Husky Health & Well-Being

March 8, 2022

Tools for Resilience: The Live Your Values Deck

2/23/2022 – Victoria Robinson

Why do you do what you do?  

Whether we’re talking about our work, our relationships, our home, our communities, we’re constantly defining and re-defining what is important to us, even down to the smallest details. What are we wearing? What are we eating? What are we saying, writing, teaching? When we make these everyday, small decisions, we are ultimately manifesting our values in these micro-choices, creating our truth as we go along. 

And these values certainly don’t look the same from person to person, or even day to day. The conversation about resilience and its value to communities focuses heavily on its flexibility. The nature of resilience looks different for everyone – or community, group, institution, or organization – an interpretive process, rather than a prescriptive one, and one we are already undergoing, all the time, in different ways. Because of its elasticity, a piece of successful resilience relies on identifying and embodying the beliefs you hold: your own personal code of ethics, your vision of a successful and affirming future, your understanding of the world around you. 

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Mindful Compassion teacher Steve Hickman presents self-recognition as a valuable tool to recognize and sustain the core values that support our survival in a world that, at some times, seems to be challenging us at every turn.  

“It’s only natural to experience very strong emotions in response to big things happening around us that we often cannot control. Yet those emotions hold an often-overlooked opportunity: to see the dread, anger, resentment, outrage, or fear, as the product of a collision between things unfolding in the world and our deeply held and cherished core beliefs and ideals. When you feel outrage over the way some groups are treated by others in our society, this is precisely because you deeply value justice, fairness, and compassion. ”

What would it be like to shift your brain’s tendency to focus on the pain and instead to take some time to acknowledge and treasure your commitment to those values? Consider holding it clearly in your mind and heart and strengthening your resolve to act in alignment with those core values, instead of becoming discouraged by the enormity of the challenge.” 


Designed by Lisa Congdon and Andreea Niculescu, The Live Your Values Deck is a valuable tool for determining your core values and practicing them in daily life. The deck features 78 cards with different values – activism, creativity, ambition, moderation, etc. – and uses a simple, but surprisingly tough, process to determine what you consider important and dive deeper into your highest values. The cards also offer suggestions for short- and long-term goals and prompts for action and reflection.  

9781797206127 1000x1000Eager to start the year off right, I sat down with my own Live Your Values deck at 11:45pm, December 31, 2021. As I whittled it down to my top principles, morals I held as integral to who I am, I was struck by how intricate my own elimination process was. Why did CURIOSITY win out over INTELLIGENCE? Why was it so easy to discard AMBITION? What really is the difference between KINDNESS, COMPASSION, and EMPATHY?  

I found the process refreshing – a way to enter 2022 with intentionality and clarity. The meaning was in self-determination, though I expect that the cards I choose will vary as I return to the deck later in life, depending on experience, position, and environment.  

Others at the UW have also found this deck useful – not only in their personal lives, but in their classrooms and workplaces as well. Brooke K. Sullivan, ecologist and lecturer in the Landscape Architecture Department in the College of Built Environments, described the deck as a handy way to teach her students about the importance of centering ethics in design.

“That day, I was having a hard time thinking about how to launch our final design project. We are developing green marine infrastructure strategies at Friday Harbor Labs for Larch 405.  The session prior we had been working through values and assets in terms of disaster resilience, so it clicked, and I brought out the deck. I reminded them how important it is to have an ethos and identity in design…”

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Sullivan’s class visualizes ethos in design

Each student, armed with a handful of cards, individually decided for or against the inclusion of certain values and brought their decision to the group. Slowly, they cut more and more until they came to an agreement on the core principles that were driving their design.

“We have been using it to guide our work, keeping our values in the forefront of decision making about design,” says Sullivan, “I will probably use them again and again because it was a constructive conversation and ties in our personal, social, and ecological resilience so nicely!”

The College of Built Environments isn’t the only one rethinking their organizational priorities and principles using the deck – the Resilience Lab itself took a shot at the process using the cards during a strategic meeting for the rest of the quarter. What is it that we want to highlight in our programs? How do we want to engage with each other? Our own whiteboard was filled with several distinct, yet overlapping, ideals that we felt embodied the work we want to do.  

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Resilience Lab staff contemplate our organization’s values

Eventually, our consensus: Collaboration, Compassion, and Equity. 

We’re using the deck as a tool to guide our practice as we take steps deeper into what resilience would mean for the tri-campus UW community, and beyond. We invite you to do the same! You can find the Live Your Values Deck on Lisa Congdon’s website, or at other major book retailers. Or, if you are interested in a contemplative practice to identify and strengthen the values underlying your most challenging emotions, try Steve Hickman’s guided meditation on the subject.  


Hickman, S. (2020, November 17). Savor your values: Finding strength in compassion. Mindful.  


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