The importance of values and how understanding them helped me tackle my anxiety and depression
I once read somewhere that values are reflections of what is most important to you in your heart. I like that phrase. They provide you with direction and motivate you to make essential changes in your life.
If I asked you what your values were, would you be able to tell me?
If you'd asked me 18 months ago, I wouldn't have been able to tell you. Sure, I knew that I was creative and loyal, but I couldn't articulate them to anyone. I didn't know how to. I didn't know where to start.
I learnt more about the importance of values after I had my breakdown in 2019. I would go as far as to say that if I hadn't done all the work that I have done on my values and how my life aligns with them, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this article. Not in a morbid way, but I don't think I'd be doing what I'm doing if it wasn't for all the work I did on working out what my values were.
values are reflections of what is most important to you in your heart
As well as antidepressants, exercise, and using lots of different CBT techniques to deal with anxiety and depression, we (in my psychology sessions and in my spare time) started working on my values. I know now that the work we did on values is based on Acceptance and Commitment Theory (ACT), developed with six core principles that work together to help you develop a life-changing mindset known as 'psychological flexibility.' If you're interested in reading more about this, I'd recommend you read anything by Russ Harris.
Anyway, back to it...
I had never sat down and thought about what I valued and what I didn't. I just did things, if that makes sense? But as we talked, I started to understand that if I was doing something that made me feel underwhelmed, or didn't really 'feel right' or something jarred with me, it was likely because what I was doing didn't align with my values. Have you ever clashed with someone in your life, and you're not sure why but MAN, THEY ARE ANNOYING? It's likely linked to the fact that you share different values.
Now I know you might be thinking 'erm, yeah, and?', but for me, it was kind of mind-blowing. And for months, I spent time working on them every week - figuring out what I valued at work, in friendships, in relationships, and at home. It made me understand why I sometimes clashed with people at work or why certain things didn't drive me, interest me, or left me unmotivated. This newfound awareness made me reevaluate a lot of what I was doing, what brought me joy and aligned, and what made me frustrated or anxious and did not align.
I started to understand that it's okay that values change. What I valued last year wasn't the same as it was today. And that was OKAY. Let me give you an example. Before I had my breakdown, the structure at work wasn't that important to me. I was more than happy to fly by the seat of my pants most of the time and work on things off the cuff. However, after the breakdown, I craved structure throughout my whole life - especially in a work scenario. So I worked to make sure that I had a sense of structure in my job.
Creativity is another one of my core values, and I found that if I didn't have the opportunity to be creative, I felt stagnant, disappointed, sometimes frustrated, and upset. So I would spend the time to find something that helped me fill up my creativity cup.
Spending time working on my values has led me to where I am today. Running and building my own coaching business (Goal Digger Coaching, incase you were wondering, haha). Also, making sure that I keep my values in check and adjust what I'm doing accordingly.
Being more in line with and aware of my values also transformed how I approached dating, but that's a whole other story…
Written by Lindsey Roberts
Lindsey is a life coach on a mission to help women live their life unapologetically, aligned with their values and able to smash their goals! For the last ten years she’s worked in a corporate environment but her breakdown in 2019 made her start to reevaluate how she spends her time and is now working hard to make life coaching a full-time gig! Find out more info - www.goaldigger.co.uk
or on Instagram @goaldigger_coaching