Personal Values in the Time of Pandemic

April 6, 2020
Charlie TaibiPower Skills

As we come up on week four on being sheltered-in-place, I think there is a lot of talk about values on a macro level. Who are we as a nation? Do we care about people’s well-being? 

What about on a micro level? When was the last time you asked yourself what you value?

We’re currently sitting in a time unlike any other that folks who are alive today have ever lived through. We’ve seen schools announce that they are closed until the end of the year, millions of people are filing for unemployment, small businesses are shutting down, people are being relegated to their homes (unless they need to grocery shop). It’s a scary time, and one that can easily consume us.

There’s a meme going around of someone’s “Quarantine Routine” and it really hits home for me.


This resonates because I know so many people who feel lost (and I myself have had these feelings over the past few weeks). For me, when I feel lost I do mindless things like scroll through Instagram or Facebook and watch television for hours and hours. When the end of the day comes I feel guilty for not accomplishing anything; if this happens two days in a row, I can get really down on myself.

Sound familiar?

This is where values can become really powerful. The textbook definition of a value is “one's judgment of what is important in life.” Values are distinctly individual and are usually a by-product of your life experiences. While they are not intended to be rules for yourself, they are supposed to be a north star; a set of guidelines that direct you in a certain direction. As one of my good friends and Year On coach Ashley Maliken Andrews says, “Values are not a destination. If one of your values is creativity, you can’t achieve creativity. You can’t one day check the box of creativity and say, “done!” It’s also worth noting that values are iterative and your top values might change over time, and that is perfectly ok!

You might be thinking, “Alright Charlie, this is nice but how is this helping with me sitting in my home right now during shelter-in-place?”

Great question. Being rooted in your values helps with more sustained contentment in life than if you’re pursuing happiness in the moment. Take a look at this video to understand how your outlook might mitigate some frustration, lack of motivation, or anxiety you are experiencing these days.

If you’ve already identified your values, being shelter-in-place is great example of a time when your values might feel like they need to be arranged. For me, I am extremely career focused which means that my days and nights are usually spent thinking about meaningful work. Lately, I have found myself prioritizing my creative side and relationship building since my work life is now a bit more limited. Because of this re-arrangement, I’ve noticed my mental and emotional well-being shift in a positive direction. Highlighting this helps me rethink how I should spend my time.

Now, it could feel like some of your values are in conflict. Do I choose work or creativity or relationship building right now? The trick here is to act with intention. I need to know what I am prioritizing, why, and have a plan on how to bring other values back into the foreground when needed. This isn’t an “either/or” situation; acting with intention can help mitigate any friction you might feel when prioritizing values.

Overall, our values can provide us with organization and direction. Our values are different from our goals which I’ll talk more about next week. Goals are flexible, they can change from day to day. They’re measurable, something you can achieve. They are also concrete evidence that you are living by your values.

So, what is important to you? Remember, this isn’t what others want for you but what you want for yourself. I know it’s a big question to consider, but something tells me you might have some time on your hands to give it some thought.


  1. Imagine your life many many years from now. Some people, when they do this exercise, try to envision their obituary; others might imagine a speech that a good friend would give about them on their 80th birthday. Try imagining that. How would you want your good friend to describe you? Start there in identifying your values. Remember that values are about your own behavior, what you want to strive for, and what matters most to you.
  1. Alternatively, take a look at this list of values from James Clear and identify a few values that are important to you. Then ask: Why is this value important to you? What beliefs about yourself or your worldview support this value? 

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