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  • Writer's pictureAbby Anspach, MEd, LCMHCA, NCC

Identifying Personal Values

Meaning and purpose. These two words come up frequently for us as we ponder who we are, where we want to go, and why we do the things that we do. Often, it’s easy to get stuck in the process of decision-making or goal-setting because we struggle with these questions surrounding meaning in our lives; this can feel both frustrating and discouraging.

In the midst of these questions, it can be helpful to consider personal values. Values can help us orient towards the things that are most important to us. For example: If you’ve ever been on a lengthy hike, you might’ve carried a compass with you. Compasses have an internal system that helps hikers know which direction they’re facing, and thus, where to go. In the same way, values can act as our “compass,” guiding us when we’re unsure how to proceed.

One of the most beautiful things about values is that they are uniquely OURS--no two people have the exact same set of personal values! Values are our own meaning-making system. Focusing on values can therefore help us to make choices that are right for us personally rather than looking for the answers in popular culture or others’ beliefs (though discussing decisions with others is often a wise and helpful choice!).

In addition to orienting us towards future possibilities, values can also help us process emotions in the here-and-now. I invite you to pause for a moment and consider the last time that you felt a strong and perhaps confusing emotion. When we look at our emotions through the lens of our values, we can better identify why we feel the way that we do. We may feel sad when a friend lies to us because we deeply value honesty, or we feel angry when a coworker doesn’t follow through on their commitment to help because we value integrity and responsibility. We might experience joy from being outside because we value beauty and adventure.

Cultivating a deeper awareness of our values provides insight and meaning in our day-to-day lives and creates a pathway for us to make decisions that feel purposeful. In times of confusion or stress, values are comforting constants that make us who we are! If you’re interested in identifying and exploring your personal values through counseling, please visit my page or email me at I would be honored to walk with you on your journey towards deeper self-awareness!

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