Living with Purpose: Understanding the Power of Values

Discover the power of values in shaping your life. This blog explores the concept of values as the heart's deepest desires for ongoing actions, serving as a compass for your journey. Learn about the three components of values, prioritize and hold them lightly. Uncover the harmony between values and goals, with insights from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Engage in an interactive exercise to assess your own values and live with purpose and authenticity. Ideal for adults seeking meaning and growth.


Dr Karan Sahar

7/21/20237 min read

In the journey of life, we often find ourselves seeking direction and purpose. We yearn for a compass that can guide us through the ups and downs, keeping us on track as we navigate the complexities of being human. That compass is our values. Values are the desired qualities of ongoing action, our heart's deepest desires for how we want to behave. In this blog, we will explore the concept of values, their components, and their significance in shaping our lives.

The Concept of Values

Values are not about what we want to get or achieve; they are about how we want to behave or act on an ongoing basis. Think of values as the guiding principles that define our character and actions. They are the compass that points us towards the life we want to lead. Consider values such as "helping," "learning," and "self-care." These values reflect our innermost desires to make a positive impact, seek growth, and prioritize our well-being.

The Three Components of Values

Values consist of three essential components: ongoing actions, global qualities, and desired statements.

  • On-going actions refer to how we want to behave or act consistently, regardless of the situation. They are the choices we make in alignment with our values, shaping our character day by day.

  • Global qualities are the aspects of behaviour that unite and encompass various patterns of action. They focus on the quality and meaning of our actions, transcending specific behaviours.

  • Desired statements express our intentions and highlight what matters most to us.

Conversely, there are also instances where an action, job, or activity can represent multiple values simultaneously. These are moments of alignment, where our choices and pursuits encompass the essence of several values. For instance, a teacher who is passionate about their profession and values "learning," "contribution," and "supportiveness" may find that their work perfectly aligns with these values. Their role allows them to facilitate learning, make a positive impact on students' lives, and provide support and guidance. These situations serve as powerful reminders of how our actions can embody multiple values, leading to a sense of meaning and harmony.

These components work harmoniously, creating a powerful framework for living a life of purpose

Prioritizing and Holding Values Lightly

Our values can guide us in choosing the direction we want to move in life.

It's important to recognize that not all values hold the same level of importance to us. Some values may have a more profound impact on our well-being and fulfilment. Sometimes values can conflict with each other, creating dilemmas and challenging our decision-making process. In such instances, we must carefully examine the situation and determine which value takes precedence based on our unique circumstances and life goals. For example, let's consider the values of "freedom" and "security." These values can sometimes be mutually exclusive. Imagine a person who desires the freedom to explore new opportunities and take risks, but also seeks the security of a stable job and financial stability. In certain situations, they may face a dilemma where pursuing one value may require sacrificing the other. This conflict highlights the complexity of values and the need to prioritize based on our current needs and circumstances. Prioritizing our values is therefore essential as it helps us navigate the complexities of life with clarity and purpose.

Holding values lightly means recognizing the fluidity and evolution of values. While certain values may hold great importance to us at a particular point in our lives, they may shift or change as we grow and gain new experiences. It's crucial to remain open and adaptable, allowing space for our values to evolve alongside our personal growth.

By acknowledging the potential conflicts and synergies among values, we cultivate a nuanced understanding of their impact on our choices, emotions and behaviours. This awareness enables us to navigate the complexities of life with flexibility, making conscious decisions that align with our core values while embracing the ebb and flow of our journey.

Values are here and now

Values are here and now; goals are in the future. This distinction is important - while values guide our actions and behaviour in the present moment, goals represent our aspirations and desired outcomes for the future.

Values are the compass that keeps us grounded in the present, shaping our behaviour and choices on an ongoing basis. They provide a framework for how we want to live our lives, influencing the actions we take in each moment. Values are about the here and now, reflecting our deepest desires for how we want to be as human beings.

To illustrate this distinction, let's consider the value of "helping." This value may manifest in the present moment through acts of kindness, compassion, and support for others. It influences our daily interactions and how we choose to contribute to the well-being of those around us. The value of "helping" is an ongoing action that we can embody at any given time, regardless of our circumstances.

A goal related to "helping" could be to volunteer at a local community centre or start a charitable organization. These are specific achievements we strive for in the future to further express and fulfil our value of "helping." Goals give us a sense of purpose and something to work towards, providing motivation and a sense of accomplishment when achieved.

Recognizing the distinction between values and goals allows us to harmonize the present and the future. By aligning our actions with our values in the here and now, we can move purposefully towards our goals, creating a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.

Understanding ACT's Main Principles

The conceptualization of values described here is derived from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a powerful therapeutic approach that focuses on mindfulness and psychological flexibility. ACT teaches us to accept our thoughts and feelings without judgment while committing to actions that align with our values. By living in accordance with our values, we can create a rich and meaningful life, even amidst challenges.

Exercise: A Quick Look at Your Values

Now, let's engage in an exercise to explore your own values. Below is a list of common values. Assign a score next to each value: V = Very important, Q = Quite important, and N = Not so important. Aim to score at least ten values as Very important. This exercise will provide insight into the values that resonate deeply with you and serve as a foundation for living a purposeful life.

  • Acceptance

  • Adventure

  • Assertiveness

  • Authenticity

  • Beauty

  • Caring

  • Challenge

  • Compassion

  • Connection

  • Contribution

Closing Remarks

Discovering and embracing our values allows us to live with intention and purpose. They provide us with a compass to navigate the complexities of life, helping us make choices that align with our deepest desires. Remember that values are not fixed; they are freely chosen and evolve as we grow. Embrace the power of your values and embark on a journey of living authentically, guided by the compass of your heart.

As you reflect on the exercise, consider seeking support from professionals such as life coaches, counsellors, or psychotherapists who can help you explore your values further and support your growth. Embrace the transformative potential of values and embark on a life rich with meaning and purpose.

north, east, west, and south wall decor
north, east, west, and south wall decor

Goals, which are future-oriented, represent the specific achievements, milestones, or destinations we aim to reach. Goals provide us with a sense of direction, helping us move toward our desired outcomes. While values guide us on our journey, goals serve as the sights we want to see or the mountains we want to climb along the way.

ACT- Hexaflex, retrieved from Russ Harris, ACT made simple
ACT- Hexaflex, retrieved from Russ Harris, ACT made simple
  • Contribution

  • Conformity

  • Cooperation

  • Courage

  • Creativity

  • Curiosity

  • Encouragement

  • Equality

  • Excitement

  • Fairness

  • Fitness

  • Flexibility

  • Freedom

  • Friendliness

  • Forgiveness

  • Fun

  • Generosity

  • Gratitude

  • Honesty

  • Humor

  • Humility

  • Industry

  • Independence

  • Intimacy

  • Justice

  • Kindness

  • Love

  • Mindfulness

  • Order

  • Open-mindedness

  • Patience

  • Persistence

  • Pleasure

  • Power

  • Reciprocity

  • Respect

  • Responsibility

  • Romance

  • Safety

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-care

  • Self-development

  • Self-control

  • Sensuality

  • Sexuality

  • Spirituality

  • Skilfulness

  • Supportiveness

  • Trust

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The images for this blog were retrieved from freepik and flaticon.

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