The following questions can help you identify your values, beliefs, and goals. In answering these questions in writing, you can become more consciously aware of what’s important to you. Make sure to give your­self plenty of time to really contemplate and explore your principles and ideas. Be as concise or elaborate with your answers as you like.

1. What are the top six things that matter most to me in my life?

2. What personal goals do I want to achieve?

3. What are the morals and values I believe in?

4. What are my religious or spiritual beliefs?

5. Who is most important to me in my life and how do I want to treat him or her?

6. What personal traits do I want to convey to others?

7. How would I like to contribute to the lives of people I care about?

8. How would I like to contribute to my community and society?

9. In what ways does porn use conflict with my values, beliefs, and life goals?

Once you’ve finished this process, keep a copy of your responses somewhere you can easily access them. You may even want to dis­cuss your answers with a friend, partner, counselor, or other support person. While no one can tell you what is important to you, conversa­tions you have on these issues with people you respect and admire can help to stimulate your awareness, insight, and convictions. Fre­quently look at the questions and answers you have written. You may find yourself wanting to revise or add ideas as you move forward in your healing process.

Many clients and former porn users tell us that regularly thinking about what really matters to them helps sustain their desire to quit porn. Sean found a huge discrepancy between his role as a church youth group leader and his compulsive porn habit. He said, “I recognized the contradic­tion between what I said I believe and what porn was putting into my head. Even though I wasn’t physically committing adultery or breaking any of the big sins, I was doing it in my mind. I realized my spiritual beliefs and my porn use cannot coexist peacefully in my life. I can’t lead a youth group where I have a meaningful spiritual experience, drive to the store and pick up a Penthouse, and go home and masturbate to it. It isn’t congruent.” Corey identified his desire to be in a good long-term relationship. He explains, “It finally dawned on me that using porn would only further isolate me and keep me from being emotionally available to anyone. Porn gives a sexual charge and gratification, but it can’t give the acceptance and love I want. It actually makes it more difficult for me to have a healthy sexual relationship. Porn increases sexual tension and makes me crave sex, like it’s a drug. I’d like to experience what it’s like for sex to be natural and comfortable, for it to be about loving and caring for a real person.”

When Max started becoming more aware of his values, he was shocked at the discrepancy between his porn use and his desire to re­spect the women in his life. “In college I met a number of female stu­dents and coworkers. We got together regularly to work on projects and just talk. Our relationships weren’t about sex. I got to know these women as equals, as friends. Then, when I’d watch porn, I started noticing how porn consistently disrespects women and puts them down. I couldn’t be with my women friends and then go home and masturbate to scenes of females being treated as complete and utter sexual objects.”

As you become more aware of your personal values and goals, you can also see more clearly how porn use conflicts with the type of person you want to be in the world. Nick quit porn after he realized how his dishonesty was harming his view of himself. “I was sick of lying to myself and other people,” he said. “My whole life felt like one big lie. As long as I kept using porn I couldn’t have integrity. It’s essential that my private actions be in line with what I say and with my heartfelt beliefs.”

As Sean’s, Corey’s, Max’s, and Nick’s comments reveal, understand­ing how porn doesn’t fit with your core values can provide you with a compelling reason to make a change and stick with it.

In the following exercise, “I Want to Be Someone. . . ,” you will find a list of personal traits former porn users have shared with us that they found were incompatible with using porn. Staying conscious of this in­compatibility has helped them to succeed in their recovery. Read through this list of traits to identify the ones that are important to you. Then take some time to consider how porn interferes with the traits you checked and your ability to actualize your personal goals and values.