By Dr Melané Van Zyl
We all have a set of preferred values, whether we are conscious of it. These values act as guides to help us lead meaningful lives.
Our values determine how we want to behave in this moment and on an ongoing basis. Values reflect how we want to behave – how we treat ourselves, others, and the world around us (ACT made simple, Russ Harris).
I want to argue that we have to be clear on why we chose a specific value to choose our values. What is the deeper meaning of your choice?
Let’s take an example. You love playing golf and believe playing golf aligns with your values. Although all golf players love the game of golf, there will be more profound reasons why each player chooses golf above other sports. These reasons may include:
• Spending time in nature
• Being part of a team
• Refining a skill
• Being active
• A break from work
• Competing and striving to be the best
• Earning money
(I have never played golf, so there might be other reasons as well)
So, why do we need to be clear about our values?
1. Values are more important than goals. Values are essential in the here and now and in the future. Regardless of whether you will achieve your goals, your values will determine how you will behave every step of the way. Even if you “fail” or things do not go according to plan, you can still act per your values, bringing a different perspective to the situation.
2. Understanding values is helpful to those who are suffering. For example, your troubled relationship with your teenager brings you suffering because you have the value that loving family relationships are essential. We suffer because of our values.
Have a look at the below list of possible values, and choose your top values to prioritize (not too many, the best is to choose 3-5 values).
Forty Common Values: A Checklist
Values are your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave as a human being. They describe how you
want to treat yourself, others, and the world around you.