ACT 101: Values

Have you ever asked, “What truly matters in life?”  “What gives our lives meaning?”  “What does it mean to live a life of purpose?”  If so, you’re not alone.  Harold S. Kushner borderline-depression-psycholgie-personalities.jpgdescribes the inner searching that most of us have experienced at one time or another:

Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter…What frustrates us and robs our lives of joy is the absence of meaning….Does our being alive matter?

So, where do we find the answers to these questions?  The ACT response is, “deep inside your own heart.”  And you discover the answers by asking the questions from the perspective of YOUR OWN life.  “What truly matters in MY life?” “What gives MY life meaning?” What does it mean to ME to live a life of purpose?”  The ACT approach offers exercises to guide you through this process.  Then, when the answers come, you get to choose how to move forward.  After all, your life is your own; no one can live it for you. pexels-photo-618546.jpeg And there is freedom in recognizing that.  Freedom to be the person you want to be, to do what really matters to you, to behave in the way you really want toward yourself and others, and to dedicate your time and energy to what you truly want your time on this earth to be about.


Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of …your affections and loyalties…out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account – John Gardner

Click on this 1-minute video for a quick recap of values according to the ACT model.

So now, I’d like to introduce you to two exercises* that can help you clarify your values and uncover what really matters to you:

  • Your 80th Birthday Reflection
    • Imagine that you turn 80 years old today, and you take a reflective look back on your life. Then, complete these sentences:birthday-cake-cake-birthday-cupcakes-40183.jpeg
      • I spent too much worrying about…
      • I did not spend enough time doing things such as…
      • If I could go back in time to [today], what I would do differently from this day forward is…


  • Clarify Your Values
    • Click on this link:  Forty_Common_Values_Exercise
    • Read through the list of these most common values and write a letter next to each:
      • V = Very importantpexels-photo.jpg
      • Q = Quite important
      • N = Not so important
    • Once you’ve marked each value as V, Q, or N, review all the Vs, and select the top six that are most important to you. Mark each one with a star. Then, record those six values, and review them often to remind yourself that this is what you want to stand for as a human being. Allow these to be the principles that guide your choices and actions in life (much more about this in other blogs).

Clarifying and living in alignment with your values is so important.  Values can inspire and motivate you.  They can serve as an inner compass to guide you in your choices.  They give your life purpose and meaning, and make your activities much more fulfilling and rewarding.

Clarifying values is one of ACT’s 6-Core Processes that help increase psychological pexels-photo-321576.jpegflexibility and resiliency.  Another is mindfulness.  Regularly practicing mindfulness exercises trains the mind to be more focused, aware and alert.  For a short, yet very effective practice, I recommend this free 3-Minute Body Scan practice from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.

Let’s practice ACT together!

*Much appreciation to Dr. Russ Harris for generously sharing these exercises freely on his website,



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