Identifying Personal Values

Identifying Personal Values

By Diane LaChapelle PhD LPsyc

Many of us live our lives as we are expected to live. We work, raise families, spend our vacations with the in-laws. Often we do these things because they are expectations from parents, loved ones, and our culture. We rarely consider how important these expectations actually are to us. Living with a chronic illness, however, forces us to re-evaluate what is most important - both because we may not be able to do things we once valued and because we do not have the energy to do everything we once did. We must learn to choose.

Identifying what is important to you

Given you have a limited amount of time and energy, what do you want to spend it on? Try filling out the chart below to help identify what is most important to you. No two people will have the same priorities. While one person may find parenting is the most important, another person may not want children and thus will find this category unimportant. For each category, rate how important it is to you and how satisfied you currently are. If you find a category is highly important but you are not getting satisfaction from it, then you know this is an area that requires attention. Write down a few goals to work towards that will help increase your satisfaction.

For example, Samantha is a mother of three and an executive assistant in a large corporation. When she fills in the chart, she rates "Parenting" a 10/10 for importance but only a 2/10 in satisfaction. On the other hand, she rates "Paid Employment" a 5/10 for importance and a 6/10 for satisfaction. Exploring these ratings, she realizes that while she has managed to carry on with her job, she comes home exhausted, and is irritable when she gets home due to pain and fatigue. As a result, she has little time or energy for her children.

She sets down some goals to change this. First she will discuss with her husband whether they can afford for her to work part-time. She will explore opportunities for part-time work with her current employer. With the time and energy she will save by working part-time, she will set aside time every day to help her children with their homework. She will also schedule a "family night" once a week where the whole family does something fun together.

Developing your goals

While this chart might look easy to complete, it can be difficult. You will need to be creative when developing goals to improve your satisfaction. For example, if nursing was your career and a back injury prevents you from working, you might miss the sense of accomplishment and pride you got from helping others. Could you get some of this back by volunteering in your community? If playing hockey was your form of leisure and socialization before developing chronic pain and you are no longer able to do this, you'll need to find a new activity. Can you be satisfied watching the game and then going for coffee with the gang? How about learning a new, less physical activity, such as digital photography? If you need new ideas, try consulting the "Pleasurable Activities" Scale on the Drs. Goldstein website

CategoryImportance: 0 to 10Satisfaction: 0 to 10Goals
Intimacy/romantic relationship      
Personal growth      
Community achievement
(volunteer work)
Paid employment      
Financial security