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How to Build Behavior on Your Values

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

Anyone who follows my articles and content knows that I write incessantly about creating a value system. It’s so important during stressful times - like a divorce! - to have a well-defined value system intact. It’s the best way to decide if a particular course of action or behavior is good for you, in particular, to pursue.

What happens if we don’t behave in the way our values dictate? Well, if our behavior is at odds with what we feel is the “right” thing to do, our subconscious mind will go to war with our conscious mind. The result is called Cognitive Dissonance - which is a fancy way of saying you’re going to get really stressed out.

So how do you stay within the guidelines of your value system? First of all, it’s important to create a well-defined value system. Take some time to search for examples of values, and pick the ones that are important to you.

Next, ask yourself one or more of these questions to decide if an action is good for you - or not.

Is this action going to hurt me? This can be a loaded question, because what we think is important is going to color that answer - and what we think is important might actually hurt us. Take a psychological step out of the situation. If this was happening to a friend, what would you advise them to do? If this is something that’s going to sabotage you in some way, don’t do it.

Is this action going to hurt someone else? There are going to be times when we (even subconsciously) really do want to “hurt” someone - it might be your ex, his attorney, or his new gal pal. Leave those resentments behind, and again, think about what you’d advise a friend to do. If what you’re thinking of doing is going to hurt someone else, ask yourself, “Is this congruent with my values?” If not, don’t do it.

Am I willing to accept the consequences of this action? Even though I’m always encouraging my clients to stay focused on the present moment, this is one of those times when you have to look forward. What might happen if you do what you’re thinking about? Are you willing to pay the price? If not, don’t do it.

Is this something the person I want to be, the person I aspire to be, would do? Based on your value system, have an idea of the person you aspire to be, the best version of you. Think about who your heroes are, and who you admire, and how they might respond to the situation. Taking that into account, how do you think you should behave?

Is what I’m thinking of doing reflect my values? So, what are your values, anyway? Kindness? Hard work? Compassion? Does what you’re thinking of reflect those? If not, don’t do it.

This is just one way to stay positive and keep within the boundaries of what we think is important. Another great way to handle tough days and come out in one piece is to use Life Mantras. Read this blog post to learn how:

Susan Petang is a Certified Divorce Stress Management Coach, and the author of two books. You can learn more about her and The Quiet Zone Coaching at


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