How to Use a "Values Clarification Exercise" to Find Purpose & Meet Goals

Today’s world is fast-changing and dynamic – it seems that these days, nothing is what we expect it to be. So how are we supposed to make any decisions in this current state of mind? One way is to turn to your values: The guiding forces behind our thoughts and behaviors, those that are asynchronously stable.

By becoming aware of your values and embracing them as your source of truth and authenticity, you can clarify your goals and purpose, and answer any outstanding questions about what is right or wrong for you.

What is a values clarification exercise?

A values clarification exercise is a practice often found in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Completing a values clarification exercise is a great way to make any unconscious values explicit, which not only helps you in decision-making of identity-finding but also helps others (like your therapist!) support you by letting them know what’s important to you.

This exercise holds up a magnifying glass to what you believe in with your whole heart, what’s dominant in your choices, and what’s essential to have in your life.

Here's when values clarification exercises can help

Values clarification exercises are helpful at any point, but are especially powerful during times of life transition, confusion about decisions, or personal and professional burnout.

Some examples of sticking points that values clarification exercises might help with are the following:

Download Your Free Values Clarification Worksheet

1. Identify your goals

A great place to start for a values clarification exercise is to identify your goal(s). With what purpose are you starting this exercise? What do you hope to achieve by the end of the values clarification exercise?

Figuring out your goal will help focus the practice and help you get the most out of it. Some example goals include:

After you’ve picked a goal and set your intention, it’s now time to find out what your values are!

2. Identify your values

There are many different types of values clarification exercises, most of which include a written component to further reflection.

Once extremely helpful exercise is to list out all of your top values or circle values that are important to you out of a large list. Values could include things like the following: Family, loyalty, social justice, achievement, independence, beauty, health, art, expression, creativity, diversity, fairness, freedom, friendship, nature, and pleasure.

From here, explore why these values are important to you. Ask yourself questions like:

Next, try journal about these values in action. While the exercise is to identify your values, the more time spent reflecting on why those are your values and what they look like in your daily life will clarify your beliefs and boost your understanding of yourself. This understanding, in turn, can give you a few ideas about how to meet your goal.

3. Marry your goals to your values

After you’ve decided on your goals and explored what values are important to you, it’s now time to marry your goals to your values.

Ask yourself:

These ideas can be written out in a journal, thought about over an extended amount of time, discussed with friends, family, or your therapist. Some people thrive on a “homework” assignment meant to be introspective about values, others find the same answers from focusing their mind and thoughts on the topic.

However this looks for you, completing a values clarification exercise is a great way to use your truths to guide your decisions and maintain the ever-important authenticity of knowing yourself and being yourself.