Highlighting Values

Oftentimes, when I am in session with a client I pretend I have an imaginary highlighter in my hand. I am searching for places where the client lights up, expresses vitality, tells of a secret longing. I am a detective looking for clues to their values.

I ask questions such as:

Tell me about your junior-high self. What were you like? What made your heart sing?

If you were 85 years old looking back on your life right now, what would you say matters?

If I could wave a magic wand and make this struggle with (anxiety, weight, depression, work, spousal conflict) disappear, how would your life be different? What would you be doing with your life that you aren't now?

In my previous post, I shared that a key to happiness is living a values driven life. Having a sense of meaning in your life helps you live longer , have greater sense of well being, and even protect against cognitive decline as we age.

When talking about values with my clients, I often witness them getting entangled in societal shoulds, religious morals, or perfectionism. Others have been so busy in a tug of war with their pain they haven't had space to really examine what they want their lives to be about.

"Values are your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave as a human being. Values are not about what you want to get or achieve; they are about how you want to behave or act on an ongoing basis. " -Russ Harris

I help clients clarify their values through a number of experiential exercises. My favorites include:

Values Card Sort

Valued Living Questionnaire

Obituary Exercise

Below I describe the Pie Chart Exercise I often use with clients.

Pie Chart Exercise:

In this assignment, you are asked to draw a pie chart showing the time and energy you currently place in 9 domains of your life.

pie chart

Next, draw a second pie chart, this time showing the amount of time and energy you would be placing in each area if you were living your most valued life. The places where there are the largest discrepancies are often the places that cause us the most suffering. How can could you narrow this gap a bit today?