Live with Happiness by Identifying Your Values

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Sometimes in life, we feel lost and confused, unsure of which direction to go in our lives. Should we go to this school or that school? Should we stay with this person or leave? Well-meaning friends and family may give us advice and feedback, but we end up feeling even more lost among all their opinions and perspectives. Many people also find it difficult to make their own decisions, as they want so much for others to be happy, that they’ve learned to set aside their own desires for that of others.

Complicating things are feelings of anxiety or stress. For instance, your anxiety may make it difficult to go out with friends or to do the things you would like to do in your life such as travel or meet new people, out of fear and avoidance.

What Are Values?

According to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an evidence-based treatment for anxiety and depression, one of the keys to a meaningful and fulfilling life is to examine your personal values. Values are attitudes that guide your emotions and behavior. They represent what is important to you. By clarifying them, you identify what is important to you. This can help guide your life decisions and actions so that they are consistent with what you truly find important in life, even when stress and anxiety get in the way.

How to Clarify and Claim Your Values

Being aware of your values and setting specific intentions related to them can help you build a rich and meaningful life. Start with a list of common values, such as love, friendship, meaning, loyalty, wealth, acceptance, adventure, adversity. Then give yourself 5-10 minutes to read through the list and select your top values. It can be helpful to select the values that resonate with you immediately and to not overthink it. It is also important to know that you can have values in different areas of your life — including friendship, family, romantic relationships, work, education, spirituality, and personal development. Therefore, you can clarify different sets of values in each of these domains. When selecting your values, ask yourself questions such as what type of friend or family member you would like to be. What is important to you in a romantic relationship and what type of values would you like to live out?

Why Clarifying Values is Important

Values can provide a north star for you as you go about your daily life and make decisions. By clarifying and being intentional about making decisions and acting in ways consistent with your values, you are creating a meaningful and fulfilling life. When things are in alignment, you are content and feel peace with your decisions even in the face of stress or other people’s opinions. You also feel fulfilled even when experiencing anxiety, because you know that an action such as attending a party and meeting new people is something important to you even if it may provoke anxiety.

Life is Short

When it comes down to it, life is short. We each have a limited time here on this earth. It’s important to have an awareness of what you want out of life and to live intentionally with meaning, purpose, and clarity each day. Values help illuminate a path forward for you toward achieving your best life.


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Victoria Chialy Smith, PhD is a licensed therapist serving the Falls Church, McLean, Great Falls, Vienna, Arlington, Alexandria, and the greater Washington DC region. She provides individual therapy to children, teens, and adults with stress, anxiety, and depression. Our practice provides Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness and acceptance based therapies, and other top, premier evidence-based treatments. Call, email, or schedule an appointment with us online today. We’re happy to help!