Getting in touch with your values for the New Year

Jan 2, 2017

By Rebecca Aptekar, PsyD

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question often asked of children.  Ask a Silicon Valley Millennial, and you might find them fumbling for an answer. A better question might be “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”

In a place where 25-year-olds are becoming CEOs and friends are making millions, it’s easy for someone not on that rocket ship ride to success to feel pain, anxiety, and doubt. There are opportunities around each corner — which one should you choose in order to be the most successful? Is that the same choice that will make you feel the most fulfilled? If you find yourself struggling with these issues, the New Year is a great time to examine your values and figure out what’s important to you.

These questions crop up regularly for those who don’t have clarity on how they want to live. In fact, all of us struggle with this at different points in our lives. That clarity could be absent for one of many reasons:  perhaps you chose the wrong path after college and aren’t sure how to get off of it, or perhaps you want to make a change but aren’t sure what change to make.

“The best way to solve this feeling of “stuckness” is for you to get in touch with what’s most important to you: your values.”

Your ego may be controlling what you think you “should” do versus what you want to do.  In Silicon Valley high-tech (and really everywhere), you’ll feel the most stuck when you can’t access your inner compass and don’t know what’s ultimately going to create your most meaningful life.

The best way to solve this feeling of “stuckness” is for you to get in touch with what’s most important to you: your values.

When you choose your direction based on your values, you’re more calm and more confident — and it shows. To figure out how you can become more engaged with your job, and to find your purpose regardless of your job, your path is clear:  you need to get in touch with your values.  So, how do you identify them?

Three suggestions to help you identify your values:

Write your own epitaph.
If you were gone tomorrow, what would you leave behind? How would you be remembered? Write about the type of person you were. What did you stand for in life? List your accomplishments. Mention people you helped. Identify the main challenge that life posed to you. How did you respond?

Wave a magic wand.
Assume you have approval of everyone on the planet, regardless of what you do. All people love and respect you, whether you are a CEO or a slacker. What, then, would you do with your life? How would you treat others?

Imagine your 80th birthday.  
Two or three people make speeches about what you have stood for and about what you mean to them. If you lived your life as the person you want to be, what would you hear them saying?

When you employ these exercises and use them to hone in on your values, it is likely that the results will have significance in your personal life as well. What personal qualities or strengths do you show your best at work and throughout your life? What is important to you in interacting with your colleagues? What values are so fundamental that you would hold them regardless of whether or not they were rewarded?


If you feel stuck, and don’t know how to navigate through it, we can provide you with the tools you need. If Lyra is offered by your employer, you can get started today. Sign up now.

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DISCLAIMER: The  content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Rebecca Aptekar, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in using acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and other evidence based therapies. At Lyra, she manages clinical programs, develops content for workshops, and conducts therapy for high-tech employees.