I am teaching a 4-week class at the Cancer Community Center in South Portland, Maine, called Create Your Purpose-Full Life After Cancer. I have met twice so far with the most wonderful group of people! We have been exploring our core values, and next we will create attainable goals from our values.
Sometimes people set goals they want to achieve, but have not done the preliminary thinking about their values, and then end up not taking action toward the goals. (We’ve all been guilty of this, of course!) In doing the preliminary work of getting in touch with core values, we can make our goals more meaningful, and therefore be more motivated to reach them.
Values can be a misunderstood word. People can tend to equate “values” with “morals.” But the kind of values I teach about aren’t necessarily morals at all, but more about what you value most. Values are statements about what matters to you, what’s most important. They are statements about what we want to stand for and how we want to relate to the world around us. They are statements about how we want to be or behave on an ongoing basis.
There are no “right” or “wrong” values in this case. I’ve heard values being likened to taste in pizza. I don’t happen to care for pepperoni, but that doesn’t mean pepperoni is “wrong.” (You might love pepperoni pizza.) I might love pineapple and ham on my pizza, but that doesn’t make it “right;” it just makes it my preference. (You might not touch it!) People could argue all day on what is the “best” pizza to have, and in the end there would in reality not be a winner. It is personal preference only. And so it is with these kinds of values.
Some people value being a compassionate, understanding friend. Some value being a loving spouse or partner. Some value being a stable, responsible parent. Some people may value adventure and risk-taking, while others value stability and responsibility. Some may value autonomy and independence while others value interdependence and closeness with others. None of these are right or wrong, just very individual. And furthermore, you may have certain values in one area of life, like work/career, and have very different values in your home life or with friends.
In exploring our values we can put language around what gives our life a sense of purpose and meaning. We can use our values to guide our actions on an ongoing basis.
When we go through life guided by our values, we gain an understanding that we can have a rich, fulfilling life, even though bad things happen or have happened. (And I know everyone reading this has had at least one “bad thing” happen in their lifetime…)
After a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be an important time for many people to re-assess how they want to move forward in their lives, and exploring values can be a great starting point.
What are your values?
Side Note: I tried to re-write the section above about pizza to be about vegetables, but it just didn’t have the same effect.
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Photo Credit: Puck777 via flickr