Darren Steeves is passionate about improving the total health of our community. Darren is a Certified Exercise Physiologist with a Masters degree in kinesiology and a Bachelors degree in education. His most recent book, Are You Ready? Stop Wishing It Was Friday is available to purchase on Amazon.

What do you value?

If you can’t answer that in 3 seconds… we have some work to do.

Now don’t get anxious if you’re not sure; it’s okay.

Many books on the self-help market are advocating moving towards value based living, and for good reason.

Working in the field of health, wellness, fitness and resilience, I see many people start with setting a goal. This has been taught to us from a very young age: “Have a goal!”

This is important, don’t get me wrong, but there is some lead up work prior to setting your goal (the end result).

Some of that work involves answering questions like, Why are you setting this goal? Why do want to do this? This is where your value work is critical.

Researchers Tiffin, Knight & Asher taught us that a person must find importance when trying to evolve a behaviour from a previously unhealthy (e.g., sedentary lifestyle) to a healthy (e.g., active) one. We also know through work with our clients that if one’s values do not coincide with the new behaviour (e.g., eating healthy), and fall within a person’s ‘Top 5’, the likelihood of successful change decreases.

Deciding on your ‘Top 5’ values

One factor to consider when selecting your ‘Top 5’, is which values can help drive success found in others. For example, we know through a growing body of research that attaining a healthy level of sleep can decrease your risk of developing type II diabetes, depression and the amount of work related errors.

Internal values can be defined as conceptions of the desirable. Developing and establishing your internal values can be complex in terms of their composition. Values that outline a belief system that is internally and socially influenced, guide our mode of conduct and existence.

Values are developed initially through social interactions with people such as our parents, sport coaches and teachers. As a result, values are learned and have a tendency to follow the patterns of a given culture. Over time, individuals learn and develop their values into what is known as a value structure. This results into a hierarchical ranking of an individual’s values (e.g., Gary values his family over his job).

Value based affirmations and achieving your goals

A study in 2012 reported that women who participated in value affirmation weighed less, had lower BMI and smaller waistlines, compared to those who did not. These results are similar to other affirmation studies that found affirmation can bolster self-control by focusing people on higher values rather than immediate impulses. By reminding people of what is really important, affirmation can help fight stressors that take away mental energy needed for coping strategies and delayed gratification.

Another study found intervening with the affirmation of personal values effectively buffered neuroendocrine and psychological stress responses. These results imply there are potential benefits in using affirmation of personal values when trying to reduce stress. It would appear that value affirmation techniques are also effective at building an individual’s self-protective capacities.

We tend to live our lives in accordance with our values. When we face a decision and choose A instead of B, it’s often because A feels right to us. We might use words such as, “it’s the right thing to do,” or “that’s the right way”. Therefore, when developing and/or maintaining healthy behaviours it is beneficial to establish a clear understanding of your unique set of personal values. This can help an individual design their life to align with their values and eliminate or modify life roles that conflict with them.