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How well we live by our values predicts the quality of our authentic relationships

People who live by their most important values have more energy, feel better, and project more positivity to the outside world

EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Mental Fitness: The next frontier in workplace mental health’ is a weekly series, in partnership with Dr. Bill Howatt of Howatt HR Consulting in Ottawa. This series takes a deeper look at mental fitness — an approach to prevent mental harm and promote mental health.

“Your most important values define your daily choices. Not discovering your most important values is a poor choice.” — Dr. Bill Howatt

The level of awareness of most important values is a pillar that predicts a person’s mental fitness.

People who live by their most important values have more energy, feel better, and project more positivity to the outside world. Alignment of values charges energy in relationships; misalignment drains them and leads to misunderstandings of how another person’s values benefit you.


It is impossible to benefit from your relationships if you are not aware of your most important values.

Failure to be mindful of these values and lack of a deep sense of life purpose can lead to a sense of loss that equals pain. This results in increased emotional pain that drives a need for symptom relief that can come in many forms, self-medicating, acting out, or isolating.

A relationship with a misalignment of values, or involving individuals who do not appreciate each other’s most important values is at risk of breaking or becoming a drain.

Discovering and being congruent to your most important values is a beneficial microskill for supporting mental fitness. The next step is becoming aware of how your authentic relationships support those values.

Your values change based on your circumstances.

For example, your child is added as one of your most important values when you become a parent. In The Cure to Loneliness, I point out that good mental health requires authentic connections with yourself and in your personal and professional lives.

Psychologically Safe Workplace Awards provide employers tools, data on mental health

Values and authentic relationships

What will determine if two people can develop and maintain an authentic relationship is whether they can make each other feel good and whether they can accept that their relationship will be a mix of supports and challenges.

Having the idealistic expectation that an authentic relationship will bring only support and positives is a fantasy. People have differences, and for authentic relationships to thrive, they must embrace both pain and pleasure and remain objective.

Good times do not define a relationship; conflict, frustration, and challenges do.

Both parties must see value in maintaining an authentic relationship. Emotions are temporary perceptions that can change in a second.

Relationships that end because of a surge of unpleasant emotions are built on a faulty foundation of emotions rather than values. In those emotional moments, you can be objective by observing how the other person’s most important values can help you achieve a foundation to move through challenges. When this is not considered, the authentic relationship will lose its perceived value or end.

Many relationships struggle because of a lack of appreciation that one person cannot change another.

We all live by our highest values, and every decision we make is a choice. When we try to make someone else do what we think is most important because of our values, we can be perceived as controlling. When we give up our values to feel accepted by another person, we put ourselves in a position of resentment.

Step 1: Discover your top three most important values

Be clear about what is most important to you. Notice what you focus on and defines your life. You can choose to make what you want to be important but be aware that what you make most important is how your life will turn out.

My most important value is helping others learn how to be accountable for their mental health. Doing this charges my battery daily.

Exploration Generate three responses for each question Discover your top three
What do you most enjoy doing?


Review your three responses for each question and notice the word that shows up most.


The three words that show up most are your three most important values.


These are the things that charge your battery.


Today, my top three important values are:




What gives you the most energy?


What do you think about most?


What do you do spend the most time on?


What do you most enjoy talking about with others?


What do you spend your most money on?

Step 2: Determine how your most important values are supporting your mental fitness

Think about one authentic relationship (for example: your partner). Bring this person to your mind’s eye.

  • An authentic relationship requires assuming what is most important to the other person, not what is most important to you.
  • Ponder how this person’s most important value supports you in fulfilling yours, and vice versa.
  • What do you think is this person’s most important value? To answer objectively, ask this at least 20 times and write down your responses before talking about it with them. This is not about changing them; it is about appreciating how they support you to live your most important value.
  • Talk with this person about your most important values and how you see theirs are supporting you. The goal is to get them to share how they see you are supporting them. This builds a foundation that can help you both weather current and future challenges.

Dr. Bill Howatt is the Ottawa-based president of Howatt HR Consulting.

If there is a particular microskill or topic you would like to see Dr. Howatt write on that supports employees’ mental health in the workplace, please send your request to Talent Canada editor Marcel Vander Wier.

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