At the end of every intake, I ask clients what their goals for therapy are. Many of them give an answer indicative of their lifelong quest for happiness. I cannot count the number of times I have heard “to be happier” as a response to that question. If happiness is your ultimate goal, much like perfectionism, it will be a goal that you are chasing forever because it will always be just out of reach.
Happiness is an emotional state and by nature, emotional states are not permanent. We move through our emotions, and they do not last forever. “Happiness” is also a broad, even bland, descriptor of an emotional state. More granular emotional experiences that may fall under this umbrella could include joy, acceptance, love, feeling respected, or inspired. When you say you want to be happy, what do you really mean? And what is preventing you from feeling accepted, joyous, or respected?
When you dig into the trenches of what happiness entails for you – you are probably in the realm of values. This is where the work begins! A happiness-driven life is fleeting and tumultuous whereas a values-driven life is rewarding and bountiful.
“We should care as much about well-doing as well-being. I want to live in a world that values purpose as much as pleasure, contribution as much as contentment, and justice as much as joy. A happy life isn’t necessarily an honorable life.” -Dr. Adam Grant
What is YOUR value system?
Our value system is our own, personal moral code by which we navigate the world, our relationships, and our lives. If you value timeliness, you are probably early to most obligations and only late under extremely extenuating circumstances. If you value honesty, you most likely experience extreme discomfort or cognitive dissonance if you are in a position where you must lie.
Cognitive dissonance is a key indicator that we are acting outside of our value system. Now, there are times where we tiptoe that line and step outside of our value systems – that doesn’t make you a bad person or condemn you. It is, however, an opportunity for reflection and growth. Values can have hard and soft boundaries. As we age, we learn and expand our mentalities; we have the beautiful choice to adjust our value systems accordingly.
The Human Experience
Pursuing a life based on your value system leaves room for human experience. This includes happiness and joy, as well as anger, grief, disappointment, and surprise. Actions based on happiness are not always aligned with our value system and when they aren’t, they often leave us feeling confused after the instant gratification wears off.
You are more likely to experience longer-term happiness and contentment if you can answer the following question with a resounding YES: Was I acting within my value system?
- Other follow-up questions may include “Did I do my best?” or “What were my intentions here?”
- If you answered no, how can you re-orient yourself towards your value system the next time and how can you make amends to yourself and others right now?
When considering what your value system consists of it is helpful to be clear about what makes your life meaningful. Here is a good place to get started on mapping your values! This link takes you to a free values assessment and they will email you your report with insights. To access, click below.
About Jasmine Payne:
Jasmine is a Resident in Counseling and provides services at the Fredericksburg location. She is a two-time graduate of Longwood University, receiving her B.S. in Psychology along with an M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
Throughout her graduate studies, Jasmine worked with teens and adults who belonged to various minority and multicultural populations. She also has familiarity with a wide spectrum of mental health concerns including anxiety/depression, grief, moodiness, self-improvement, motivation, relationship issues, and many more. To learn more about Jasmine, visit HERE.