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December 7, 2021

Prepare and Plan for 2022 by Clarifying Your Values

Written by Dr. Gia Marson

It’s not too early to set yourself up for success in the new year by revisiting what’s most important to you.

Before we know it, 2022 will be here, and a new year is a great opportunity to take stock and make plans for how you want the next year to be.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.”
—Carl Rogers

While new year’s resolutions can be hard to live up to, revisiting your values is an excellent way to set yourself up for the months ahead.

What are values?

Values are the core beliefs that guide each of us in how we act, and they underlie how we think. They’re essentially the compass we follow. They can take us in the direction of who we want to be, how we want to treat people, and how we want to respond to situations.

When we operate in tune with our values, they can act as a mental shortcut that allows us to quickly make decisions and judgments in our best interest. Values can be so inherent that we can make decisions based on them without realizing it.

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them over everything you do.”
—Elvis Presley

Values vary from person to person and from time to time, based on a variety of factors. You may have established some values from your family, others from friends later in life, or perhaps from a defining event in your life. From wherever your values originated, they can have a profound effect on how you move and act in life.

How to clarify your values

Research tells us that establishing values can improve our relationships with others, boost our health, and help reduce stress. That’s because clear values can guide us in establishing a strong sense of self.

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”
—Roy Disney

This values-clarification exercise can help you become more aware of what’s important to you. Gaining insight into your values in this way can ensure that you’re living up to the standards you’ve set for yourself. And if you’re not entirely sure what your values are, this exercise can shed light on them.

1. Read the following list of common values and add more if you notice this list missing other values that are important to you. It can help to review things you’ve done, people you’ve interacted with over the past month, times when you’ve felt especially positive and other times when you’ve been disappointed. Your emotions and behaviors offer insight into what you care about.

Acceptance Focus Loyalty
Commitment Friendship Maturity
Community Fun Open-mindedness
Compromising Generosity Optimism
Confidence Gratitude Patience
Courage Hard Work Perseverance
Curiosity Honesty Respect
Determination Humility Responsibility
Empathy Integrity Spirituality
Faith Kindness Trust
Fairness Knowledge Truth
Family Leadership  

2. Grab a notebook or sheet of paper and copy all the values that are important to you. It’s okay if the list is long.

3. Now circle the values that are very important to you.

4. Reread your circled values and add any missing values that you consider to be very important too. Circle them as well.

5. Now consider the 5 most important values. Place a star next to them.

6. Start a new list by ranking the 5 starred values from 1 to 5, with number 1 being your top value.

Are your actions aligned with your top 5 values?

Reread your ranked list of values. Think about whether your actions over the past year have aligned with your values.

If your actions and values are in alignment, then you’re on the right path for the start of 2022; keep doing what you’re doing!

If you find that most of your actions are not coordinating with your top values, then you may want to consider some changes. Refer to your list of important values when faced with taking action, making decisions, or setting goals; a reminder of what’s important to you can help you feel more confident when moving through life.

What is the difference between values and goals?

It’s easy to confuse values and goals. Yet, it’s important to know the difference, especially when planning for the future.

While goals might be targets that we want to hit, such as eating more vegetables, values are the principles behind how we act, including how we act when we work toward a goal, such as being healthy when we eat fewer veggies than we’d planned for.

Goals are binary. You either achieve them ✅ or you don’t ❎.

You can’t achieve a value because it exists on a continuum ↔️, but you can move in the direction of one and live your life in line with it ➡️.

Establish goals based on your values

“When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, ‘Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again’—my gut reaction is, ‘What a badass.’ ”
—Brene Brown

While goals and values are different, you can pair your goals to your values. Setting goals based on your values can help you to act in accordance with your values. For example, if generosity is an important value for you, then set goals around it. You could have a goal to donate your time to charity or buy coffee for a friend once a week.

Clarifying your values now will help you to set intentions and plan your actions for next year. Make 2022 a year based on values that are important to you, so that you are continually working toward being the person you want to be.


Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 333–371.

Kelly, M. P., Heath, I., Howick, J., & Greenhalgh, T. (2015). The importance of values in evidence-based medicine. BMC Medical Ethics, 16(1), 69.

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