I once had a client who, when asked about her deepest values, paused for a long time, before she finally said “that’s the scariest thing I’ve ever been asked.” After another pause, she added “I’ve not thought about that in a long, long time,” and began to cry.

Unfortunately, the experience of my client is not uncommon. It’s easy to get bogged down in our daily chores and habits while losing sight of what matters most. Like a cog in a machine, we might function on the outside, but are actually stuck, repeating the same old motions, unable to change or even see a different way of living.

We might have mindlessly adopted the values and goals of our friends and family, never daring to explore our own, out of fear they might deviate from our cultural upbringing. Or we might have come to doubt our ability to pursue a different path, because we are not smart enough, not confident enough, not good-looking enough, or simply… not enough.

There are many reasons why we lose touch, and they all lead to suffering. Because humans are not mindless machines following a programmed script, but rather breathing beings with a yearning for meaning and self-direction. Without purpose, life becomes empty and dull, which is why values are central to my work with clients.

What Values Can Do For You


Values are chosen qualities of being and doing, such as being a caring parent, being a dependable friend, being loving, loyal, honest, and courageous. They can be expressed with verbs and adverbs, like teaching compassionately and giving gratefully. However, they are not goals. Goals are finite; they are achievements and once achieved, you are done with them. Values, on the other hand, are enduring, ongoing guides to living. You cannot achieve a value, you can only manifest it by acting in accordance with it.

Your values not only tell you where to focus your efforts and energies, but also provide you with a new source of motivation. Whichever pain you have to endure along your journey, becomes much easier to bear when it’s in the service of your goals and values. And acting in line with your heart’s deepest desires brings a sense of fulfillment and vitality that no material wealth is able to match.

Which values you choose is completely up to you. However, if you’re unclear what those values might be, and how to implement them, here are a few helpful steps.

How To Know Your Heart’s Deepest Desires


Step #1 Rate Your Life Areas


The following exercise is based on the Valued Living Questionnaire by my friend and colleague Kelly G. Wilson. Please take a look at the following life areas, and rate their importance on a scale of 1 – 10 (1 = less important, and 10 = highly important). Remember, this is for you and nobody else. There is no right or wrong answer.

  1. Family (other than marriage or parenting)
  2. Marriage/couples/intimate relations
  3. Parenting
  4. Friends/social life
  5. Work
  6. Education/training
  7. Recreation/fun
  8. Spirituality
  9. Citizenship/Community Life
  10. Physical Self-care (diet, exercise, sleep
  11. Environmental Issues
  12. Art, Creative Expression, and Aesthetics


Step #2 Rate Your Consistency


Next, look at the life areas once more, but this time rate yourself in terms of how consistent your actions have been lately with your values in each of these domains.

  1. Family (other than marriage or parenting)
  2. Marriage/couples/intimate relations
  3. Parenting
  4. Friends/social life
  5. Work
  6. Education/training
  7. Recreation/fun
  8. Spirituality
  9. Citizenship/Community Life
  10. Physical Self-care (diet, exercise, sleep
  11. Environmental Issues
  12. Art, Creative Expression, and Aesthetics


Step #3 Write Your Values


Take a look at your answers from the previous exercise, and identify the domains that have a high importance score (9 or 10), and a low consistency score (6 or less). These are problem areas, and I suggest you start your values work with one of them.

Next, take a piece of paper and write for ten minutes about your values in one of your previously identified domains. Really do it – ten minutes is not very long. You can ask yourself “What do I care about in this area?”, or “What do I want to do in this area that reflects that caring?”, and ”What might I do to manifest this value more in my life?”.

Research has shown that writing about your values has a measurable effect on your health and behavior. Keep in mind that this is only the beginning. There are many ways to connect deeper with your purpose, and live more in alignment with your goals and values, lots of which I share in my new book A Liberated Mind. Living in line with your values is not just about knowing what matters, but also to act according to these principles. It’s not a one-time choice, but a life-long journey of choosing and committing. Again, and again.