Couples, Individuals

What’s Most Important to You?




Values: What are they and why do you need to know what yours are?

Values are those inner standards from which you receive the motivation to act as you do. They signify what is important and worthwhile to you. Our values help us map out the personal choices we make in order to live the life we want.

When I work with adult clients, I encourage them to do values clarification. Why? Because living a life that is NOT in accordance with their own personal values produces resistance in them, and will eventually cause them stress, anxiety, or depression.

Where people spend their resources (time, energy, and money) is a statement of their values. But sometimes, clients spend their own resources on values that are not in fact their own but are the values of other people or organizations with whom they feel pressure to conform, such as their parents, friends, or partner, their church or political party. When this happens, clients come in with feelings of confusion, resentment, and bitterness. They know they’re not living the life they want, but feel powerless to change their situation.

The healthiest people I see are the ones who have given themselves permission to identify and live out the values that are true for them, not others. And, depending on how much pressure there was on you as a child to conform to the values of others, it may take a lot of courage to declare your own values and live them out.

Do personal values change over time? Yes, they do, depending on circumstances or stages of life.

For example, a life-threatening illness, or the death of a loved one, or entering a new stage of adult life such as menopause, empty nest, or retirement, can all bring about shifts in our values.


Need help clarifying your values? Try the following exercise, and do it by yourself, then ask your partner (or other family member) to do it on their own. When you have both completed the exercise, then discuss your answers with one another.

What’s important to me? Check those that apply to you:

_____a physical appearance to be proud of

_____to be educated and have a degree

_____to be in a relationship with a partner with whom I love

spending time and doing things together

_____to have and exercise political power

_____to be known as an authentic person

_____to be in a relationship where I’m loved for who I am right

now, not who I “was” or who I “could be”

_____to be creative in the “palette” of my choice, be it painting,

gardening, decorating, fashion, textiles, cooking, or

any other form of creative expression

_____to enjoy nature and/or being outdoors

_____to help people make changes that they want

_____to have employment that I enjoy and that has meaning for me

_____helping the sick and disadvantaged


_____being actively involved in the lives of my children or


_____having a beautiful home in the setting of my choice

_____eating fine foods

_____experiencing cultural activities

_____having a close circle of friends with whom I share interests

_____a meaningful and fulfilling spiritual life

_____being different; not following “the herd”

_____fitting in with my social group

_____to have time to spend every day on something just for me

_____to be a recognized expert in my field

_____to have a financially comfortable life

_____financial security for my retirement

_____to be sexy

_____to feel physically safe and secure in the world

_____to live a really long life

_____to be completely myself without feeling judged by others

_____to have high social status in my culture

_____to be free from physical pain

_____to have prized possessions surrounding me

_____to be admired

_____fighting injustice

_____living ethically

_____being taken care of

_____being independent

_____being in control

_____having stimulation and no boredom

_____having self-acceptance at every age of my life

_____being well-organized

_____freedom to do as I please

_____learning and knowing a lot

_____family life

_____preserving my family’s roots

_____living fully in the moment

_____having high quality material possessions

_____having lots of time to be by myself, doing what I want

_____not being tied down by material things


My personal values: (List your top ten.)


Now rank each value in priority order, then, for each value you listed, answer this question:

I will know this value has been met when________________________



This value is currently being met by ____________________________ _______________________________________________________________________

A few questions to consider when discussing values:


  1. If my partner’s top values differ from my own, do we (and if so, how do we) allow for, and honor, one another’s differing values within our couple relationship?


  1. If my adult children’s top values differ from my own, do I (and if so, how do I) allow for, and honor, the values they have which differ from my own?


  1. What values of mine differ from my parents’/family of origin? How do members of my family of origin allow for, and honor, my values that differ from theirs?


  1. Are there ever times when you feel in a position to have to defend your values to someone else? If so, have you ever felt uncomfortable or unsafe having to do so?


  1. Are there ever times when you feel unable to stand up for your values and/or are silenced in the face of opposition to, criticism of, or minimization of your own values? If so, what would support you at times when you feel unable to stand up for your values?


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