What does it mean to focus on values and strengths and why does it work?

We all know that values are important and we try to teach them to our kids, but when it comes to determining if we are living in harmony with our values it can be a tricky subject. As we go along in life we make millions of choices. Over time those millions of choices add up to our lifestyle. When we start to feel stuck, or depressed, or stressed, or when our health seems to be going steadily downhill, the first, and sometimes most illuminating step is to ask with curiosity and honesty: What are my values in life? Another way of asking this is, what do I hold dear, and why is it important to me? Then subsequent reflection can start to identify small steps you can take to start to align more with your core values. For example, if you determine that being around for your kids for as long as you possibly can is of core importance and value to you, what changes might you make in your every day decisions to make that possibility more likely? Every lifestyle change you make comes out of that core value—the opportunity to be around to enjoy your kids for as long as possible. Tapping into that desire helps your find your internal motivation: the strongest type of motivation for building new healthy habits that sustain you and fulfill you over time. Before long you’ll be conquering obstacles you previously thought you could not, and you’ll have a new sense of what’s possible. This shift in your mindset is a key element to long-term behavior change; it’s a core ingredient that I strive towards in all my clients as we begin our relationship together.

When coaches ask about values they often follow by asking about strengths and successes because once you’re clear about what it is you care about, it’s helpful to focus on the tools and experiences you already have in your repertoire to help you create a plan to get it, or nurture it. One way to find out about strengths is to ask about a time in the past when things were going well, and to find out why things were going well…it’s often a combination of your strengths and the right environment/opportunity that created a fruitful moment in time. Those strengths are still a part of you, so if you can tap into them today, they can be a part of the solution tomorrow. We are so busy criticizing ourselves that we rarely stop to remember the times we overcame, rose to the occasion, and shined brightest in our lives. These are the very images and feelings that need to be present in our mind’s eye to create momentum and optimism today.