Panthers, welcome (back) to a new school year! College fosters personal growth which may seem exciting and overwhelming at times. Your personal values can help you navigate through difficult times and provide a sense of purpose in your life. But what really are values? Some might think they are goals, but they are actually different. 

While goals define particularly desired achievements, values give you the direction to fulfill those goals. Imagine you are in an airplane. The different destinations are your goals- once you get there, you achieve your goal. 

Values are the instruments in the plane, like GPS, which direct the plane to the destinations. The plane may fly to different destinations over time using those same instruments to guide it. Similarly, your values point you in the direction of fulfilling your goals throughout your life. In other words, values are a way of living.

Some examples of values vs. goals are listed below:

  • value of health vs. goal of exercising three times per week

  • value of family vs. goal of having two children 

  • value of education vs. obtaining a college degree 

How do you know what your values are? Think about what gives your life meaning. What makes you feel fulfilled? How do you want to live your life? Think about people in your life you admire. What qualities do you admire about them? People such as your parents or friends may have already influenced some of your values. You also may have identified some of your own values based on your personal experiences. You have the power to freely choose your own values based on what matters to you. You may also search for lists of values online to jumpstart your personal exploration and develop a solid list of values that matter to you. 

Once you identify your personal values, you can apply them in your everyday life. Reminding yourself of those values can help during difficult decision-making times. It is helpful to consider whether your decision is aligned with your values. For example, imagine after college a person receives one job offer in her hometown and another job offer across the country for significantly greater pay. She may decide to make a different decision if she values family or financial stability more in that time of her life. This example shows how it may be helpful to rate the importance of each chosen value. 

Remember that values can change over time, and some may be more important to you in different stages of your life. This list can constantly change. Therefore, it is important to tune into your values at any given moment when considering different actions to take. This is even helpful to use on a daily basis. Next time you find yourself binging Netflix the night before that big paper is due, think about whether that choice aligns with your deeper values. That might motivate you to make choices that ultimately give you a greater sense of purpose and life meaning. 

Choosing and following your values can be a very personal experience but know that you are not alone if you are feeling overwhelmed. If you find yourself in need of additional support, reach out for help.  The Student Counseling Center is here for you. The center provides a variety of mental health and wellness services to assist you and other students in successfully reaching personal, academic, and career goals. We are here to support you in your journey!


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