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  • Writer's pictureDominic Schmuck, Ph.D.

Identify Your Values to Increase Life Satisfaction + Values Card Sort Activity

Updated: Apr 25

Your Internal Compass: Personal Values

Have you ever paused to consider the internal compass guiding your decisions, actions, and ultimately the course of your life? As a psychologist, I've observed how this compass — our personal values — can powerfully shape the trajectory of our lives. Acknowledging and understanding these values can be a huge step towards leading a more satisfying life. Conversely, ignoring this internal compass, living inauthentically, and failing to align behaviors with your values can breed stress and a sense of purposelessness. Think of values as the principles, qualities, or beliefs that carry significant weight and bring meaning to your life. They function as our internal compass, guiding us towards actions that resonate with what we truly value and who we truly are.

Compass on table symbolizing how values are a compass for our life

Understanding Your Values - Values Card Sort Activity

Given the multitude of influences we grapple with daily – societal norms, groupthink, and family expectations, pinpointing and defining our own values can be difficult. I regularly meet individuals who believe they comprehend their values, but in reality merely echo what their church, family, or society state they should value. To no surprise, individuals stuck in this position often struggle to find fulfillment in their lives because their decisions aren’t grounded in values that are truly their own. As a psychologist, it’s my role to help people explore their authentic personal values and discover ways to align their behaviors with these values.

In therapy, I often employ a "Values Card Sort Activity" to help people pinpoint what truly matters to them. Yet, I’ve struggled finding an online tool that satisfied what I was looking for. A tool that is engaging, time-efficient, and rapidly helps someone identify their most important personal values. After evaluating various online card sort activities, I recently chose to create my own. A couple days ago I published an online adaptation of the "Personal Values Card Sort" activity developed by Miller, one of the pioneers of Motivational Interviewing, and his colleagues (W.R. Miller, D.B. Matthews, J. C'de Baca, P.L. Wilbourne, University of New Mexico, 2011). I’ve shortened the exercise to make it more practical for clinical and personal use, having often encountered clients losing focus while attempting to complete the original steps suggested by Miller et al. (2011). If you are interested in trying it out for yourself, you can access my values exercise here.

In case you would like to also look at other tools, I have found the following values card sort activities to be decent alternatives:

Aligning Your Life with Your Values

Once you've identified your personal values, the next step is to start aligning your actions with these values. Living authentically means consistently choosing actions that resonate with your core beliefs, qualities, and principles. It's about making choices that honor your true self, rather than being swayed by external pressures or expectations. It's about finding that sweet spot where your actions align with your deeply held values.

Yet, it's important to remember that this process of alignment isn't an overnight transformation. It's a journey that requires your continuous reflection, self-awareness, and patience. It is normal that you will fall back into old habits or have difficulties standing up for yourself when external pressures, such as culture or certain family members (we all have them... don't we?) push back and want you to keep acting a certain way. Be patient with yourself and remember why you are doing what you are doing. You are doing it because it helps you live a more fulfilling life, and because you will become a much better human to be around as well. Would you rather spend time with a fake version of your best friend, or with an authentic version of your best friend? Would you rather your best friend tells you all kinds of stories to make sure you are never "burdened", or would you rather they genuinely share with you what they are feeling and experiencing? If you would like your best friend to be authentic, chances are those close to you want you to be authentic too.

The Transformative Power of Values-Based Living

When you live in alignment with your personal values, you experience a heightened sense of purpose, satisfaction, and overall well-being. Your decisions feel more congruent, your actions more meaningful. You are better able to navigate through life's complexities, knowing that your steering your ship in a direction that truly resonates with you.

Moreover, living authentically can positively impact your relationships, as you are more likely to attract and foster connections with people who respect and appreciate your authentic self. This isn't to say that values-based living is always comfortable or easy. There will undoubtedly be challenges and conflicts to navigate, especially with some people who are close to you right now and expect you to behave in an inauthentic way. Yet, with each hurdle, you have an opportunity to grow, to learn more about yourself, and to further solidify your commitment to living in accordance with your values.

Do You Want Someone to Help You Along the Way?

If you are unsure how to proceed, how to identify your values, how to live in accordance with them, or how to navigate your relationships while you are simply trying to be more authentic, remember that you don't have to do it alone. As a psychologist, I can guide and support you through this process, to help you uncover your true values and embark on your journey towards authentic living. I encourage you to try out the Values Card Sort Activity and reach out for help if you would like. Every day, I work with individuals helping them on their journey to understand their true selves and manage their relationship anxieties during this process.

You can contact me by calling/texting (385) 200-0204 or emailing to get started. You can also schedule a free 15-minute consult here. If no timeslot appears through the link, then I likely have a waitlist. Call/text/email instead.

I can work with clients in over 40 PSYPACT participating states.


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