Are you living a rich and meaningful life? Whoah! That is a big question to start off a blog. I know, I know. Very deep, yes! But, also an important question to ask yourself. So, are you? 2020 was quite the year. It went sideways, upside down, spun around, and suddenly just ended. We all said, ”Can you hear me? I can’t hear you” about a hundred times. We found out about blue light blocking glasses and mRNA. Your life may have been impacted by Covid-19 in many ways. It may have affected the life you most want to live. The question, are you living a rich and meaningful life, may have brought up just how much Covid-19 has impacted you. Other events in the world and our country may have also contributed to a change of course in your life.
Helping people live a rich, full, and meaningful life is one of the major focuses of practitioners of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). As one of the great minds of ACT, Russ Harris states, “accept what is out of your control, and commit to action that improves your life.” I want to clarify that acceptance in ACT isn’t saying, “Yeah I accept that, it is okay with me now.” NO! It might be more helpful to think about acceptance as having a feeling without trying to change it and be curious about that feeling. There are many helpful aspects of ACT, but today I want to focus on Values and Actions. Values are the beliefs that are most important to you. They are what you want the most and help to guide your actions. They can inspire you and drive you, providing richness and meaningfulness to your life.
Understanding and living through your values, allow you to realize what you want and take committed action. To identify values and look at actions in your life, let’s do an exercise.
Choose your top 10 values from the list below. If you get stuck, it might be helpful to think about these questions: What do I cherish the most? What type of person do I want to be?
Done? Great work! How was that activity for you? Was it easier or more difficult than you thought? Did you learn something new about yourself?
Doing this activity can really help bring awareness to areas where you are doing well and maybe not as well as you would have hoped. So, we can now take steps to bring those values to action.
What actions could you do in your daily life that are aligned with your values? Are there actions that you would like to do less of or stop due to your values? What are some other ways that you could act on those values? These are just some of the questions that can help you process your values and utilize them more in your life.
Say you identified fun as one of your top values and you haven’t been doing anything aligned with that. Living outside of your values can make you feel down and like something is off. How can you incorporate more fun into your life? You could download a new game on your phone or play a board game. You could dance to fun music, color, or do a fun family activity. A fun activity might look different for each person. However, the important item to keep in mind is that this activity is positive and healthy, and also moving towards the life you want to be living. It is helpful to schedule this in and make an effort to keep in mind this value daily.
Keep in mind that actions don’t need to be huge steps. Think about 2 or 3 actions you can do daily or weekly that act on your values. Please be kind to yourself in this process. This is a change in how you are living your life which is difficult for many people.
I hope you found this exercise helpful and that you are able to bring out some of your top values in your life. As a Detroit Lions fan, after every season I say next year will be our year. That hope really helps drive me to continue to support them. I don’t have much control over the Lions, but I would make many positive changes I assure you. The difference between me and the Lions and you and your values is that you can control your actions and you can take steps towards the life you want. After the difficult year that 2020 was, let’s make 2021 your year. A great step is utilizing your values as guides to living the life how you most want to live.
Ben Balke, LLPC is a counselor at Lifeologie. He enjoys teen counseling and working with young adults as they discover who they are, learn to navigate school, and deal with social anxieties. He’s passionate about connecting with people and making sure they feel safe to work through whatever it is that is tangling them up.