top of page
MM Logo Update Outline.png


drawing of the connection between expressing values and satisfaction

❝Be happy with what you have while working for what you want.❞ -Helen Keller

If you're like many people, you might have an aversion to experiencing gratitude, contentment, acceptance, mindfulness, or any other practice that has been shown to increase your happiness. At the core of this aversion seems to be the belief that feeling happy about what you have means that you have given up on life and won't keep pursuing things you want to accomplish.

Yet, feeling happy with where you are doesn't prevent you from moving forward. But it does help you move forward without feeling bad about yourself.


Personal values are what we consider most important in life. Values can include family, adventure, learning, peace, spirituality, or nature.

What we value becomes our source of satisfaction and meaning. It gives us permission to do things that we find valuable. More importantly, though, it gives you permission to cut out things from your life just because others do it or because you think you're supposed to.

To understand your values, think about the most meaningful moments you've experienced in your life. What did they have in common? What was it that made those moments so special?

The answers to those questions are clues to what your core values are.

drawing of the doing something because you value it


Living in alignment with your values brings a sense of contentment, satisfaction, or happiness. I'm using these terms as synonyms to refer to a general sense of feeling fulfilled. Note that I'm not using happiness or any other term to refer to short-term joy. Happiness, contentment, and satisfaction run deeper than that.

Your own sense of satisfaction is how you may consider measuring your life. Are you doing more of the things that bring you satisfaction and less of the things that don't? Is there a way to rearrange your life so you can do more of the satisfaction-inducing things? Can you delegate or otherwise get rid of satisfaction-detracting things? This isn't about never doing things that you don't like - sometimes things need to be done. But if you're spending most of your time on stuff you hate with no time for things you like, your life won't feel very satisfying.

drawing of doing something because it brings you satisfaction

The Value Compass is designed to help you gain insight into your own values and how they guide your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It can be used to explore your personal goals and motivations, as well as to gain a better understanding of others' values and how they may differ from your own.


A major component of satisfaction is allowing yourself to feel grateful for what you have. There is a lot going well for you, but we tend not to notice. We get used to it and take our lives for granted.

Gratitude is the act of reminding ourselves of all the things that are going well in our lives. Without it, we suffer from what psychologists call hedonic adaptation. We get used to the good things we accomplish or acquire very quickly.

drawing of how it feels to win

It's easy to get caught up in day-to-day frustrations. We are naturally focused on what lies ahead.

drawing of frustration

Gratitude is the act of taking a step back to put our problems into perspective.

drawing of gratitude

One way gratitude might help is to give you perspective on how good your life is. This might help you shed any attachment to pursuing "more." You can be content and satisfied with where you are and what you have.

drawing of gratitude and acceptance

But just because you can end your pursuit of more doesn't mean you have to. Gratitude doesn't mean you stop working for what you want. It just helps you feel better as you move forward with what you want.

drawing of gratitude and goals


Living your values can lead to life satisfaction. But, to live your values, you actually have to LIVE YOUR VALUES!

You have to express your values. You do that through your behavior.

Think of one of your values and all the ways you can express that value. Be creative. How many behaviors help you express your values?

drawing of expressing values

For example, if you value education, you can express that value by joining mastermind groups, reading books, taking online courses, or attending lectures at the local university.

drawing of expressing a value of education

You might be able to find value-rich behaviors. These are things you do that satisfy many values at the same time. These are gold mines!

drawing of value rich behavior

If you enjoy hiking, some example values you might be able to express are nature (hiking outside), fitness (getting exercise), friendship (hiking with friends), and adventure (doing a challenging hike).

drawing of a value rich behavior like hiking

Understanding what your values are and then taking steps to align your life with your values will bring you a sense of satisfaction that helps you jump off the hedonic treadmill and live a life you'd be happy to look back on.

You get one life; live intentionally.


If you know someone else who would benefit from reading this, please share it with them. Spread the word, if you think there's a word to spread.

To share via text, social media, or email, simply copy and paste the following link:


Subscribe to Meaningful Money

Thanks for reading. If you found value in this article, consider subscribing. Each week I send out a new post with personal stories and simple drawings. It's free, and there's no spam.


Barker, Dan: Life Driven Purpose Ben-Shahar, Tal: Being Happy Ben-Shahar, Tal: Choose the Life You Want Ben-Shahar, Tal: Even Happier Ben-Shahar, Tal: Happier Ben-Shahar, Tal: Happier, No Matter What Ben-Shahar, Tal: Happiness Studies Ben-Shahar, Tal: Short Cuts to Happiness Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler: The Art of Happiness Dunn, Elizabeth & Michael Norton: Happy Money Emmons, Robert: THANKS! Emmons, Robert: Gratitude Works! Hagen, Derek: Your Money, Your Values, and Your Life Haidt, Jonathan: The Happiness Hypothesis Hanson, Rick: Hardwiring Happiness Harris, Dan: 10% Happier Manson, Mark: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Robin, Vicki: Your Money or Your Life Seligman, Martin: Authentic Happiness Wallace, David Foster: This is Water Ware, Bronnie: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying



About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


Join over 1,950 other subscribers.

No Spam - Just new articles sent to you every Thursday.

Popular Articles

bottom of page