Aligning Your Behavior and Habits with Your Values

Photo by Katherine Tallmadge Collection
Katherine Tallmadge doing Tree Pose
Katherine Tallmadge doing Tree Pose

Are you happy with your achievements in 2019? Are there still some things you have left to do? What are your hopes, dreams and aspirations for 2020? The new year is a valuable opportunity to improve the quality of your life and happiness. Seize this moment!

On that enthusiastic note, knowing motivation is the hardest, yet most important part, of successfully changing your habits, I have a new suggestion I'd like for you to try: If you want to motivate yourself to make lasting positive change in your life, first, try thinking about your values. 

Ask yourself, "How do my goals align with my values?" When you connect your goals to your personal values, it's easier to stick with behavior changes that will help you achieve your goals, according to psychological research. So, when the message to self says, "Make some of Katherine's Creamy Broccoli Soup today!" You'll actually be happier knowing that eating healthfully is connected to your values. Besides, you'll remind yourself, "It's a delicious - and easy - soup everyone loves!" 

As a first step, try answering the following four questions to find some of your values:

  1. What is a value you have that you would like to bring to every role and relationship in your life? Try asking... "What is the strength or quality I appreciate most about myself?" Some examples might be empathy, enthusiasm, determination. What is that quality in yourself?
  2. What about values you have that aren't always easy? Ask yourself... "What is a value that, when I choose it, I feel stronger, and aligned with a higher purpose?" Some examples might be courage, optimism, generosity, strength.
  3. What are the activities, roles, and relationships that bring your life meaning, feel good and are sustainable? Ask... "What are qualities in myself that give me a sense of purpose and joy? Things that bring value to my life and that I wouldn't want to lose?"  Could - being a parent, an athlete, your work, being healthy, physically fit  - be examples?
  4. Sometimes you feel a value because you are suffering, and missing it. Try asking... "Do I feel excellent health? Vitality?  Joy? Am I suffering because of poor health, low confidence or flagging energy levels? What is the antidote? What do I want to experience?"  Where in your life do you suffer? What feelings or activities do you miss? Feeling free and independent? Feeling healthy and in good shape? Optimistic about the future? Walking in your neighborhood, along the beach or in the mountains? The joy of traveling to visit friends and family? Feeling attractive, confident, and vibrant out in the world? Among your peers?

Sunflower Seedlings Three Days After Germination (Photo by: Wikipedia.org) Sunflower Seedlings Three Days After Germination
You've just planted the seed in your mind! "This is what I care about and this is the path I need to take to support what I care about!"

Field of Sunflowers (Photo by: Wikipedia.org) Field of Sunflowers

What are some behaviors that align with your values and aspirations? Behaviors that reflect those intentions? Answer the following questions to complete this exercise...

  • What behaviors reflect my intention to feel more energy and joy? Am I taking the time to be active with friends and family?
  • What do I need to spend more time on so that I can feel more optimistic about my health and about the future? Should I be exercising? Should I make sure I eat a healthy, balanced breakfast in the mornings? More fruits and vegetables?
  • How can I feel more attractive, confident and vibrant in the world? Should I be taking a good look at how I am spending my time? Should I spend more time taking care of myself? My health? Checking in with the doctor?
  • What do I need to spend time on every day so that I can get into better shape? Should I be planning my days better so that I have time to exercise, sleep enough and eat healthier?
  • Am I showing my family, friends, doctors and co-workers that I value my health? My life? That I care about my life and my future with them? Should I be setting a better example by living a healthier life?

When you find your motivation flagging a bit, remind yourself of your values, not the new behavior, which may be eating healthier or exercising. This creates a link between your values and your new behavior that allows you to support your positive change. When you are connected to your values, it's easier to see what behaviors support achieving them! Your values will push you toward the new habits you need in your life so that your life's values and aspirations can be achieved forever.

1 Comment For This Article

Anonymous

Katherine: I never quite thought of values as guideposts and now I will. Your wonderful explanatory column notes it very well and is very positively directional. Thank you.