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Exercises and strategies for living a value-driven life

In the moment

If you are experiencing moral pain because of a violated value, try the following strategy to help yourself.

  1. Take a pause and remind yourself of your values.
  2. Notice: Does your response to this moral pain move you toward or away from those values?
  3. Identify a behaviour that would be more aligned to your values.
  4. Engage in it right there and then.

For example, if something makes you upset, remember that yelling in anger may move you away from your values. Instead, stop and think how you can behave to move yourself toward your true values — then do it.

Reflection and growth


Consider the part of your experience that is morally painful. What value might have been violated? 

For example:

  • Feelings of anger → the violation or desire for justice
  • Feelings of despair → the violation of hope
  • Thoughts like “people are so selfish” → the violation of desire to care for others
  • Thoughts of brokenness → the violation or desire for care
  • Feeling withdrawn → violation of the desire for connection or intimacy

On a blank sheet of journal paper, make a table like the one below to evaluate your moral injury.

Moral pain(s)Value(s) this might represent

The Matrix


As we describe in this program’s appendix, it’s possible to get stuck in a loop on the Away side of the Matrix. This can happen when your moral pain leads you to behaviours that soothe you in the short term, but don’t move you to the Toward side in the long term.

Even if you somehow free yourself of all the difficult thoughts, feelings, and memories on the Away side of the Matrix, that doesn’t guarantee you will find yourself on the Toward side. And you should know that you can make Toward moves even in the presence of yucky internal experiences on the Away side. On the Matrix, you’re just trying to help yourself spend more time on the Toward side than you did before. We all make Away moves! 

It’s important to be kind to yourself. Rather than focusing on what not to do (“Do not make Away moves”), focus on what you can do (“Do make Toward moves”) to move yourself closer to what matters to you.

Fill out the chart using the following prompts. Start in the lower-right quadrant and go clockwise.

  1. Lower right: Write down who or what matters to you.
  2. Lower left: Describe the thoughts and feelings that show up for you when you or someone else has violated one of your values.
  3. Upper left: How do those thoughts and feelings impact your behaviour? When you get yourself stuck on the things in the quadrant below, how do you behave?
  4. Upper right: Record the behaviours you can do to express a value-driven life. If you acted consistent with your values, how would you show up? What behaviours would others see you do?

Remember you don’t have to decide if the thoughts and feelings on the Away side are true or false. Once you have finished the four quadrants, look to the centre of the Matrix and notice (with kindness and curiosity) how your responses show whether you are moving toward or away from what matters to you.

The Matrix
Tap and hold (or right click) the image to save and/or print it. (Alternatively, you can draw two lines on a blank journal page to make four quadrants.)