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Chapter 10


Chapter 10

Imagine


MINDFUL CHOICE 6

Connect with and Live Your Deepest Values:
Finding Purpose, Meaning and Balance

Your beliefs become your thoughts,  
Your thoughts become your words,  
Your words become your actions,  
Your actions become your habits,  
Your habits become your values,  
Your values become your destiny.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.

Brian Tracy

Everything we do, every decision we make and course of action we take, is based on our consciously or unconsciously held beliefs, attitudes and values.”

Sidney Simon


In early spring of 1983, Bill had an awakening of sorts. In his last Masters of Business Administration class at Pepperdine University, a question was posed by the professor, a question that was quite unsettling. “What is it that is really, really, really important anyway?

This particular MBA program was called the Presidential/Key Executive MBA Program, and the students were all leaders in their individual organizations. They shared the qualities of being highly ambitious, high achieving, and very demanding of themselves. The question was unsettling not only to Bill, but to most other class members as well.

As Bill recalls: “We had all accomplished a lot, but the question forced us to take a look at why we had worked so hard. What was it all for? Was it really what we wanted after all? Each of us had been working overtime climbing our career ladder, but was it the right ladder, or was it leaning against the right wall? What was really important anyway? ” It was an unsettling question, but long overdue.

Many of us are too busy to stop and really think about who we are and where we are going. Many of us simply trudge along mindlessly, living out a script, reacting our way through life, not dwelling very much on the meaning of it all. One of our favorite mindfulness authors, Jon Kabat–Zinn uses the term “automaticity” to describe how most of us are on autopilot through much of our lives, questioning little, mechanically behaving as we have been taught to behave.

Even when we are asking the right questions, the answers aren’t always clear and the choices aren’t easy to make in a world that can be confusing and frightening. You may have a clear idea of where you’re going with part of your life, with other areas of your life as yet undiscovered.

Moment by moment you are faced with decisions and choices, and those choices are how you create your future. When it comes to those choices, it all comes down to the values that underlie your decisions. Therein lies the problem. If you are clear on what’s really important to you, in other words what you value, the decision can be much easier. When you are unclear what you value in a situation, or have values in conflict, making the right choice can be agonizingly difficult.

Much of the stress, anxiety, and depression we deal with is related to not having a purpose for being, not knowing core values, or blindly embracing what others believe is the perfect life. Of course, what is perfect for someone else may be far from perfect for you. Tony Robbins talks about the “Niagara Syndrome” in his 1991 book “Awaken the Giant Within.”

“… Life is like a river, and most people jump on the river of life without ever really deciding where they want to end up. So, in a short period of time, they get caught up in the current: current events, current fears, and current challenges. When they come to forks in the river, they don’t consciously decide where they want to go, or which direction is right for them. They merely “go with the flow.” They become a part of the mass of people who are directed by the environment instead of their own values. As a result, they feel out of control. They remain in this unconscious state until one day the sound of the raging river awakens them and they discover that they are 5 feet from Niagara Falls in a boat with no oars. At this point, all they can say is, “oh, shoot!” But by then it’s too late. They are going to take a fall. Sometimes it’s an emotional fall. Sometimes it’s a physical fall. Sometimes it’s a financial fall. It is likely that whatever challenges you have in your life currently could have been avoided by some better decisions upstream.”

Knowing what’s really important is having a compass. One of the most powerful ways we know of reducing stress, anxiety and depression and becoming a calmer and more peaceful person is possessing a clear sense of your values and having an unwavering commitment to living those values.

One of our clients was experiencing a conflict in values.

Looking tired and stressed, Paul leaned back in his chair and exclaimed: “I don’t get it. A few months ago I was doing fine, and now I can’t sleep, my head hurts, I have no appetite, and I’m either feeling really down, or really on edge all the time – usually I’m both depressed AND anxious.”

Bill replied: “Let’s see if we can figure it out. How’s your life going at present?”

Paul replied: “Well, I shouldn’t be complaining. I’ve got a great wife, the kids are doing fine. We live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and I’m advancing in my career. Other people would think I have a great life.”

Taking it all in, Bill paused a moment and then continued: “Still, something must have changed. You mentioned everything going well until a few months ago. What happened then?”

“ I got a promotion, and a big pay raise.” Paul had worked for a major drugstore chain for many years. The promotion had come after years of hard work, and his family certainly needed the extra income.

Congratulations on the promotion. How’s it working out?” Bill noticed Paul’s shoulders slump and his face looked tired and strained. Clearly, something was wrong.

Paul’s agitation was visible. “Well, some parts of the job I like, but there other things that I’m having a tough time with.” Bill urged him to continue, and the story came pouring out.

I’ve always loved my job, and for the most part I still like what I do. However, the company is downsizing, and I’m having a tough time with some of the things the company needs from me.”

For instance?” Bill sensed there was a lot of emotion about to surface.

Breathing more shallowly, talking more rapidly, Paul continued: “The company needs to let go of a lot of people. Many of them have been with the company all of their working life. Some aren’t far from retirement. Some are my friends or people I’ve worked with over the years. My job includes building files on them, catching them making mistakes, writing them up, and finding a way to terminate their employment. I’m told it’s necessary for company survival, and yet…”

Bill continued: “And yet this isn’t you. These aren’t your values. I’m guessing that you value honesty highly, and I’m also guessing that you value friendship and loyalty. I’ll take it further and guess that you value kindness and compassion.”

Previously, you were experiencing a lot more peace and contentment because your life was in sync with your values. At present, you’re having to do things that are way out of line with what you value and the result is extreme stress and inner turmoil. Am I right?”

Paul reflected a moment and then replied: “Yeah, it all makes sense. I can’t have any real happiness if I break my own rules. It was hard to see before but now it’s as clear as can be. I don’t know what to do with this one.”

Bill replied: “it’s a tough one all right. It’s an uncompromising dilemma, but nothing will change until you find a way to deal with it. Let’s explore some options.

Often, we can’t see it, but our dis-ease may have a lot to do with not living a life based on values, or having values in conflict. In the case of Paul, his value of loyalty to the company was uncompromisingly in conflict with his value of being kind and compassionate to others. And if that wasn’t enough of a dilemma, add the competing value of providing for a family during tough economic times. As Bill said: “it’s an uncompromising dilemma.” Nothing in Paul’s life was going to change until he could find a way of clarifying his values and resolving a major values conflict.

Closely related to the subject of values is the need we all have with have to find purpose and meaning in our lives. The following is a quote from one of our favorite books: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl:

We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the task which it constantly sets for each individual.”

Frankl survived three years at Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps and his work now helps millions of us transcend suffering and find greater meaning and purpose in our lives.

Also related to values is living a life of balance, and being mindful of when things you value are ignored or neglected, thus generating more stress, anxiety, and depression.

Meaning, purpose, and balance will be discussed further following a pre-test and an explanation of the thought behind the pre-test statements.

CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES PRE-TEST

DIRECTIONS: Under each description, choose the number that best represents agreement with your thinking, beliefs, or behavior for the past week and record that number on the following table.

Connect With and

Live

abcdeTotal

Divided

Your

Deepest Values

fghijby 2=

______

0= not true at all, 1= mostly not true, 2= partially true, 3= largely true, 4=totally true

  1. I Find Opportunities to Live My Values. Throughout my day, I am aware of the ever- present opportunity to move in a valued direction. For example, if one of my values is excellent parenting, I am aware of choices I could make today to be a loving parent. If I value making a difference, I was aware of numerous opportunities to make meaningful choices. If I value serenity, I was able to actually live the Serenity Prayer. If I value a clean, well-organized environment contributing to my sense of peacefulness and well-being, I am able to invest my time and energy toward making it happen.

Select 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and record your score in the CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES table above.

b. I Experience Living My Values. Throughout my day, I am aware of those times when I am living my values, not just intellectually but through fully experiencing "walking the talk," by having a heightened sense of energy and aliveness.

Select 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and record your score in the CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES table above.

c. I Freely Choose My Values. Throughout my day, I am able to distinguish between automatically acting based upon a learned script (e.g. a stereotyped story my mind is telling me), habitual self-talk or long held beliefs, and values-based actions freely chosen after careful reflection.

Select 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and record your score in the CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES table above.

d. My Behavior Is Values Driven. Throughout my day, the direction I travel and the actions I take have more to do with what I want my life to stand for than what I want less of or want to avoid. My behavior is based more on what I am for (values driven) than what I am against (fear and anxiety).

Select 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and record your score in the CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES table above.

e. I am able to use my awareness of vulnerability as a guide. I am aware that fear and anxiety can get in the way of honoring present values, and avoidance of unwelcome pain can lead to much greater difficulties through my life not being fully lived. Throughout my day, I am able to move in a valued direction despite increased vulnerability, fear, or anxiety. I am able to use my awareness of vulnerability as a guide. I am able to "feel the fear and do it anyway."

Select 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and record your score in the CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES table above.

f. I Have an Awareness of “Full” Values. To be considered a “full” value, something must be chosen freely, chosen from among alternatives, chosen after due reflection, prized and cherished, publicly affirmed, repeatedly acted upon, and consistent with other values. I am aware of a number of things in my life that meet these criteria.

Select 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and record your score in the CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES table above.

g. My Choices and Actions Are Based on My Values. I’m able to use awareness of my values to make satisfactory choices and take appropriate values-consistent action.

Select 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and record your score in the CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES table above.

h. I Find Strength through My Values. I’m aware that my values give me the courage to say what has to be said and take the actions that need to be taken.

Select 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and record your score in the CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES table above.

i. My Priorities are Determined by My Values. When I have to make decisions between competing choices, or need to establish priorities, I am guided by knowing what I freely choose based upon personal preferences and values.

Select 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and record your score in the CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES table above.

j. I Find Meaning and Balance, and Self-Acceptance Through My Values. Knowing about my values, knowing what I freely choose, cherish, affirm, and act upon, gives my life meaning and helps me know and appreciate who I am.

Select 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and record your score in the CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES table above.

The following is an example of the table squares a-J filled in with 10 scores, each square representing the 0-4 score on that particular statement. The scores are then totaled in the last square, for a total of 28 that is then divided by 2 for a final score of 14.

Connect With and

Live

a

4

b

3

c

2

d

3

e

3

Total

Divided

Your

Deepest Values

f

3

g

2

h

3

i

2

j

3

by 2=

___14___

The score of 14 is then located on the grid below. This means that for the past week Choice 6 performance was in the “good” category. Overall, this means that the person taking this pretest was doing well with living their values. However, there is still room for improvement.There is no limit to how successful you can be and living a life full of values driven choices.

chart


Okay, now it’s time to enter your score on the grid below.

chart


How did you do? Remember, no matter how well you have done on this pretest, there is no limit to how masterful you can become in connecting with and living your deepest values. The possibilities for growth and mastery are limitless. How good do you want to be in your ability to connect with and live your deepest values?

Let’s first take a deeper look at the rationale behind the 10 statements in our pretest,

The thoughts behind the Mindful Choice 6 assessment statements

Each of the ten statements can be thought of as an affirmation, or as a desired state you want to achieve. Rating a statement with a “4” on your Choice 6 self-assessment is an indication you are at an optimal level of functioning for a vital component of CONNECT WITH AND LIVE YOUR DEEPEST VALUES. The statements are repeated here with a brief explanation of the thinking that went into the construction of each statement.

a. I Find Opportunities to Live My Values. Throughout my day, I am aware of the ever- present opportunity to move in a valued direction. For example, if one of my values is excellent parenting, I am aware of choices I could make today to be a loving parent. If I value making a difference, I was aware of numerous opportunities to make meaningful choices. If I value serenity, I was able to actually live the Serenity Prayer. If I value a clean, well-organized environment contributing to my sense of peacefulness and well-being, I am able to invest my time and energy toward making it happen.

Author Ralph L. Keeney in his book Value-Focused Thinking states: “To recapitulate, value-focused thinking will help you in three major ways: to recognize and identify decision opportunities for yourself, to create better alternatives for your decision problems, and to develop an enduring set of guiding principles for your life.”

Shouldn’t all choices and decisions be based upon our values? Keeney maintains that “Value-Focused” decision-making is not the norm. Keeney states: “Instead, decision-making usually focuses on the choice among alternatives. Indeed, it is common to characterize the decision problem by the alternatives available.” In other words, we tend to decide on a course of action based upon the alternatives right in front of us, rather than choosing based upon an awareness of what is truly important.

How about you? Do you make choices based simply upon avoiding undesirable consequences or achieving desirable ones, or are your choices and decisions driven by a clear awareness of what you care about?

b. I Experience Living My Values. Throughout my day, I am aware of those times when I am living my values, not just intellectually but through fully experiencing "walking the talk," by having a heightened sense of energy and aliveness.

Is your life a demonstration of what you say you believe in? If so, you’re probably feeling “turned on” to life, feeling enthusiastic about where you are at and where you are going. If you’re clear on your values, you have a clear sense of identity and self-worth. You are clearer on your answer to the question: “Who am I?” If you know what is worth living for, and you’re doing it, there is a heightened sense of energy and aliveness that goes with choosing to live your life in accordance with your values.

c. I Freely Choose My Values. Throughout my day, I am able to distinguish between automatically acting based upon a learned script (e.g. a stereotyped story my mind is telling me), habitual self-talk or long held beliefs, and values-based actions freely chosen after careful reflection.

We like to think that we are free people, fully in charge of our lives, choosing how we will spend our time, moment by moment. In actuality, much of what we do is predetermined. We tend to follow a “script,” written years before, often in childhood. We react our way through life in stereotypical ways, dealing with whatever is before us in the moment, and automatically following the dictates of past learning, long-established beliefs, and learned and habitual self- talk. We tend to view our lives through a filter of past experience, and we tend to make choices based upon what is known and familiar, what choices have been rewarded in the past, or have led to positive consequences, and what past choices have produced undesirable consequences.

In short, we are often on “autopilot,” and fairly predictable in our choices. While there may be better choices, the existence of those choices is obscured, or we may erroneously believe that those choices are unavailable to us for one reason or another.

This book is about mindful awareness and the ability to distinguish between thoughts and beliefs that may not be practical, and values-based choices growing out of a clear awareness of what is most important and meaningful in life.

d. Throughout my day, the direction I traveled and my actions had more to do with what I wanted my life to stand for him rather than what I wanted less of. My behavior was based more on what I was for (values driven) than what I was against (fear and anxiety).

Our work is largely about helping people overcome their fears. Understanding your true values is often the key to taking positive action in your life, in spite of fear. Here’s an example:

Jerry suffered from panic disorder and agoraphobia. His new graduate degree in international business seemed meaningless as he was terrified to leave his hometown where he had attended a university. He dreamed of using his prestigious degree traveling throughout the world, having an interesting and enjoyable lifestyle, but he couldn’t get past the city limits sign.

Learning to manage his fear was successful within the context of values clarification. Jerry valued being a free person, without restrictions. He valued being able to live his dream, without having his dream blocked by fear. As he became clearer about his values, he realized they were so strong that he was willing to accept the fear and courageously do what he needed to do anyway. It was difficult at first, but an awareness of his values kept him going. With the help of his therapist, he began driving greater and greater distances, and then flying on trips that were increasingly further from home.

When we last heard from Jerry, he was a valued employee of a large corporation, spending much of his time traveling in China on business, and having the time of his life. He was living his dream – largely possible because of embracing core values and pursuing a values-based vision.

e. I am able to use my awareness of vulnerability as a guide. I am aware that fear and anxiety can get in the way of honoring present values, and avoidance of unwelcome pain can lead to much greater difficulties through my life not being fully lived. Throughout my day, I am able to move in a valued direction despite increased vulnerability, fear, or anxiety. I am able to use my awareness of vulnerability as a guide. I am able to "feel the fear and do it anyway."

We recommend Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers PhD. Speaking of her own experience, Dr. Jeffers said:

As long as I continued to push out into the world, as long as I continued to stretch my capabilities, as long as I continued to take new risks in making my dreams come true, I was going to experience fear. What a revelation!”

She goes on to make the point that there is only one way to get rid of or reduce fear, and that’s actively doing something about it. Not only will direct action reduce fear, but it’s a great way to feel better about yourself. Also, it’s important to accept that fear is normal and that other people experience it as well.

Don’t waste energy denying your fear or anxiety. Accept it! Label it. The moment you can say to yourself: “Okay, I’m feeling anxiety,” you’ve taken the first step in managing it. The next step is choosing to do something effective about the fear or anxiety. The central theme of Mindful Choice 6 is making those choices “values-based.” Basing your decisions and behaviors on your values is the stuff of acting courageously vs. feeling paralyzed by fear and self-doubt.

f. I Have an Awareness of “Full” Values. To be considered a “full” value, something must be chosen freely, chosen from among alternatives, chosen after due reflection, prized and cherished, publicly affirmed, repeatedly acted upon, and consistent with other values. I am aware of a number of things in my life that meet these criteria.

Sidney Simon, author of Values Clarification: a Practical Action-Directed Workbook, discusses the above criteria for a “full value.” Anything not meeting all seven criteria is a “value-indicator,” and not a full value. For example, if you say you value health and fitness but eat junk food and rarely exercise, it’s not a full value. If you say that the most important thing in your life is your children, yet you are rarely home and when you are at home, you’re too tired to interact with them, it’s not a full value. If you’ve automatically adopted the values of others, but never reflected on those values or thought about alternatives, they are probably not full values. If you say you value democracy, but haven’t voted in years, it’s not a full value.

Having value-indicators is a good thing, but not the same thing as living full values. You are a work in progress, and hopefully you are discovering clear and strong values for living your life. According to Sidney Simon:

When we realize the extent to which values guide our lives – consciously or unconsciously – it’s understandable that people with few values tend to be apathetic, conforming, inconsistent, and what psychologists often call ambivalent. The less we understand about values, the more confused our lives are. The more we understand about values, the more able we are to make satisfactory choices and take appropriate action.”

g. My Choices and Actions Are Based on My Values. I’m able to use awareness of my values to make satisfactory choices and take appropriate values-consistent action.

Of course you make values-based decisions, but are you consistent? Cultivating mindful awareness helps you moment by moment, throughout your day, avoiding being reactive or defensive, or making choices on the basis of fear or negative self-talk. Would you say that your actions are generally values-consistent?

h. I Find Strength through My Values. I’m aware that my values give me the courage to say what has to be said and take the actions that need to be taken.

Again quoting Sidney Simon:

The person who has clarified his or her values will perform, independent, consistent, and decisive ‘acts of courage’ – not necessarily dramatic, much-publicized feats of heroism, but rather acts based on the courage to say what has to be said, to do what needs to be done.”

You may not think of yourself as a courageous person, but you will surprise yourself in how much courage you can muster up when your actions are values-based. Typically, the clients we treat for anxiety have difficulty being assertive or dealing with conflict. Difficult interpersonal situations generally create stress and anxiety, and the typical response is avoidance. However, avoiding the source of stress and anxiety simply leads to increased stress and anxiety. Being clear on your values, such as a valuing having a perfect right to tell people what you think, feel, want, like, or dislike, can give you the courage and confidence to take a stand and “tell it like it is.” This is a powerful and direct way to build self-confidence, self acceptance, and a positive identity.

i. My Priorities are Determined by My Values. When I have to make decisions between competing choices, or need to establish priorities, I am guided by knowing what I freely choose based upon personal preferences and values.

Decisions and choices can be quite confusing. Often what you want in the short-term, or what seems expedient or less painful right now, is inconsistent with other things you see as important in the longer term.

It’s helpful to know the difference between goals and values. Goals are about milestones, things you achieve and can then cross off your list. A value can’t be a check mark on your “to do” list. A value is ongoing, and something you live by day in and day out. For example, getting married is a goal, something you can check off your list of the really important events you want in your life. Loving your partner however is an ongoing process, and hopefully a deeply held value.

This gives real meaning to the promise to love “until death do us part.” We believe love is a verb. It’s an action based upon a value. If it’s a strong value you will choose to love your partner during good times and bad times – and there will be bad times. You choose to love your partner anyway if it’s a strong deeply held value.

Similarly, dealing with many life situations is much simpler if you’re coming from a position of being clear on your values, values you have freely chosen. If for example you are clear on choosing and valuing strong positive relationships, you might be less inclined to react defensively or destructively. You might be more inclined to try to balance your needs with the needs of the other and to remain connected in a calm, nonreactive, nondefensive, open and willing to learn manner. You might be more motivated to seek solutions such as counseling, rather than abandoning the relationship.

j. I Find Meaning and Balance, and Self-Acceptance Through My Values. Knowing about my values, knowing what I freely choose, cherish, affirm, and act upon, gives my life meaning and helps me know and appreciate who I am.

Want to build a strong positive identity? Do you want to have a solid understanding of who you are? Let values be your guide.

The less you understand your values, the more likely it is that you will be confused about who you are as a person. Not knowing yourself means you will make more unsatisfactory choices, avoid acts of courage, and perform more actions that are inappropriate or ineffective.

Values clarification directly contributes to self-worth and identity. It is only through knowing your values that you know who you are, what you want to live for, or what, if necessary, you would be willing to die for.

Connect with and Live Your Deepest Values Discussion

There are three key words associated with values: choosing, prizing, and acting. These words can be further differentiated into the seven criteria that Sidney Simon states must be met for a value to be a full value and not a value-indicator.

PRIZING

  • Chosen freely
  •  Chosen from among alternatives

CHOOSING

  • Chosen after due reflection
  • Prized and cherished
  •  Publicly affirmed

ACTING

  • Acted upon, repeatedly
  •  Consistent with your other values

Values clarification is the process of sorting out and clarifying what you believe to be important. Values are individual and subject to change. We demonstrate values by the way we live and the way we spend our time, money, and energy.

We would like you to consider adopting our Mindful Choices as values, but it is important to emphasize that values are freely chosen. We believe strongly in our Mindful Choices, but these are merely what our experience has led us to believe are the choices underlying a happy and satisfying life. Please note that these are merely our suggestions for you to reflect on, weigh the alternatives, and freely choose – or don’t choose. We are simply providing options for you to consider, options that may constitute embracing new values. It is imperative however that values be freely chosen.

Do the Mindful Choices constitute a set of values? We believe they do. Our ten Mindful Choices are:

  • Mindful Choice One: Breath Awareness and Retraining
  • Mindful Choice Two: Begin and End Your Day Peacefully
  • Mindful Choice Three: Mindful Eating; Balance Mind and Body and Connect With Your Life
  • Mindful Choice Four: Staying Present; Cultivating Mindfulness
  • Mindful Choice Five: Engage in Self-Reflection and Deal with Negative Self-Talk and Distorted Thinking
  • Mindful Choice Six: Connect with and Live Your Deepest Values; Purpose, Meaning and Balance
  • Mindful Choice Seven: Intentional Relating
  • Mindful Choice Eight: Physical Activity: Fitness, Health and Mindful Movement
  • Mindful Choice Nine: Developing and using your Mindful Choices toolkit
  •  Mindful Choice Ten: Self-Acceptance and Self-Compassion

Looking at the same ten choices as sets of values gives us the following:

  • Mindful Choice One: Calm and focused
  • Mindful Choice Two: Calm and peaceful days
  • Mindful Choice Three: Enjoying food, connecting With Life
  • Mindful Choice Four: Staying present, mindfulness
  • Mindful Choice Five: Awareness and defusion skills
  • Mindful Choice Six: Lived Values; Purpose, Meaning, Balance
  • Mindful Choice Seven: Great relationships
  • Mindful Choice Eight: Active lifestyle
  • Mindful Choice Nine: Tools for mindful living
  •  Mindful Choice Ten: Self-Acceptance and Self-Compassion

Thinking of the Mindful Choices as sets of values, how do they stack up against Sidney Simon’s criteria for full values?

  • 1. Are you proud of (do you prize or cherish) your position?
  • 2. Have you publicly affirmed your position?
  • 3. Have you chosen your position from alternatives?
  • 4. Have you chosen your position after thoughtful consideration of the pros and cons and consequences?
  • 5. Have you chosen your position freely?
  • 6. Have you acted on or done anything about your beliefs?
  •  7. Have you acted with repetition, pattern, or consistency on this issue?

We maintain that adopting the ten Mindful Choices as values will profoundly affect the quality of your life. We also anticipate considerable resistance to doing so. Past learning, long-held beliefs and attitudes, automatic thinking and unpleasant emotions, coupled with negative or inaccurate self-talk, often gets in the way. Being clear on your values gives you the power to make great choices and build great habits. Consider the following Mindful Choices Model:

Mindful Choices Model


We respond to events or situations, but we perceive those events through a filter of past learning, beliefs, and attitudes. We add thoughts, feelings, and images associated with the situation and add self talk that is sometimes distorted or even irrational. Yes, each of us can be irrational. Being human means we all have the tendency to deny, distort, or falsify reality on a fairly regular basis, and particularly when we perceive things to be threatening to our well-being or sense of self. What if you add an awareness of your values to the equation?

Often, we are on autopilot, responding in a stereotypical way, and not realizing that our stress, anxiety, and depression often results from “cognitive fusion” with automatic negative self talk.

Russ Harris in ACT Made Simple, a primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, states: “Cognitive fusion basically means that our thoughts dominate our behavior.” In cognitive fusion there is no separation between thoughts and self, and thoughts are seen as the absolute truth or commands that have to be obeyed. Defusion on the other hand means seeing thoughts as only thoughts, something your mind is telling you that may or may not be true. A thought is only a thought and not a command that has to be obeyed. A thought in and of itself is not a threat. What if your thoughts also include mindful awareness of values?

The most important part of the following chart is the space where defusion of negative self talk within the context of mindful awareness takes place. Once you are able to tell yourself that you are noticing that your mind is telling you certain things, things that may be hurtful or impractical, you are in a position to make values-based choices.

The chart illustrates not separating yourself from your thoughts, and being so caught up in automatic negative thoughts and self talk that destructive or ineffective choices may be made, choices that in turn reinforce old perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors. Values-based choices are blocked.

Antiplot model


Tips for Improvement: The Short list

  •  You will find a number of excellent values clarification videos of varying lengths on YouTube. Set aside some time to watch several of them. Take notes. Look for insights on how this information can be useful in your own life.
  •  Consider reading the classic values clarification book entitled Values Clarification; A Practical Action-Directed Workbook by Sidney Simon. This is a perennially popular and classic 1972 book that continues to be revised and reprinted and is probably the best guide available to discovering your truest feelings, beliefs, and goals.
  •  Take a sheet of paper and write down 25 things that you enjoy doing. If your list is shorter or longer, that’s okay. Just put some thought into identifying as many things as you can that you love to do. Are you doing these things currently? If not, why not? Can you see a relationship with your values?
  •  Consider Journaling as described in the Choice 9 Action Planning Guide. This is an excellent technique for sharpening your awareness of your values, and increasing the likelihood of living those values on a daily basis. You might choose to journal daily on Choices 6 topics.
  •  You will find an abundance of material relevant to becoming more aware of your values in the resource material at the end of this chapter.
  •  Re-take your Choice 6 self-test daily if Choice 6 was rated as “Needs Attention,” or “Urgent Attention Needed,” and you are choosing to focus on this area. The self-test should be taken each morning looking back on the preceding 24 hours. Focus on steadily improving your score to the “Good,” or “Optimal” levels. If other areas are more important, we recommend that you focus first on those areas, reassessing Choice 6 approximately every four weeks.

If you find yourself running into difficulty, you might try answering the following questions:

Mindful Choice 6 Personal Development Worksheet

Step 1: Identify a foundational value, or values. In other words, why is this Mindful Choice important to me? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

Step 2: How would I describe my present Choice 6 performance?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 3: In regard to living my values, what is the behavior I want to change?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 4: What is my personal vision for Mindful Choice 6? Imagining some point in the future. What Do I see myself doing in regard to Mindful Choice 6?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 5: What do I hope to get from Mindful Choice 6?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 6: To pursue Mindful Choice 6 to the point that I am more consistently living my values, how will I have to be in ways that might constitute a major stretch for me? Do I need a new way of being that would constitute a paradigm shift? Are there radically different ways of being (thinking, feeling, acting) that contribute to doing Mindful Choice 5 and getting what I want to get?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 7: In regard to Mindful Choice 6, How will I have to act on a daily or ongoing basis so that I wind up doing what I want to do, and getting what I want to get, and being the way I want to be? How do I have to discipline myself to have consistent, routine, and well practiced daily or ongoing actions that steadily contribute to the results I really want and value in my life?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 8: What are the barriers such as negative self talk or lack of time that might prevent me from reaching my Mindful Choice 6 goals?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 9: Who will be helpful or supportive in my Mindful Choice 6 change efforts?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 10: How will I be rewarded while I am accomplishing the changes I desire?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 11: how important is this to me on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely important? How might I sabotage the plan, or allow others to sabotage the plan?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 12: I am committing to the following SMART goal (Specific as to actions I will take, Meaningful and in alignment with my values, Adaptive in that I strongly believe my life will be improved, Realistic and achievable, and Time-framed with specific time dedicated).

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Journaling

Always begin journaling by calming and centering yourself. We strongly suggest utilizing the Three Deep Breaths Thomas Crum writes about. If you haven’t already done so, we also suggest you focus specifically on Breath Awareness and Retraining for at least 30 consecutive days, and do your breathing practice concurrent with journaling.

Here’s a suggestion for getting started journaling about Mindful Choice 6. Take 15 minutes and write on the theme of “Living My Values. Just get into free association, writing down whatever comes to mind. Try to keep writing for the entire 15 minutes. Don’t worry about editing, spelling, grammar, or sentence structure. Don’t judge what you have written. This is for you alone. Tomorrow, pick up the theme and continue writing for another 15 minutes. Continue this process for at least the next 10 days, then review for insights that are helpful to you in turning away from negative self-talk and beliefs.

What’s the pay off? You’ll find yourself becoming more aware and paying more attention to values throughout your day. Increasingly, you will find yourself eavesdropping on your choices, aware of whether your choices are values-driven, or simply a matter of choosing a theory what is the city Beacon press publishing is located in the only option is the primary means treating the family found that no alternatives in front of you in the moment. You will discover that you can freely choose to embrace more positive and useful values, in the process finding these choices to be key to living a life of balance and meaning.

Further Reading

Frankl, V. (2006). Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Jeffers, S. (2007). Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway: Dynamic Techniques for Turning Fear, Indecision and Anger into Power, Action and Love. Santa Monica, CA: Jeffers Press.

Keeney, R. (1996). Value-Focused Thinking: A Path to Creative Decision-Making. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.

Robbins, R. (1992). Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny. Tampa, FL: Free Press Publishing Company.

Simon, S. (1993).In Search of Values: 31 Strategies for Finding out What Really Matters Most to You. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.

Simon, S. (1995). Values Clarification: A Practical Action-Directed Workbook. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.

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