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Published on August 15, 2017

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

Doctor of Psychology

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Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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