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How Discovering Your Core Values Could Prevent Discontent

I want to talk about values for a moment. Values is a small word that does not get the recognition it deserves. Its reputation is pushed aside by many, as if it is of no importance. To the contrary, however, values are the bedrock of every single action and decision we make in our lives. Without values we are aimlessly floating through life with no purpose; operating in “autopilot” mode.

Values are linked to a certain “something” we all have. It is something we have developed over time, defining who we are as individuals, what we stand for in life, and what is important to us. This “something” acts as a guide for our behaviors and decision-making. Can you guess what this “something” is? 

It is a belief system. Our belief system is a culmination of our culture, family dynamics, and societal factors. It is our attitudes or opinions about a person, place or thing. It relates to our internal model of the external world. Simply put, it relates to how we feel about things going on around us. If we are not aware of our belief system, we will have a difficult time identifying our values. If we are unable to identify our values, we have no purpose or reason behind what we do. 

For example, a strong belief that I hold dear is that people should follow through with what they start. Behind this belief is my value of commitment. Every decision, every behavior displayed by me is backed by my belief of finishing what I start. If I never identified my value of commitment, and furthermore displayed it in my everyday life, I would not know why I am unable to finish what I start. Or perhaps, I’ve identified that commitment may not be a value of mine. 

Example two: If you value work-life balance but work 60 or more hours a week, with little or no time to spend with your family — or yourself for that matter — you will eventually become an unhappy camper. Resentment will set in and begin to manifest in various ways. The lack of balance will cause you a great deal of internal conflict.

For a quick moment, examine the following short list of values to see if any resonate with you.

  • Kindness
  • Love
  • Commitment
  • Creativity
  • Endurance
  • Persistence
  • Eagerness 
  • Acceptance
  • Silence
  • Unflappability

Values are the “why” behind what we do. It is the force that drives our everyday behaviors. When we are not living in alignment with our values (considering we have already identified them), we become discontent and unhappy with life. Discontentment and chronic unhappiness can lead to so many unhealthy ways of coping, which in turn can lead to conditions such as anxiety and depression.  

Unhealthy ways of coping with discontent are ways that in the moment feel euphoric and blissful. They are coping strategies we use to escape from the pain of life hoping to get some sense of relief. These strategies when used over time can become a permanent mechanism for coping. However, in all actuality they are impermanent and can lead to long term mental health conditions. Here are just a few ways in which some people cope with discontentment:

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  • Substance use/abuse: alcohol or ingestion of any drug
  • Gambling
  • Compulsive spending
  • Over/under eating: also called “emotional eating or eating your feelings”
  • Purging
  • Isolation
  • Verbally lashing out
  • Emotional suppression: stuffing your feelings further and further down

Values are the reminders we need to push forward and make decisions as to how we should behave in a particular situation. They can become a guide to our daily steps and can be quite useful in helping us make progress in life.

In conclusion, I would like to add a value quote that I came across during my research. I feel this is something that we all could reflect on. Consider the following food for thought:

“When the way you think, speak and behave match your values, life feels very good. You feel whole, content, in control. But when these do not align with your personal values, then things feel… wrong. Life feels uneasy. You feel out of sorts, disconnected, restless, and unhappy.” – Melli O’Brien

How Discovering Your Core Values Could Prevent Discontent

Cerena Reid-Maynard, LICSW

Cerena Reid-Maynard, LICSW is a licensed clinical therapist, living in Cranston, RI, employed at an Adult Partial Day program treating adults with personality disorders using group therapy based on the principles of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment). Cerena has a private practice, and is currently in the process of writing her first book based on her life and work experience with the ACT model.

APA Reference
Reid-Maynard, C. (2018). How Discovering Your Core Values Could Prevent Discontent. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 13 Aug 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.