The Simple Guide to Value Triggers

Psychology Today


How to live by your highest ideals.

Posted Aug 11, 2019

Steven C. Hayes Ph.D.

Get Out of Your Mind


Source: Pixabay/CC

Being in touch with your values is essential to living a rich and meaningful life. By knowing what you care about most, you become inspired to live by your highest ideals, bringing out the best in yourself. In short, values help you find direction, meaning, and inspiration in life.

Unfortunately, however, it’s more complicated than this. Because too often enough, we get sidetracked. Too often, the demands of the day pull our attention away from what really matters, to serve our immediate emotional needs. We then lose touch of our ideals, and revert back to old – often destructive – habits.

If you wish to stop this from happening, break the cycle of bad habits, and bring forth the best of yourself, you have to reconnect with your values whenever you lose touch. And the easiest way to accomplish this, are value triggers.

What Are Value Triggers?

A value trigger is a physical reminder of your core values. By merely looking at it, you refocus back on what matters most, making you act more in line with your highest ideals. The trigger can be almost anything, as long as it makes you remember your values. Here are a few ideas:

Card in Wallet. Write down a few core values on an index card, and put it in your wallet. Whenever you’re feeling stressed, take it out and read it.

Background Screen. Change the background of your phone to a picture that represents your values. For instance, if you value self-courage you might set it to the picture of a lion if that image speaks clearly to you.

Jewelry. Pick a piece of jewelry (e.g. a ring, a bracelet, or a necklace) and let it stand for a certain value. Whenever you look at your accessory, reflect on it’s meaning.

Post-it Notes. Write down your values on a post-it note, and stick it somewhere visible, like your fridge or a computer screen.

Pictures of People. Print out pictures of people that for you exemplify your values. Our heroes and guides are picked by us because they stand for something in our lives. You can pick pictures of friends, family, teachers, coaches, spiritual leaders, well-known public figures — anyone who empowers you to care.

Pick a value trigger that works best for you. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as it serves as a reminder of your core values.

Don’t Make This Mistake!

Don’t be fooled. A value trigger doesn’t magically change your life, just by having it. Instead, you need to actively engage the trigger. Whenever you look at your personal value trigger, ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Which value does this trigger stand for?”
  • “Why is this value important to me?
  • “What can I do today bring this value more into my actions and my life?”

By reflecting on your value trigger in this way, you increase its effectiveness. This doesn’t mean you will never again lose sight of what matters most. But it does mean you have an effective way to catch yourself whenever you fall off track, and quickly get back to living a rich and meaningful life.


About the Author

Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D., is Nevada Foundation Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada Reno.In Print:Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)Online:Steven C. Hayes website for free ACT materials  View Author Profile


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