Determining Your Values

This simple little exercise takes no special training or skills. On a clean sheet of paper, write down the values that are important to you. Don’t try to put them in any particular order, just write them down as you think of them.

They could be groups of people, like friends and/or family. They could be traits like loyalty, honesty, or professionalism. Whatever they are, they’re yours, and there are no right or wrong answers, so write them all down.

When you’re done with your list, and it can be as short or comprehensive as you like, make a short list of the five values, from those on your list, that are the most important to you. Again, write them down in no particular order.

Okay, now you should have a list of your top five values on the paper in front of you. Where is your addiction on that list? Notice it’s not one of your top five values. Why is it then that you’re willing to put your addictive problem in front of all these other values that you say are the most important things on earth to you? Have you ever considered the implications of that?

Each time you indulge in your behavior, you put all the things you do value at risk. You put your behavior in front of friends, family, job, and all of the other things you hold dear. Have you ever considered why you do that?

Take that list, your top five, and put it somewhere you’ll see it all the time. Perhaps on your mirror in the bathroom, maybe on the refrigerator (especially if your problem is an eating disorder), tape it to your PC monitor, keep it in your wallet. The more annoying it is the better.

These are your most important values, and your list will help in maintaining the motivation for change to keep your highest values in front of you, and in the forefront of your mind, as much as possible. This is especially important during the early phases of your recovery efforts.

You might consider revisiting this list on a regular basis. Our values change over time as we grow and mature as people, and a value that made it to your “top five” list six months ago might be number seven now, and something that wasn’t even on the list last year might make it to near the top this year.

As I pointed out in chapter three, our minds are plastic, and we become different people over time. Maintaining a “top five values” list is one important way to keep track of these changes, and provide ourselves with a practical method of actually measuring the progress we’re making along the way.

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