Realigning with Our Values


This time of year is special as we both reflect on the past and look ahead to the future. What did we learn about ourselves, including our strengths and shadows? What changes did we make that give us an increased sense of hope? Where do we want to go from here? 

We can ask ourselves these questions any time of year, but the turning of the calendar year naturally lends itself towards meaningful reflections and conversations.

Instead of jumping to establishing new goals (e.g., new year resolutions), a more effective way to focus our year-end reflections is to consider our values and assess how closely our lives align with them. In accordance with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), by values I mean “global qualities of ongoing action” that point us towards the lives we would want to live if nothing were standing in our way. They are the kinds of phrases we would like written on our epitaphs (i.e., “She loved her friends and family with patience and kindness”; “He played music with joy and creativity”’; “She led her business with self-awareness and generosity”).

Some of us have not paused to reflect on what we truly value in different domains of our lives, which can lead towards a feeling of lostness or “going through the motions”. Others of us know what we want in life, but we find ourselves getting off track due to our avoidance of difficult thoughts and feelings, addictions, and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves and the world. This can be quite frustrating, disheartening, and shame-inducing. 

It is only human to drift away from values, but perhaps the most truly human thing we can do is carefully assess them and take intentional action towards realigning with them. With an increased awareness of our values and what keeps us from living them out, we can better navigate life and approach the potential and purpose that we long for. 

Exploring Your Relationship with Alcohol

Substance Abuse

Sometimes it is helpful to conceptualize alcohol as a person with whom we have a relationship. Many heavy drinkers and people in recovery are already accustomed to thinking about alcohol in this way. It is not uncommon to hear people say things like, “Alcohol was my constant companion, until it turned against me”. Think about the Brad Paisley country song titled, “Alcohol”. 

Much like we evaluate the people in our lives and the ways we are shaped by them, we can do the same with alcohol. For many casual drinkers, alcohol is like an acquaintance whose company is enjoyable, but life would not be disrupted if they moved to another city. We rarely take time to reflect on the nature of our relationships with these people, and we certainly don’t anticipate ever experiencing conflicts with them. 

Others have built more of an intimate friendship with alcohol over the years. You got into some trouble together during the college years, but these days the friendship is conducive to the responsibilities, goals, and values that you carry with you in life. 

And yet for others, alcohol is like a secret lover with whom they only relate behind closed doors. For them, alcohol has taken priority over the things they truly care about the most: their marriage, spirituality, and career. Perhaps this secret lover has even showed up to their workplace unannounced. 

Maybe I have overextended the metaphor a bit, but I hope my point has been clear: We can all benefit from taking a moment to reflect on the nature of our relationship with alcohol. Many people have taken decisive action to change their relationship with alcohol, and you can too if you are not satisfied with your current relationship.