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Knowing My Values Has Filled up the Long-Existed Missing Gap in My Life

Knowing My Values Has Filled up the Long-Existed Missing Gap in My Life

Your values make you who you are, yet many people don’t fully know how to even define or explain their values. Your values dictate how you act, respond to situations, and where you place your time and energy in life.

For example, someone who places high value on career success will be driven to work more hours, spend greater time toward making advances at work, perhaps at the sacrifice of time with family and friends. A person who places a high value on family may chose to forgo a better job placement or position because it will impede on evenings and weekend time with their family. What you value dictates the course of your day to day life, but also your future.

Do you know what you truly value in your life and the world around you? If you don’t, you may be a person who is unhappy in life or feeling dissatisfied with your current life status, yet you can’t put your finger on why you are feeling this way.

Everyone should know their values, because research shows that there are specific values that can make you happier and satisfied with life in the long term. Conversely there are values, that although they may seem good, will ultimately lead to life dissatisfaction.

Below I will explain how to identify which of these values are beneficial for long term life satisfaction and which are not.

What You Value Determines Your Life

In my 20’s, I was very driven to get my education completed and also attain wealth/a comfortable lifestyle. I had once been a person of devout faith and thus it was formerly a core value in my life. Life circumstances and a series of unfortunate events changed my values and I instead focused my time, energy, and life purposes on getting my doctorate and attaining wealth. I ended up marrying into the wealth and did complete my doctorate. I lived a life of comfort, that I thought I wanted. I also experienced great successes in my educational pursuits including post doctorate studies at Harvard; yet I was still feeling unsatisfied. I knew that there was something missing in my life. My value in my faith had been put to the wayside.

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After a divorce at age 30, I reassessed my values. I decided wealth was no longer high on the list of my personal values. I also determined that faith/religion and family were going to be my top priorities. My life changed for the positive and I have experienced life satisfaction beyond measure. I no longer live in a 10,000 square foot home on the beach, but it doesn’t matter to me because I have faith and family.

My life satisfaction is now much higher than those years in my 20’s. In my 20’s, it appeared outwardly to the world that I had it all, yet I was feeling a gaping hole of something missing in my life. What I didn’t realize when I made that personal decision to make such dramatic life changes at the age of 30 was that research supported my decision to find greater meaning through faith and family and not career success and wealth. It took me 10 years to figure this out.

A Fulfilling Life Comes from What’s Within You

Some people struggle their entire life with finding life satisfaction and meaning and it all comes down to choosing values that create meaning in life. Do your core values support long term life satisfaction and meaning in life or are they wrapped up in temporary happiness and material things?

Research in Scientific America examined a plethora of studies on the subject of happiness, life satisfaction, and values to assess what makes people happy in life.[1] Their findings found that people who had meaningful interpersonal relationships reported higher life satisfaction. They also reported that increased wealth has not made people happier in the long term.

Faith/religion also play a very important role in life satisfaction, as the following was stated in this article regarding research on the topic of faith and religion:

One Gallup survey found that highly religious people were twice as likely as those lowest in spiritual commitment to declare themselves very happy. Other surveys including a 16-nation collaborative study of 166,000 people in 14 nations, have found that reported happiness and life satisfaction rise with strength of religious affiliation and frequency of attendance at worship services.

Placing value in your faith, religious practices, and worship service attendance therefore is highly likely to increase your satisfaction in life. 

I personally know that my faith is what has given me the greatest satisfaction in life and my family comes in a close second. Research supports this emphasis on interpersonal relationships and faith as a way to increase satisfaction in life. The pursuit of increased wealth or income did not increase life satisfaction long term, according to these research studies. My personal life is a testament of this, and research also supports these views on values.

The Benefit of Defining Your Values

In my 20’s, I hadn’t formally defined my values. I allowed them to be shaped according to my life experiences, rather than consciously making a decision to define my values. Therefore, I didn’t really have an understanding of why I was making the decisions that I was making. I was basing my decisions on thoughts and feelings as my driving force, rather than having an understanding of the need for core values to be defined in my life.

Research in Psychological Sciences showed that people who had defined their cored values experiences lower stress levels:[2]

These findings suggest that reflecting on personal values can keep neuroendocrine and psychological responses to stress at low levels.

Knowing your values helps you increase life satisfaction and decrease life stress. Had I defined my values I may have chosen a different path. I would have experienced lower stress during that period of life in my 20’s, if I had clearly defined values.

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How to Know Your Values

Examine the list below and see if any of the values stand out to you as most important. Then follow the set of instructions below to help you narrow down your values to determine what is truly important to you in life.

  • Accountability
  • Achievement
  • Adventure
  • Ambition
  • Balance
  • Beauty
  • Belonging
  • Boldness
  • Calmness
  • Career Success
  • Compassion
  • Community Involvement
  • Competency
  • Contribution
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Determination
  • Education
  • Elegance
  • Empathy
  • Excellence
  • Excitement
  • Expertise
  • Fairness
  • Faith
  • Fame
  • Family-oriented
  • Friendship
  • Fun
  • Giving back to others
  • Goodness
  • Grit
  • Growth
  • Happiness
  • Health
  • Honesty
  • Honor
  • Humor
  • Influence
  • Intelligence
  • Joy
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Knowledge
  • Leadership
  • Learning
  • Legacy
  • Love
  • Loyalty
  • Manners
  • Mastery
  • Meaningful Work
  • Openness
  • Optimism
  • Order
  • Patriotism
  • Peace
  • Pleasure
  • Poise
  • Popularity
  • Recognition
  • Religion
  • Reputation
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Security
  • Self-Respect
  • Sensitivity
  • Service
  • Simplicity
  • Spirituality
  • Stability
  • Status
  • Success
  • Stability
  • Status
  • Strength
  • Structure
  • Teamwork
  • Tolerance
  • Thankfulness
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Tradition
  • Trustworthiness
  • Uniqueness
  • Vision
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom

As you follow the instructions below, feel free to add your own values that may not be on the above list, as it is not comprehensive. The list of values could be endless, but these were simply some of the most common.

  1. As you look over the list, write down 5-10 values that you believe helped you during a difficult time in life.
  2. Next, look over the list again and write down another 5-10 values that you believe have helped you in your most successful times in life.
  3. Finally, of the 10-20 values that you wrote down, look them over and think of a time in your life when you felt most satisfied. Now circle the top 5 values that you believe helped you during that period of your life when you felt most satisfied.

Don’t discount the other values you wrote down, as they are still top values to you. It is helpful to recognize the top five though, as these will significantly shape your decision making and the course of your life.

Aligning Life with Your Core

Now that you recognize what you value most in this world, it is time to test out these values. Here is a practical way to begin aligning your life with the top five values you outlined: write down five sentences for each value that begins as follows.

I value (Fill in the blank), so I will (fill in the blank with something that aligns with that value).

Try to think of 3-5 statements for each of your top five values. Write these statements clearly and with intention of acting on them. Post your statements in a place this is clearly visible for you to see each day, such as a the front of your refrigerator or your bathroom mirror.

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Here is an example of three statements for the value of faith:

  • I value faith, so I will attend weekly worship services.
  • I value faith, so I will commit to reading a daily religious devotional.
  • I value faith, so I will pray often every day.

Proof Is in Your Actions

The way to show your values matter is by acting on them. If you don’t take action on your values, they are of no worth or benefit to you.

If you value honesty, yet you have a habit of being dishonest in business practices, then you need to assess your actions. Take an honest look at yourself and what you value. Are you practicing those values or do you simply admire that value and wish you put it into practice? Set yourself up for success in your values by finding ways to practice your values in everyday life. For example, if you value your health, then you should have exercising and eating right as priorities in your everyday life.

Values are only effective and useful if you put them into practice daily. Living a satisfied life has a great deal to do with the values you hold in your mind and heart along with how well you put those values into practice consistently.

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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