If you don't already know, I am a huge fan of Brené Brown and her work. I’ve read all, but one of her books. Brown was the first to introduce me to the concept of finding my values and living by them. She has created several worksheets, but the two most prominent ones are the List of Values and the Living Into Our Values.
I've tried to work through the list a few times. Once in college as a class exercise and my values came up as Safety and Belonging. I didn’t fail to notice these are two of the basic needs of Maslow’s Hierarchy. A fact my professor was more than willing to remind me of. However, these values never fully encapsulated me, who I was, and who I wanted to be. They are basic needs, not values to live by.
Since college, I’ve grown and changed and know that while safety and belonging are important, they are not my guiding values.
Since my Autism diagnosis, I have read Devon Price’s Unmasking Autism. It’s probably the top recommended book to read when delving down the Autism rabbit hole. In his book, Price outlines a handful of exercises called the Values-Based Integration Process. This process is developed by Heather R. Morgan of Powered By Love, and since being featured in the book, Morgan has begun training and coaching medical professionals and therapists to use the technique with their patients.
While I like Brown’s List of Values, the Values-Based Integration Process is better for neurodivergent brains. I think this is because it utilizes bottom-up thinking rather than top-down thinking. It’s about exploring our past and experiences and finding values within those experiences rather than naming values and trying to apply them to our lives.
The Values-Based Integration Process
Developed by Heather R. Morgan and featured in Unmasking Autism by Devon Price.
Step 1: Find Your Why, pg.14
Think of five moments in your life when you felt like you were fully alive.
Try to find moments from throughout your life (childhood, adolescence, adulthood, school, work, vacation, hobbies).
Some of these moments might leave you feeling a sense of awe or wonder, or feeling recharged, satisfied, fulfilled, etc.
Really try to think about why each moment stuck with you.
For example, my moments are:
I was maybe 18 at the time and I remember sitting at my desk, the sun still bright and streaming in, just starting to go down. It was the middle of summer so there was still plenty of daylight even at 7pm. I was eating toast with apple jelly, listening to Creep by Radiohead, and using the song to write a scene in a story I was working on. I felt content and joyful. I was right in my element and doing something I loved without anyone else around, without any distractions.
As a kid, my family and I would have Nerf Gun battles around the yard. I always had a blast. I remember shooting my dad from underneath the car. I missed, but it was a cool shot.
Last year, I went to Indigo with my sister. I bought like eight books. It was the biggest haul I’d ever done and I was beaming the whole time. I just enjoyed browsing the shelves and looking for all the books I wanted to read. I even bought the first seven books and upon leaving noticed one last book I’d been searching the store for and couldn’t find. So, I went right back up to cash and bought that one too. There’s something joyful and peaceful about being surrounded by books.
During a family vacation several years ago, I ended up at an outdoor trampoline park. The whole trip was great because I felt like I got to be a kid again, but the trampoline, that’s when I really let go and just had fun. I stopped worrying about acting childish or being perceived as a kid and just went for it. I laughed and jumped around, I felt silly, and yet proud of myself because I knew it meant that I had grown.
After hitting a rough patch in high school, I decided to re-read my favourite series, Heist Society by Ally Carter. I knew I needed to do something that brought me joy, that would make me smile, so I read the series again. I enjoyed the same characters and their interactions, I hated the same ones too. It’s still my favourite series. I think I’ve read it three or four times since I was in 7th grade.
Step 2: Identifying Your Values, pg.156-157
Review the moments from above and try to list keywords that describe each moment and why it was special to you.
Most Important/ Resonant Words
My key words were:
Contentment, joy, inner peace, motivated and productive, relaxed, self-care.
Fun, joy, family, silly, free.
Excitement, joy, confidence, financially stable.
Joy, silliness, freedom, growth, pride, family, amazement/awe.
Calm, joy, inner peace, contentment, fun, silly, nostalgic, growth, inside jokes, overcoming difficulties.
The most important ones were:
Step 3: Is Your Current Life Guided by Your Values? Pg. 216
What am I doing right now? Consider: How are you spending your time every day? Try to keep a detailed record for at least a week.
What matches my values and what brings me joy? Reflect: Make note of which activities line up with your values and which do not.
What are the recurring themes? Notice: Are there patterns in which activities feel the best to complete, or things you consistently look forward to? What unites the activities that are values-consistent and the ones that are not?
Let go of what isn’t yours. Get help: What are you doing that could be done by someone else? What are you doing that doesn’t need to be done as regularly as you’re doing it - if at all?
I won’t put my answers here for the sake of some privacy, but the questions are pretty straightforward.
Step 4: Putting Your Values Together, pg.256-258
Re-examine the Key Moments of your life and the 3-5 core values you identified as essential.
What this value means to me:
Then, draw an image that represents your values and how they connect with one another. This image might represent a hobby or an experience that is important to you, or it might evoke one of the key moments you felt particularly alive. The goal is to create an image that connects all your values together, and helps you envision and remember all of them. (I am terrible at drawing so I ended up writing my values down and other associated traits in calligraphy instead).
I only identified 2 core values, but for me that’s all I need.
Growth. To me, this means staying curious about life and myself. It means living on my own terms, with my own rules, and shedding social constructs. It means doing the work and meeting my own needs. It means being proud of who I am and all that I’ve accomplished.
Joy. To me, joy means getting to laugh and be silly, even childish at times. It means appreciating the moments of awe and expressing gratitude. It means making time for my special interests, my hobbies, my family, and my furbabies. It means being mindful of those moments of happiness, of motivation, and of contentment. It means having, and feeling, the freedom to be myself.
From the image above, you can see that I completed each part in my journal. It took up two spreads (or 4 pages). I preferred writing this down rather than typing it on a computer. The act of journaling, for me, is more personal and vulnerable, even though no one really sees what I write either way.
Thanks for reading!