living and relating to others in a healthy way is a powerful incentive to face the truth and persevere in pursuing healing and growth. How would you like to grow and change?
One example of using values to face the truth and tolerate being uncomfortable would be parents seeking help and advice. It takes humility to admit that what you are doing isn’t working and to ask for help. Many parents I see really want to be good parents. Because they value their children, they are willing to re-consider some of their approaches to parenting. They are willing to try new things because they value family and a healthy relationship with their children. What kind of parent do you want to be? What do you want your children to see in you?
Values Empower Us to Take a Stand
Values also empower us to take a stand. Sometimes people come to counseling because they are caught in destructive and abusive relationships. Maybe they are people-pleasing, conflict avoidant types who tolerate too much from those around them. When these folks become clear on what they value in terms of their well-being, they find the courage to set limits and take a stand for themselves. This might include putting limits on people who take advantage, or out-of-control teenagers, or abusive partners or co-workers. Who do you want to be? How do you want to be treated?
Values Through the Seasons of Life
Some values will change over the course of our lives. What seemed like a good idea when I was young may not be so important to me now. My priorities might change with the changing seasons of life. A big concern for many in mid-life might be: what should I do with the rest of my life?
Aligning your life with your values is a powerful way to make decisions that give you direction, motivate yourself to tolerate occasional discomfort, and focus on the future you hope to have. Values help to define you and they give you courage to take a stand.
What kind of person do you want to be?
Suzanne Jones, BSN, MA, LPC, NCC
You may contact me at: email@example.com (225) 278-3541
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