Living a Value-Driven Life

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a relatively new therapy  (about 30 years old) as compared to psychoanalysis. It has more of a wellness approach than many other therapies. A primary focus of ACT is identification of personal values and making efforts to live one’s life in service of those values. ACT recognizes that when we live in accordance with our values, we are happier and feel more fulfilled.

How do we know what we value? Start by identifying the things you’d like others to remember about you. Are you a good mother? Do you have strong spiritual beliefs? Are you passionate about the environment? These translate to values: parenting, spirituality, and environmentalism.

Values differ from goals in that goals can be achieved. Goals are often in line with our values; but completing a goal does not equate to achieving a value. We can live an entire life working in line with our values and never achieve completion. And, values can change.

As a child, we learn values from our parents and family. We may learn to be polite and respectful to others. Some learn to value religion or spirituality. Education may also be valued. A child growing up in a vegan home may value life in a way that others may not. As we mature, we develop a more individualized sense of what is important.

I grew up in a family that values religion/spirituality, education, intelligence, equality, fair labor practices, and family (to name a few).  My values have not strayed too far from these; though I have added a few additional and have re-prioritized many times. The new ones include integrity, service, deliberately seeking to not do harm to others, and a love of nature and animals.

If you have been following my blog, you know that I am facing some new challenges in my life and this has led to a new evaluation of my values. Some things have become less important, others have increased in importance. This past week, I was faced with an opportunity to spend even more time examining the direction I want my life to take.

I found myself in a situation in which others’ behavior felt so toxic and hurtful to each other and to me that I was forced to take a look at my priorities. Is this an environment in which I can best seek a valued direction? What is best for my health, my sense of well-being, and even for those in my life (since they must deal with my moods when I am not living in a way that is in line with my values)?

This takes me to my top seven values – spirituality, family, health, integrity, leaving my environment better than I found it, having fun, and loving the important people and animals in my life. None of these are at all related to the aforementioned toxic situation. Now I must decide whether I make a very big change…or continue to live in imbalance.

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