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Sometimes when you think about values, it can help to think of what you did or would say in your wedding vows – when I got married we had a humanist ceremony with vows that were all about our values

Values are at the root of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. For me personally, that was initially a significant part of the appeal of using the model therapeutically. Each of us has our own unique set of personal values, as individual as the pattern of our thumb prints. When we hear the word values, it can be easy to jump to associations of corporate or institutional values, or of what our parents or educators might have wanted to instill in us – in which case the topic may seem old and you might switch off. However, being able to tune in to what really matters to you with complete freedom of choice in how to respond can be a very empowering experience.

Below is a link to a podcast by Joanne Dahl which introduces the concept of values –

Below is a link to a smart phone app that walks you through the process of sifting through your own values and reflecting on your current priorities where you are in life right now –

Below is a link to an exercise devised by Louise Hayes, an Australian Clinical Psychologist who has developed a version of ACT for teenagers –

I have included the exercise here as in my opinion it is a good way in for adults too – although you may want to modify the words on the cards to suit your own situation. For example, you might want some cards related to your work, your hobbies, to relationships and friendships or social goals. The idea of the exercise is to cut out all the cards then sort them into three piles – 1. Really important to me right now, 2. Somewhat important, 3. Not important to me right now. It is important to hold in mind that what matters can change, you are not tied to your choices in the present moment and whatever cards you choose just give an indication of where you are at right now, and what matters in this moment. That can be a useful starting point to consider where to go from here if you’re not sure. We all sometimes need a compass, which is how values can operate when we’re functioning in a healthy way. Then once you’ve got a pile of Really Important cards, see if you can narrow it down to just five. When we did this as a training exercise as a group of psychologists, we took turns in pairs to discuss our five cards and reflect on our choices. If you can, share the exercise with someone else you are comfortable with as it is helpful sometimes to deepen your understanding of your own process.

Related to the above, I have included another link to an exercise devised by Louise Hayes which again can be helpful for adults too, although she devised it for teenagers.

We all sometimes have times we feel self-critical and aware we are living at a distance from our values, and strength spotting might be a way in to defusing from the self-criticism enough to notice that there are areas in which you are more comfortable with yourself, and areas that still matter to you. What can be helpful here is to ask someone who knows you well who you are comfortable with to choose five cards they think match you. You could also try asking a couple of people who know different sides of you as they may notice different strengths – you are after all a bigger whole person than what any one other person sees of you. Of course, you could also look over the cards yourself and similarly work out a shortlist of what you see as your own key strengths – it may be interesting to reflect on whether these are the same or different from what others see.

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