Explore Your Values

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Values are much more nuanced, complex, and beautiful than some might imagine. Self help and pop psychology might have you thinking they’re just words to describe what you care about in life. But values are much more about the journey to uncover them, the self exploration that helps you understand where those values come from, and about being curious to how they evolve throughout our lives. 

A person in a tie-dyed sweatshirt and yellow beanie sits with back to camera on rocks looking out towards the ocean
A person in a tie-dyed sweatshirt and yellow beanie sits with back to camera on rocks looking out towards the ocean

There is a heavy emphasis on values being described verbally, which tracks with the mental and behavioral health systems’ adherence to upholding colonialist standards. Of course commonality in communication is helpful when you have to work with a professional in those fields, but we must think beyond words when it comes to values. Perhaps your values are a set of experiences in your heart that are meaningful guides for you or perhaps art best communicates the values you hold meaningful in life.

…we must think beyond words when it comes to values

The majority of guidance to help people uncover their values is based on written or spoken verbal communication. Perhaps that can be seen as a starting point for folks, but later values may take on more abstract qualities. I used to think the words “stewardship” or “environment” or “interconnectedness” described a value I had related to the earth and nature connection. Now I realize that it is a collection of experiences and feelings that come together and hold deep meaning that can’t be described well with words. I move towards this value when I connect to feeling the earth in my hands, sprouting seedlings, feeling the wind, appreciating the lovely sting from our star warming me as I am filled with moments of peace, strength and connection. This fills me with meaning in my life and I no longer feel compelled to find a value “word” to fit. Understanding this value did start with an initial exploration of value words and an attempt to understand why available, mainstream resources on values didn’t seem to fit right in my journey. 

A former decorative water fountain now spilling over with string of dolphins, string of bananas, lobster flower and kalanchoe
A former decorative water fountain now spilling over with string of dolphins, string of bananas, lobster flower and kalanchoe

Curiosity and exploration is all that is needed to start your journey to see how connecting to your values might fit into your growth. We at Blooming Abilities have a values activity we do in our “values” caregiver training module that many participants have reported they enjoy for exploring their values. It looks at idioms or sayings that many people may have heard and explores what values may be tied to that saying. We have turned this into a quiz (because who doesn’t love Buzzfeed style quizzes?) for folks to give it a try too. We would love to know what you think in the comments section.