The Best Ways to Know What Matters
How to find your values
What are Values:
Values are the things that truly matter to us. They are the directions we want to go towards in life and the type of qualities we want to have.
Often, when I ask people what is most important to them they will answer, "family" or "friends". These are fine answers but it is even more helpful to know why these things are important. For example, maybe family is important because it offers connection to and support from others.
Why are values important?
It can be incredibly powerful to know how you want your life to be. To be able to recognize the things that are truly important to you versus those things that you may desire but that are not actually that meaningful to you.
When we clarify what is most meaningful to us, it makes it easier to move towards what matters and to prioritize that over other things that may take our time but that do not truly carry much meaning or importance for us.
Exploring your values
There are many ways to examine your values.
You can complete a values questionnaire.
I find these questionnaires are a great jumping-off point but to get the most out of values work combine it with some of these other tools.
You can reflect on an image or metaphor:
For example, imagine what you would want people to say about you at your own funeral or memorial service. How you would like to be remembered. What qualities would you want people to notice about you?
You can write it out:
I recently discovered this great Values Writing Exercise by Steven Hayes (
Here is a summary of the technique:
On a piece of paper write for ten minutes about a value you care deeply about.
Make sure you do this for 10 minutes (no cheating!).
Reflect on the following questions:
What do I care about in this area?
What do I want to do in this area that reflects that caring?
When in my life has this value been important?
What have I seen in my life when others pursue this value, or not?
What might I do to manifest this value more in my life?
When have I violated this value and has that been costly?
Think about the qualities you find intrinsically important in yourself and others. Check out the image exercise above for inspiration!
Now read back over what you wrote:
Examine if you are acting in accordance with this value.
Look for the actual behaviours related to this value. What does it take to make it happen?
What qualities do you or do you want to manifest in your actions (e.g., carefully, creatively, curiously, compassionately). There are many qualities, I just gave the ones that start with C!
This exercise goes well with the Bull's Eye Exercise (see below).
You can draw it out:
I often use the Bull's Eye Exercise with my clients.
It is a tool that allows you to visually represent how much your actions are in-line with your values. To find out more check out the article here: https://www.moirestevenson.com/post/are-you-living-a-valued-life-the-bull-s-eye
Bringing it Outdoors
I find walks outside anywhere, in the city or in nature, offer a great opportunity to reflect on values and the directions I chose to take in my life. Being away from the distractions of day-to-day life, be it by taking a walk in a park, or a different route in my neighbourhood allows me access to big picture thinking, a chance to zoom out and look at things from a different perspective.
When you go for a walk outside, you are headed in a direction, you are going towards something. How can you get the same sense of moving towards what truly matters to you?
Just the walk itself may be an action towards what matters for many people, I know it is for me!
To continue on this path of exploring your values and the actions needed to move towards those values, check out:
A Liberated Mind, by Steven Hayes
The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Depression, Second Edition, by Strosahl and Robinson