Values: What Matters Most

Values: What Matters Most

by Dr. Katie daCruz, PhD

Values are the ideas or principles which you want to stand for. They are about how you want to behave or act on an ongoing basis but they are different from our concrete goals we set or our specific actions. Values are how you desire to treat yourself, others, and the world around you.

Values can be seen in what you chose to do, the attitude you do things with, and why you chose to do those things. For example, if you value fun/adventure you may set goals around traveling to new places or trying new experiences and your day-to-day actions might look like trying out a new hobby or saving to travel instead of spending money to decorate your home. If you value independence, you may set a goal related to financial independence and day-to-day behaviors might look like learning more about investing and tracking your budgets and savings. 

For more information on the difference between goals and values watch this video by Dr. Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap and other books.

It’s common not to have a clear idea of our main values. We may drift away from living in line with our values as we get pulled in a different direction by the expectations of other people. Values can also change with different experiences in life. However, without clarity about personal values it can be difficult to:

  • Set goals that we will have motivation to achieve

  • Set goals that will bring us meaning and purpose

  • Find things in our life to bring more happiness

  • Help us to make decisions or choices that we will be comfortable with

  • Know if we are on the right path even when things are hard or painful

  • Know how well our values align with those of a potential partner

To starting thinking about your values, consider the different areas of your life (e.g. relationship, health, work/education, personal development, spiritually/faith, play/leisure) and ask yourself the following questions 

  • What kind of person would you most like to be in this area of your life?

  • What do you want to stand for in this area?

  • What contribution do you want to make?

You may also find this list of values by Dr. Russ Harris to be helpful.

If you are interested in learning more about living a values-driven life, consider getting in touch  at (734) 323-4897 or and ask to work with a therapist with training in a values-based approach. 

Katie is a G3 Limited License Psychologist & Contributing Writer.