Affirming Important Values

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: Variable | Duration: 15 mins
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Time Required

15 minutes. You can try this practice whenever you feel defensive or threatened.

How to Do It

1. The following is a list of different values, some of which may be important to you and some of which may not. Start by ranking them in order of their importance to you, from 1 to 6:

  • business
  • art/music/theater
  • social life/relationships
  • science/pursuit of knowledge
  • religion/morality
  • government/politics

2. Then, write a brief account (one to three paragraphs) of why your #1 value is important to you, including a time when it played an important role in your life.

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: Variable | Duration: 15 mins
(3 member ratings)

Why You Should Try It

In our daily lives, we sometimes encounter threats to the self—from receiving negative feedback at work to being excluded in social situations. In these moments, it’s difficult to stay clear-headed, open-minded, and in control. We may get defensive or act out, depriving ourselves of constructive lessons and harming our relationships with others. 

Researchers have found that writing about our most important values can help us feel more connected to others and make healthier choices.   

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: Variable | Duration: 15 mins
(3 member ratings)

Evidence That It Works

Crocker, J., Niiya, Y., & Mischkowski, D. (2008). Why does writing about important values reduce defensiveness? Self-affirmation and the role of positive, other-directed feelings. Psychological Science, 19, 740-747.

Writing about an important value reduced smokers’ defensiveness when they encountered evidence that smoking harms health—a form of self-threatening information. Smokers felt more loving and connected after they spent 10 minutes writing about their top value, and these feelings accounted for their greater acceptance and reduced skepticism of the self-threatening information.   

Burson, A., Crocker, J., & Mischkowski, D. (2012). Two types of value-affirmation: Implications for self-control following social exclusionSocial Psychological and Personality Science, 3(4), 510-516. 

In this study, participants faced a different threat to the self: feeling excluded by others. Those who were excluded but then spent eight minutes writing about an important value—particularly a self-transcendent one (such as compassion or relationships)—showed more self-control: They subsequently ate fewer cookies than participants who had simply written about their daily routine.   

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: Variable | Duration: 15 mins
(3 member ratings)

Why It Works

Research shows that this practice increases positive emotions, particularly emotions directed at others—such as love, connection, empathy, and gratitude. Reflecting on what matters most may help us move beyond selfish concerns and feel connected to something larger than the self. We start to realize that there's something we care about—whether it’s cultivating relationships or gaining wisdom—that matters more to us than our self-image. 

Once we gain this broader perspective, we become more open to hearing things that threaten that self-image. We can see the big picture, instead of getting bogged down in negative feelings. 

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: Variable | Duration: 15 mins
(3 member ratings)

Sources

Brandon Schmeichel, Ph.D., Texas A&M University 

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: Variable | Duration: 15 mins
(3 member ratings)

For More

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: Variable | Duration: 15 mins
(3 member ratings)

Completion Status

Comments & Reviews

  1. Tara Tiger Brown
    Tara Tiger Brown
    November 11, 2018

    I completed this practice immediately after I listened to the podcast. I had just finished dropping my son at his bus stop where I felt socially excluded because the parents speak French and I don't. To compound matters, I live in Japan where people speak Japanese and I am socially excluded from most conversations as I'm a beginner speaker. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty bad and the podcast made me feel a bit better and motivated me to participate in this practice. This exercise reminded me of what's important to me and in the bigger picture, how I focus on those values. The guinea pig in the podcast mentioned sharing through speaking or writing and as my ability to speak to others is limited to brief get-togethers with other English speakers, it makes sense to focus on my writing. Now to wait to see how long this more hopeful feeling lasts...

  2. Kira Newman
    Kira Newman
    June 8, 2018

    Hi mun, the study called "Two types of value affirmation" (under Evidence That It Works) used a different list of values: empathy/compassion, being responsive and supportive to the needs of others as well as one’s own needs, creating or contributing to something larger than oneself, trust/openness, personal growth, and being in mutually supportive and caring relationships. If you're doing the Affirming Important Values practice, you might consider selecting from these if the ones listed don't speak to you. We choose the current list because it's more widely used in other research. Also, I think you could interpret these categories in a meaningful way. For example, business might include career and creating products that provide value to others; politics might include campaigning for justice and human rights. The other four categories seem quite meaningful in and of themselves.

  3. mun
    mun
    April 16, 2017

    None of the items in the below list is an important value. Has there been a mistake? business art/music/theater social life/relationships science/pursuit of knowledge religion/morality government/politics

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