Aligning Your Values and Actions

When you hear the word “alignment”, what do you picture? Chances are, you may picture something physically - like aligning your spine at the chiropractor. You may think of something more metaphorical - for example, the stars were aligned. Maybe you just think of placement, such as aligning two pieces of wood so they fit together. At its most basic definition, aligning is making sure two or more things match. In the mental health world, one way we use alignment is ensuring our values and our beliefs match. If they don’t match, we experience a phenomenon called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance, while not a disorder, is still not good for your mental health. Cognitive dissonance may cause confusion, guilt, or shame. It can increase our anxiety. It can impact our self-image or self-concept as we question why our actions and values don’t match. For example, if we claim to be a social justice advocate but never perform any form of advocacy, we are likely to experience cognitive dissonance when we realize we aren’t acting in a way that aligns with what we say our values are. This can cause us some extreme stress! How can we prevent cognitive dissonance? The easiest way is to be aware of our values - our real values - and then make action statements that match those values. If you’re interested in trying, here are three steps you can take today! Step One: Find Your Values There are multiple strategies you can use to find your values! You likely already have an idea of what they are, but you may have never sat down to write them out before.  One way to identify your values is to use a values list, like this one. You can go through a list of common core values and highlight, circle, or put a check next to any one that stands out to you. Try to make this based on your feelings - if you see a word and it feels right, it may be one of your values! Step Two: Make Themes Do you have your list of values? Great! The next step is to divide these values into themes. For example, you may notice you have a variety of words that have a similar feeling - like “charity,” “social action,” “equality,” and “friendship.” You may group these into a theme of “Loving Others.” Similarly, you may have a variety of words like “success,” “career goals,” “power,” and “financial stability.” You may group this into a theme of “Career-Orientated.”  After you’ve grouped words with similar themes, be sure to add a label for them, like we provided in the examples earlier! Step Three: Form Action Statements The final step is to make action statements, which could also be seen as goals. Using your themes, write how your actions will match your values in a tangible way. For example -   “I will devote one Saturday per month volunteering with a soup kitchen to show how I love others. “I will take training to receive a certification relevant to my career because I am career-oriented.”   You may also choose to have more general statements that look more like affirmations, such as: “I will not intentionally harm others because I love others.” “I will do my best every day at work because I am career-oriented.”   We hope this blog post helps you avoid cognitive dissonance by having a tangible way to align your values and your actions! If you need to talk to someone to sort through your values, talk to us. We have multiple clinicians who are ready to help today! Reach out today to Therapy Beyond Healing by emailing to set up an appointment. We look forward to hearing from you!