Values is a fancy word for the things we find meaningful and important in life. It is common that we think of our values in the crossroads of life, like when starting a new job or new relationship or even more likely when something unpleasant is happening, like losing someone you love or being seriously ill. These situations push you to think about your priorities and can even push you to make some changes in your life, because you start seeing things in a new light. These situations can be called the life changing moments. But what if I tell you that you already have the keys to find out what is important for you in life? All you need is a paper and pen and 5-10 minutes of your time for this exercise.
Imagine being alone on vacation somewhere far away. You’ve gone hiking and you jump to the canoe and paddle to the sea. The weather is calm. A storm starts a little later and you get in trouble at sea. Eventually you end up on a small deserted island with no one else. The island has an abundance of food and fresh water. You think somebody will be looking for you soon and you will get back to the mainland. But no one is coming. Your canoe was found and people thought that you had drowned …
A year goes by and you’ve spent it on the island like Robinson Crusoe. You miss home and often wonder how your loved ones are or how things are at work. One day a sailor finds you, and you return with him to the mainland. You are travelling home, but you are not telling anyone that you are coming home.
At the same time there is a memorial service for you at home. There are all of your loved ones, your partner, your friends, your co-workers, your boss, your parents, your children, and all the people that matter to you. You arrive and hide in a place where you can hear all the memorial speeches given about you. You hear everything.
If you hear those memoirs that are based on your life so far, what would you hear? What would your spouse remember about you? If you have children, what kind of life would they remember? How about your friends? What would they say about you? What kind of imprint have you left in the work community, what would your colleague remember about you?
If you could live your life the way you wanted, live a life where your values come true, then what would you like to hear about yourself? What would make you feel good? What would you like for your partner to remember? What about your children?
What do you notice? Are these two versions very different? Any difference between these versions will give you tips on your values. All the things that felt heart-warming in your speeches are worth remembering. They tell you something about your values.
Now write down the things you find important in life. Try to also think of some concrete actions that bring you closer to your values. What hinders you from carrying out these actions?
The research presents that when living by our values, we are happier and healthier. You can do this exercise every now and then to check if you are aware of your values and actually putting them into practise. Living by your values is not always easy but it really is rewarding.
Vilhelmiina Välimäki is a Finnish psychologist, who moved to Malta 2018 and has been slowly but surely adjusting to the Maltese environment and culture. She works at Willingness as a Clinical Psychologist and she is specialised in offering support to individuals from different age groups, couples and families. You can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org or 9944 9910.