Unsatisfied in Life? You Need to Take a Look at Your Values

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Are you feeling unsatisfied in life? What’s preventing you from living your best life?

Many people feel unsatisfied with the direction their lives are moving in because they’re not clear about their values. Your values determine who you are and what you need to know, so it’s important you understand what yours are.

Let’s look at how your values impact the quality of your life.

How Values Impact Happiness

Jay Shetty (Think Like a Monk) claims that values allow you to understand the meaning underlying everything you do—the degree to which you live in alignment with your values determines how meaningful your life experiences feel to you

In Designing Your Life, Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans put it this way: Satisfaction comes from living coherentlyit’s easy to find meaning in what you do and feel good about the direction of your life when your priorities and behaviors are aligned. On the other hand, when your actions and goals don’t reflect what’s important to you, you’re more likely to feel unsatisfied in life because of internal conflict that hinders your ability to feel good about what you’re doing. 

Why Your Current Values Aren’t Making You Happy

You might feel that you are living your values, but still feel unhappy with your life—why is that? In 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think, poet Brianna Wiest suggests that you’re likely living according to values that aren’t actually yours. According to her, you never consciously chose your beliefs and values. Rather, you subconsciously adopted the beliefs and values of your family, your friends, and your culture. 

She explains that these adopted beliefs and values influence your entire worldview: how you judge the world, your place in it, and the circumstances you face. In other words, everything you’ve ever thought of as good, bad, right, wrong, beautiful, or ugly has simply been a reflection of the way other people have influenced you. 

Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics) explains it like this: You’ve been “hypnotized” by others’ words throughout your life. As a young child, you were impressionable and prone to believing what others said about who you are and what beliefs you should live by. You accepted their opinions and beliefs about you as truth and this shaped your self-image and values in the early part of your life. 

Why You Adopt Others’ Values—Even if They Make You Unhappy

Multiple authors, including Wiest, Maltz, and Shetty suggest that the compulsion to adopt others’ values as your own comes from the need for external validation. This need was conditioned in you early on in life when you likely found that conforming to the expectations of other people was the only way you could experience comfort and happiness:

  • If you acted according to their desires and expectations, you were rewarded—for example, with extra attention and affection. This made you feel comfortable and happy. 
  • If you acted against their desires and expectations, you were punished—for example, with rejection or social humiliation. This made you feel uncomfortable and unhappy.

According to Maltz, your self-image and values have likely evolved since your childhood. However, until you consciously address the thoughts and beliefs that influenced you, they will continue to subconsciously inform your motivations and behaviorsLetting the pursuit of external validation rule your life inevitably leads to unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Unsatisfied in Life? You Need to Take a Look at Your Values

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Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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