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The Secret to Direction and Motivation Lies in Other People

The power of choosing a values guide.

Source: Helloimnik/Unsplash

We all have people in our lives who we look up to, who inspire us, and who make us want to become better versions of ourselves. I know I certainly do. I call these people “Value Guides”, because they guide us to act more in line with our values. If we choose our guides carefully and connect with them consciously, they can inspire us to make smarter decisions and take better actions. And you can start right away.

How to Pick Your Values Guide

Think about a person who somehow empowers you and lifts you up. It can be your friend, your spouse, or your teacher; a sibling, lover, or coach; a co-worker, family member, spiritual leader, or even a public figure. It doesn't really matter who you pick, as long as you are deeply moved and uplifted by this person. Do you have someone in mind?

Chances are, you are not uplifted by this person for the things they own. It’s not about their possessions, or about their looks, or about their degrees or awards. They are not at the core of why this person moves you. Instead, there is a deeper, more personal reason.

You are uplifted by this person because this person brings certain qualities into their actions, and those qualities impact on others. I’m talking about qualities like honesty, kindness, patience, courage, fun, integrity, loyalty, or hard work. Qualities like their caring heart, their compassion, or their dedication to a vision.

It’s these qualities that you cherish so much about this person, and it’s these qualities that you most likely wish to connect with. For instance, you might care about your grandma, because she always stood by your side and motivated you through difficult setbacks. And so inside of your connection with grandma are the qualities of caring, kindness, loyalty, and resilience that you deeply care about.

Whichever person you choose, there are qualities to their being and doing that make this person so important to you. And when you connect with why this person matters to you, you can better bring these qualities into your own life. In other words, by thinking about your grandma, and why she is important to you, you position yourself to bring the qualities of caring, kindness, loyalty, and resilience into your own life. The same is true with whichever person you have chosen for yourself.

When you think about this person, and why this person matters so empowers you, you get more in touch with what truly matters to you in life. In other words, you get better in touch with your own values. And by connecting to your values in this way, you are more likely to act in life-enhancing ways yourself.

What If Your Guide Falls Short

This simple exercise serves to connect you better with what is meaningful to you and to goad you towards taking more life-enhancing actions.

Please note, that the person you have chosen as your guide does not have to be a perfect, infallible beacon. People are complex and no one lives their values to the fullest. Even that knowledge can lift you, however, because the pain of values disconnection can remind you of what is important and encourage you do keep getting better at living a values-based life.

In the end, it matters less which guide you choose, and more which qualities of action your guide inspires within you right here and now.

Who do you pick as your guide? Which qualities does your guide evoke in you? And how are you going to bring these qualities into your own life?


This is one of many tools and techniques from my new audio course Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Principles of Becoming More Flexible, Effective, and Fulfilled.

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