Put Your Values at Center Stage to Control Anger

By Charles H. Elliott, Laura L. Smith, W. Doyle Gentry

If you’re feeling like your anger has ruled your life or is ruling your life, try this exercise, which helps you put the values you want on center stage.

Take out a sheet of paper and write the word I on the first line. Then spend 15 minutes writing an essay about your life up to now; include anything and everything you think is relevant and important. Stop at the end of 15 minutes (set a timer if necessary), and read what you wrote. Try to be as objective as you can — pretend you’re reading about someone else’s life.

After you’ve finished reading what you just wrote, answer the following questions:

  • How much of your life essay is about you versus other people?

  • How much of your essay has to do with your work?

  • How much of your essay has to do with financial successes or failures?

  • Does the essay sound like a life story in which the person feels satisfied and content?

  • Would you say that this essay is about someone who has a sense of purpose or meaning in life?

  • How much of the essay is about what you have gotten from life versus how much you’ve given back?

  • If this were, in fact, another person’s life story, would you want to trade places with that person?

If your essay has a healthy balance between references to yourself versus references to others, if work and financial success (or failure) aren’t the sole focus, if your essay portrays a reasonably content person whose life is full of purpose, if there is balance between getting and giving, and if you’d actually want to live that person’s life, you can be fairly sure that you’re living a meaningful and value-driven life.

If you answered otherwise, take a long, hard look at yourself and think of ways that you can change your story. Repeat this exercise once a week for the next six weeks, each time asking yourself those same questions afterward, and see if you’re beginning to move beyond a self-centered life. If you work at changing the focus of your life, the focus of your essay should change as well.