It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.
— Roy Disney

Think about a time when life’s been really good. What value was being expressed or honored? Was it family, fun, creativity, or achievement? Now think about a time when you were upset. What value was being challenged?

As a professional coach, I see stress show up in my clients’ lives when values aren’t being met, or when values are in conflict. When values are aligned with the choices we make, we feel at ease. Conversely, when we act against a value we hold, we don’t feel good. And often, we may not even be aware that values are at play.

The solution lies in knowing what we hold dear, and why. Research shows reflecting on meaningful values can protect us from stress, and lead to greater happiness and life satisfaction.

There are two types of values. Those we freely chose or choose, and those we learned or inherited. Knowing the difference can lead to greater self-awareness and better decision-making.

At various points in life, you realize that some of your values and goals are not providing you with the kind of happiness and satisfaction you want. Many of your core values may not be the values you truly believe in. They may be values you inherited from others, without much thought on your part.
— Allen Elkin, author, Stress Management For Dummies

“Have to”: Fear-Based Values

These are values we’ve inherited, or learned, and may not reflect what we really want. Fear-based values cause you to take action to avoid something, and are often connected to a past event. They are things you feel you “have to” or “need to” do. When you think of them, they are usually followed by “or else.” For example, someone who highly values avoiding conflict might say, “I have to keep my mouth shut, or else we’ll end up fighting.”

“Want to”: Conscious-Based Values

These are values we choose for ourselves, which align with what we want, or our purpose or passion. They allow us to take positive action. They are “want to’s.” Let’s use the example above, of a person staying quiet to avoid conflict. What if he or she were to freely choose a value of communication instead? Then, this person might experience greater connection, enhanced relationships, less stress and more life satisfaction.

Stress: When Values are in Conflict

Let’s say you want to take a solo vacation but are conflicted about not being with your family, because you hold family as one of your highest values. Is there another value at play in wanting to spend time alone? Could it be personal growth, emotional health, or autonomy? As a coach, when a client is experiencing stress around making a decision, I help him/her connect a project, task or endeavor with the value that is taking priority. That way, whatever decision a client makes, he/she chooses freely and consciously (versus from a place of fear), and recognizes what value is being honored. 

To flourish as [a person], then, is to steadfastly realize one’s values. The maximally flourishing [person] will not only be successful but will also be firmly disposed to succeed.
— Professor Jason Raibley, author, Well-Being and the Priority of Values

By honoring your (chosen) values, you reduce stress and make better decisions. You’re also likely to be happier, and more satisfied with life.

To explore what values are important to you, and how much you're honoring them, request my free Values Assessment tool here

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