How to create everyday habits based on purpose and meaning

One of the key ways to maintain good mental health is to live life in a way that gives you a sense of pleasure, achievement and a feeling of being close to others. Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing, explains how living life in line with your values, as well as with a sense of purpose, will help you to do this in a consistent way.

First, you need to work out what your values are. You also need to know what things you need to do each day, week, month and year to keep your values energised.

Use this exercise to determine the values that matter most to you and then set goals for activities you can engage in to help navigate any difficult times ahead.

Building a life of purpose and meaning

A value is a life direction, an internal compass which guides us throughout life. Values are different to goals, which have an end point. Values are often life-long, giving our lives meaning and purpose.

To identify our values, we can think about what it is in life that is really important to us – what gives our life meaning and purpose. Is it our relationships, (e.g. to be a good parent), our careers, connecting with nature, healthy living, community service, making a difference or somethine else?

Having identified our values, we know where we want to go in life and the direction we want to progress towards. We might set goals along the way.

Knowing our values will help us decide how to react to stress and distress. In spite of how we feel, we can still move in the direction and service of our values.

Identify your values

This questionnaire can help you identify the values that matter most to you in your life.

As you reach each life component, ask yourself how important each of these areas are in your life – regardless of how much time or effort you now put into fulfilling the needs of that area.

  • Rate the importance of each component on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being not important at all and 10 being extremely important
  • Do your best to rate them honestly, according to your own true feelings, not to what you think you should rate them
  • You can then use your responses to the questionnaire in the exercise that follows, which will help you move towards engaging in what you value.

Valued living questionnaire

Make actions for change

This exercise will help you create a more fulfilling life for yourself by formulating intentions and committed actions based on your values. It will help you think about ways to make your life feel more fulfilling based on what you think is important.

Using the valued living questionnaire above, identify the components of your life that you rated as a 5 or higher (from moderately important to extremely important).

  1. Put the names of those areas in the first boxes below
  2. Think about one intention for each of those valued components, which will help you make your life feel more fulfilling
  3. Then, identify the actions you are willing to commit to doing that will move you towards your intentions, stating when you will begin them.

Committed actions

The purpose of these exercises is to fill your life with activities that are important to you. Creating a life that you value can help you deal with other situations that are distressing and less desirable. A fulfilling life can give you something to look forward to when you’re doing something you don’t like.

Last updated Friday 7 October 2022

First published on Tuesday 22 June 2021