Hi to all Careboxy readers! In previous article, we have talked about our mind attachments and self observation. In this article, we will be talking about how we can go from suffering to a vital and meaningful life.
In book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl stated that even in tremendous suffering, there is opportunity to find meaning and vitality. Therefore, any pain should not avoid us to have meaningful life. People on concentration camps had freedom to choose suffering or meaningful life. They attached to a purpose. That’s why their suffering didn’t make stuck even in such destructive environment to their bodies and minds.
In our daily life, we can be isolated by our anxious ideas, we can feed these ideas and make them bigger. In the end, we can have suffering and being away from valued and meaningful life. In previous anxiety articles, we have mentioned about acceptance to our suffering and detachment from our thoughts-emotions. Acceptance, cognitive defusion and being present clear the path for a more vital, values consistent life. Vitality means a sense of being alive and embracing each moment even if it’s painful.
Here’s a breakdown of what we’ll cover:
♥VITALITY VS SUFFERING
♥OUR VALUES ARE OUR COMPASS TO VITAL LIFE
♥WHAT ARE MY VALUES?
♥COMMON PROBLEMS WITH VALUES and VALUED DIRECTIONS
VITALITY VS SUFFERING
Now we can think about our vitality and suffering moments. We can see difference between them. There is a exercise in book “ACT Made Simple” called Vitality vs Suffering Diary. With these exercise, you can see clearly that which way you are choosing in your every moment of discomfort. You have 3 columns side by side
- In first column, you should write, what do you experience today as
- Painful thoughts
- In 2nd column, you should write whether these feelings and thoughts enriched your life and helped to make a value consistent action
- In 3rd column, you should write whether these feelings and thoughts made you stuck or restricted your life, worsen your health,wealth, love or relationship.
- You can do it for now as a weekly if you don’t have so many discomfort and avoidance moments. If your behavior is helpful to your vitality and consistent with your values, you can write to your vitality side. My example would be
- Painful urges/sensation: I felt heart bumps when i wanted to speak in big meeting. I made a small talk because i avoid my discomfort.
- Vitality: i didn’t have any effort for this.
- Suffering: I didn’t talk much that i needed. I value my career and company. Therefore this avoidance behavior wasn’t helpful for me, i was also regretful of this behavior. This regret made me have extra bitterness
Now it is your turn. Aware of your anxiety sufferings instead of valued life. What did you experience in this year or month to write for this exercise?
OUR VALUES ARE OUR COMPASS TO VITAL LIFE
Now let’s think differently about your life. You can go to the end of your life and imagine an epitaph of yours.
Now write to any paper:
- What do you dream of about this epitaph?
- What do you hear from people around your epitaph?
- How many person do you want to impact ?
- What kind of person do you want to be in the end?
Stephen Covey clearly stated in his famous book principle of “Begin with the end in mind”. If we don’t have any effort to visualize what we want to be in our life, we empower other circumstances to shape our life. Therefore we can use our values and dreams as “an end in mind “. Our visualization about epitaph can help us to be in correct and valued direction. Otherwise, our thoughts and emotions will create foggy road and we as driver can not go to correct and vital direction.
Each time we are struggling with our anxiety we are making ourselves stuck in a suffering life. We are being regretful because of our avoidances. With trying to control our anxiety we are feeding the anxiety. Now it’s time to turn our direction from struggling to valued direction. We can sit at driver seat and just smile what our anxious thoughts&feelings yell or say to us from back seats. The direction is : VALUES!.
WHAT ARE MY VALUES?
Let’s explore our ultimate direction. Values are what we care truly in our life. Values are not beliefs, morals or what we believe is right or wrong. If we have beliefs but we don’t have any expression or action about it, it is not a value. For example, you care about your physical appearance. However you don’t do anything to make you fit. You ignore your diet and trainings. It is not a value of yourself. Let’s imagine you care your social relationships, but you don’t try to talk with anyone because of your discomfort feelings and thoughts, you would be stuck at home.
Now we think about finding our values. This is not a test to see whether you have correct values. Also these values can change in our life of periods. The important thing we should define our compasses in our life. Therefore we can choose our direction through values not through feeding our anxiety. We can see our way in a foggy road. Now think values below in those areas and write 2-3 sentences for them. What are your dreams about these areas and what is your ideal self if you don’t have any barrier on these areas?
Please write to paper your sentences without your thought&feeling barriers or another external (money/time etc) barriers.
- Intimate relationships: How would you interact with others if you were the ideal you in these relationships?
- Friends/social life: What kind of friendships would you like to build?
- Career/Entrepreneurship: What kind of work/school make you more meaningful?
- Physical well being: What do you care about your physique? What do you want to spend time most? What do you dream of?
- Spirituality: What is important to you in this area of life?
- Recreation/fun: What sorts of activities would you like to do?
- Community life: What environments would you like to spend more time in?
- Education/personal growth and development: what kind of things do you want to learn? Which skills do you always dream of? What personal qualities do you want to improve?
- Family/parenting:: How would you behave if you were the ‘ideal you’?
Now it is time to prioritize between these values and see your success or vitality in this area. Let’s create a 5 column sheet on your paper or excel.
- In first column, you can write areas that we mentioned above.
- Then write your value on that domain as valued direction and in a brief sentence.
- Write your valued intentions, what is your intention about these values, what is your first actions you think about if you act on these value? Write some first action steps.
- Rate this value area importance in 0-5.
- Write your actions rating as No-Sometimes-Yes
- Write Y-yes If you have taking actions for this area and you are sure that you are always going through your valued direction,
- Write S- sometimes: If you have sometimes taking actions and you don’t have satisfaction about these actions . Moreover, you are having some discomfort when you are trying to make any actions.
- Write N-no if you are stuck in this area. You are avoiding these area because of your anxiety. You have always excuses in your mind and did not take any action.
Write your barriers if you are not satisfied about your actions, you can write your emotional barriers, thought or sensation barriers. What is your barrier when you think about valued intention?
Let’s do a sample one row. Let’s say we have social phobia. We are in career value domain. We want to be a manager and this domain is highly important for us. But we are sometimes taking action for that and we are not satisfied. We also have typical excuses as barriers.
|Domain Importance (0-5)||Actions (N-S-Y)||Barriers|
|Career||Managerial job and good speaker leader||Giving presentations
Taking leadership courses
|5||S||What if i make failure when i speak, i am unworthy about this job,
I don’t have skills for managing.
It is normal that you can’t fill this table in 5 minutes, maybe you can update in a week, but it is worth it. This sheet will clear about your direction in your life. It will clear the path when you are stuck with your feelings&thoughts. Our thoughts&emotions are not always our helpful friends, therefore we are using values as compasses.
It is also normal if you have struggling to have a clear sense of barriers. When you think about your barriers, think this way
- Think your valued direction and your values
- What is your first intention to go to this value. For example, my value is being active with kids. My first step intention is going outside with kids.
- When you are thinking about this intention
- Think and write
- What is your first excuse/barrier/feeling it comes to your mind?
- It can be a thought,image, sensations, feeling or urge
- It can be a thought of “I will have panic attack outside”
- That thought is your barrier
- Think and write
- We also have added exercise for “Identifying Barriers”. You can have this detailed exercise in our CHATBOT APP.
COMMON PROBLEMS WITH VALUES and VALUED DIRECTIONS
1. I don’t have any values
Sometimes we are stopping to action in any area of our life. Since we are stuck in anxiety, we are thinking that we can’t value any area of life. When you are thinking your values, do not think its achievability. Think about how much you care about this area. Think about what you truly care about these area. Of course, these questions take time to clear in your mind too. Have patient when filling these exercises.
As a sample, sometimes our pain reveals our values. Our voids shapes our values. I had a social phobia but i was caring my social relationship and being with friends. When i had that anxious discomfort in social environment, i had been avoiding. However these avoidance made me away from my values. We should not think of achievability on your valued area. With time you will have right skills to have peace with anxiety and it will change your look to your life.
2. Choose the value that makes you alive and vital
Choose a value that you can persistently take action. When you have feeling of discomfort or excuses, you can still go in that direction. It must be giving you a purpose and inner strength.
3. Don’t confuse a goal with value
When realizing our values, we are taking actions. We are defining our goals to take actions. If values are compass , goals are way-point on map.
Goals are ended process while values are our journey. If you care being fit, it is a value. But the value is not losing 10 pounds. Goals are steps to our valued directions.
4. Action-less values are not values
Valuing something also means that you are acting on that. If i value social interactions although i have social phobia, i need to also take action to meet strangers or make presentations in public or another action.
As summary, we have talked about our values and why they are important for us. Finding our values is important step in our life to go with anxiety but we need a secondary step for that moment. We need to take action with a concrete goals to have a meaningful life although we can have some emotions&thoughts that can make discomfort in us. We need to take action steps on our valued areas. Therefore we need to choose our areas to get actions . We will mention goal setting in next articles.
You can also use our free Anxiety Chatbot app to have a guide on your anxiety life journey.
This app provides exercises for you to be manager of your life and have peace with anxiety.
Values Assessment Rating Form, Russ Harris
VALUES WORKSHEET (Adapted from Kelly Wilson’s Valued Living Questionnaire)
ACT MADE SİMPLE, Russ Harris Page 73