Values: Our Life Compass

By Joe Acciaioli, LCSW
In his book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, Steven Hayes compares our values to a life “compass.” Values go beyond goals, because they are more deeply held, and we are never “done” with them. If one of my values is to be loving, that is different than the goal of finding a partner and possibly getting married. Presumably, once I find that partner, or even if I break up with that partner, I will continue to have the value of being loving. 
Especially during these challenging times, I find myself talking to my clients about their values, and the importance of living a values-based life. How do we not lose hope in a time of crisis, a time when we see so much suffering in the world? I believe the answer has a lot to do with living our values day-by-day. 
It is common for therapists to tell their overwhelmed clients something along the lines of, “try to focus on what you have control over.” And while this is helpful advice, I have begun to feel the more important mental move is: bring yourself back to your values. By doing so, you are living functionally in a world that sometimes feels highly dysfunctional.

Another way to think about values is: At the end of your life, how do you want to be remembered? Hopefully, what your loved ones ultimately say about you is a reflection of the values you chose to live out.

And the good news is, you don’t need to be perfect when it comes to values. Hayes writes, “Paths are not straight because we are human.” When we deviate from our path (values), the task is to acknowledge the self-critical thoughts that arise (“boy, I wasn’t very loving when I yelled at my daughter last night”). And then re-commit yourself to getting back on your path. Every step you take in the direction of your values is part of living a rich, meaningful life. And that, to me, is a source of great hope.

A short list of values would include things like: love, responsibility, compassion, honesty, spirituality, contribution, and hard-work. And some of the life areas where we act out these values would include things like: our intimate relationships, parenting, personal growth, and career. I sometimes ask my clients to take stock of how well they’re living out their values in these different life areas. And that becomes a focus of our work together.

As Hayes says, “right now at this very moment, you have all the tools you need to make meaningful and inspiring life choices for yourself…. [I]t doesn’t mean you have all the skills you need to accomplish your stated goals. But it does mean you have what you need to choose a direction.” So take a few moments today to think about what your most deeply held values are, and notice–and even celebrate–the times when you are living those values. 

Joseph “Joe” Acciaioli, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker #81140 in California.  Joe has been a hospital social worker for much of his career and he currently uses these experiences and skills in his private practice at Inspired Life Counseling in Chico, CA where he sees clients in person in his office and online from his confidential and HIPAA compliant video platform, Simple Practice.

Joe is a deep thinker and feeler which helps him really connect with his clients in a genuine way.  He truly cares about the experiences their living out and what they have gone through up to this point.  He creates meaningful conversations and not only helps people go to those deep places in their hearts, but he also gives them tools for moving forward in healthier ways.  He helps you get to the root of your pain, and then he helps you dig your way out.

If you’d like to learn more about Joe, his fees or make an appointment (if you’re in California) then please click the button below to go to Joe’s bio page.