Values: Why they are important and how to identify them.

values Acceptance and Commitment Therapy


Are you On the path That you want to be on?

Life can feel confusing when you are unsure of what's important to you. Perhaps you've taken on values of your family, society, or religion without realizing it and are feeling stuck. Values are directions that you want to go in life. They are unique to the person, so your values are likely a bit or maybe a lot different from my values or from your loved ones' values. As humans, we can easily get on autopilot and fail to take the time to ask ourselves "am I living a valued life?" And by that I mean a life consistent with your values! We often feel the most at peace with ourselves and with our lives when we are living according to our values. 

Values - both identification of your values and living out your values - guide the type of psychotherapy I do which is called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It's all about helping you get on the path that you want to be on and working with you to perhaps learn new skills and ways of approaching the "stuff" that gets in the way of being or staying on that path. That "stuff" could be unwanted and distressing thoughts, uncomfortable emotions, and/or destructive behaviors. Staying connected to your values helps you to feel empowered and motivated!

It's not always easy, though, to determine what your values are. And they likely change a bit over time as you also evolve and grow. It can be difficult to identify your personal values from the values that you have been told over time that you "should" have. A note on that: it's also important to separate values from morals. Values are chosen life directions and morals are more like codes or principles that come from outside of oneself.


Values Identification Exercises

I'm going to share with you two exercises that you can do on your own to help you identify and think more about your values. I like the Values Discovery Questionnaire from Synergy Institute, as it provides you with fairly simple questions to begin an exploration of your values. Sometimes it is easier to start with thinking about who we admire and the qualities these people have than starting directly with ourselves. Check it out:

Another exercise that you can do to help you identify your values is called the Valued Living Questionnaire from the book "Mindfulness for Two" by Kelly Wilson. This exercise helps to break values down further into 1) current versus overall importance of a value, 2) how consistently you are living out the value, and 3) your level of concern about progress in living out the value. I recommend this exercise if you have a sense of your values and want to really take a look at how you could live more according to your values (you know, improve your life!). Check it out:

If you find that doing one of these exercises brings up some bigger questions for you, or you'd like help in living according to your values, I encourage you to seek out a therapist who specializes in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. If you are a women who lives in Illinois or Rhode Island, contact me about working together. You can also use this directory to find an ACT therapist.