Iris Mini: Defining Values

“Be a living expression of your values; wear them, speak them, make decisions aligned with them.” – Anonymous

Many people find it helpful when coping with cancer-related stressors and life changes to spend focused time realigning themselves with their values. You can get so involved with the demands of life and cancer that you almost “forget” what is important to you.

The first part of reconnecting with your values is to identify what is important to you. This resource will provide you with some tips on how to examine what is important to you. Sometimes the experience of cancer can clarify what is most important and what values act as guides in your life.

Think of your goals as a lighthouse that you are sailing toward and your values as a compass that directs your way. There are many things that can take the boat off course, but you always have your compass to help navigate your path.

You can still express values even when facing aspects of your life you can’t control. They are at the core of who you are, and you can express them in many ways.

Help to Define Values

Think about your values in these four quadrants:

  1. Health

  2. Relationships

  3. Community

  4. Work

Try some of these thinking exercises to help you refocus on values:

  • Award: If someone was giving you an award, what would the award be for? What would the presenter say about you? What would the presenter say about your values?

  • What matters: What do you really want? What matters to you in the big picture? What do you want to stand for? Is there anything in your life right now that gives you a sense of meaning, purpose, or vitality?

  • Magic wand: Imagine that you wave a magic wand and all the painful thoughts and feelings about the cancer no longer impact you. What would you do? What would you start, stop, do more of, do less of? How would you behave differently? If we watched you on a video, what would we see and hear that would show us that magic had happened?

  • Your personal experience: Think back over the course of your life. Was there a time when you felt like your “true self” or a time when you were truly content? What was happening during that time? What activities were you engaged in? Who was around you? What gave you a sense of meaning and purpose during that time?

Integrate Values into Your Daily Life

Start your day by thinking about three values (things that are at the core of who you are) that you want to express today. We always have control over our values even if the path to our goals changes.

Make it part of your family routine to check in with one another about how well each of you lived in your values today. How much of the day did you spend doing what is important to you at your core? This can be a helpful way to support each other as you face the uncertainties of cancer.