Past, present, and future values: COVID-19 edition

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many of us into spaces of self-reflection and deep thought. It might have brought you to think more deeply about who you are as a person, how you deal with loss, how you cope with change, among other things. I know that for me, the time I have been privileged to have has made me think about the person I was before the pandemic. The time has also helped me think about the person I have been during the pandemic. And as I look to the future, it has helped me think about the person I want to be when the world returns or transitions into some sense of normalcy.

And if this hasn’t been the case for you, fear not! There is still (and always will be) time for thoughts like this. And while therapy isn’t always accessible for everyone, I want to stress that there are still places on the internet (like this one!) that can help you get the deep thought machine turning. We can start with this question here: What are your values?

That question feels very broad, and it makes sense that it would be hard for you to answer. I know that for me, it was no easy feat. Values are ideas that you hold dear, ideas by which you live, ideas that you strive to embody or wish you could embody.

If you’re not sure what your values are, that’s okay! Take a peek at this website by Think2Perform. It’s a value sort activity where you will be presented with different values and sort them into what you feel is very important in your life. Each level is a little bit different, though, because you will be asked to narrow down the list of values that you find important with every round. In the end, after sifting through a few dozens of values, you’ll be left with five!

If you want to do this in person with the actual cards, you can check out the Urban Indian Health Institute’s value card sort activity! They provided their own set of instructions, too, to help you sort your values into levels of importance.

This activity can be somewhat challenging, but there are no wrong answers. Also, there’s no need to play the comparison game, because nearly everyone’s values will be different. All of us are such complex people, and our reasoning for why we hold certain values closer than others will be different from the person next to us.

Whether or not you want to run through these websites to filter the values they present, here are a few questions for you that could get your brain thinking about this topic:

  1. What were your values before the pandemic? What made them important to you?

  2. Where did you learn these values?

  3. What values grew important to you during the pandemic?

  4. What changes have you noticed in your values over time? What caused them to change?

As I was pondering these questions for myself, I had this horrifying moment of, “Oh no, I don’t live my values.” It took me a moment to realize that this is okay. You may hold something very dear and it might be hard for you to live them out. This happens for a whole plethora of reasons, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you fake, inauthentic, or a liar. It could mean a number of other things that could help you identify other parts of your life that might need more attention or thought. What keeps you from living out your values? When do you feel the most congruent with your values? With whom do you feel the most authentic? In the spaces when you feel congruent and are authentic, what conditions did you feel were necessary to have this happen?

So many questions! And while I know it can feel overwhelming, let me remind you of this: these questions take time to answer and it’s okay if you don’t have the answer to them right away. Self-exploration is a lifelong process that no one has perfected or absolutely achieved. So take a moment and ponder these questions (if you have the time and capacity) and reward yourself for sitting in all of that beautiful growth!