To phrase it in the simplest terminology, ‘values’ are what we want to be doing with our life. They are not the goals we aspire to (such as the items on a things to do before I die list) but the things we stand for and how we want to behave as we move through life.
A simple way to differentiate goals from values is by using the ‘compass metaphor’:
“Values are like a compass. A compass gives you direction and keeps you on track when you’re traveling. And our values do the same for the journey of life. We use them to choose the direction in which we want to move and to keep us on track as we go. So when you act on a value, it’s like heading west. No matter how far west you travel, you never get there, there’s always further to go. But goals are like the things you try to achieve on your journey, they’re like the sights you want to see or the mountains you want to climb while you keep on traveling west.”
Once the differentiation has been made, it is up to us to know what our values are if we are to live according to them.
Identifying your values
The only person who can tell you what your values are is yourself. Sometimes it’s something that is known by instinct (for example, I have long known that one of my core values is determination) whereas other times, values reveal themselves only by happenstance or our own hard work.
One exercise that can be beneficial in revealing our values is The Bull’s Eye, available on Russ Harris’ website, and explained below. Of all the exercises I’ve so far completed, this was the most enlightening for me in identifying my values.
The Bull’s Eye
The Bull’s Eye exercise is quite simple. You begin with a set of concentric circles (an archery target) and then split these circles along the lines of a compass. Each of the quarters represent a part of your life, in this case: work/education, leisure, personal growth/health and relationships.
You begin by listing your values for each of these parts of your life. In doing so, think about what really matters to you, deep in your heart? What do you want to do with your time on the planet? What sort of person do you want to be? What personal strengths and/or qualities do you want to be remembered for?
These lists can be as long or short as you like, but in identifying these values, bear in mind these five key points:
1. Values are here and now, goals are the future.
2. Values never need to be justified.
3. Values often need to be prioritised.
4. Values are best held tightly.
5. Values are freely chosen.
Once you have your values in mind, write them on your Bull’s Eye beside each of the areas. In doing so, you may wish to choose (i.e. prioritise) your top three values (or however many suits you) and mark them with a star or highlighter.
After you’ve identified your values in each of the areas, mark on the Bull’s Eye where you stand today. If you live fully by your values, all power to you ’cause you’ve hit the Bull’s Eye, but if not, don’t see it as a failure, but a new direction for you to take in the future.
My Bull’s Eye
So far this year I’ve completed two Bull’s Eyes. Firstly, back in May when I began the ACT for Anxiety support group, and secondly today, so I could provide an example for you, my dear readers.
I began by identifying my values for the four key areas:
~ Work/Education ~
| Discipline | Hard-Working | Dedicated | Committed | Safe | Courtesy | Creativity |
| Open-ness | Inspiring | Connection | Security | Non-Conformity | Fun | Passion |
~ Leisure ~
| Creative | Non-Conformity | Loving | Fun | Be-Yourself |
| Take Risks | Enjoyable | Pleasurable | Mischievous | Passion |
~ Personal Growth/Health ~
| Individuality | Creative | Non-Conformity | Be Yourself | Generosity | Resilience | Discipline |
| Knowledge | Hopeful | Trustworthy | Asking for Help | Self-Esteem | Dedicated| Passion |
~ Relationships ~
| Monogamy | Trust | Respect | Creative | Understanding | Honesty | Co-operative |
| Non-Abusive | Loving | Security | Committed | Harmonious | Compassionate | Passion |
And then prioritised my six primary values for each field (I have a thing about things coming in sixes!) These primary values have been bolded in the text above. In doing this, I was able to identify that ‘passion’ is one of my core values.
Following this I marked on the diagram where I currently believe I’m sitting. Because this is the second time I’ve undertaken this exercise, I’ve been able to chart any progress/regression since the first time I completed a Bull’s Eye.
By doing this, I can clearly see that I have taken a backwards step in personal growth/health (because of my recent relapse) but have made a gain in the work/education front (because of a current ‘plan’ to return to tertiary education next year). Obviously, because of my isolated nature I’m ‘off the chart’ when it comes to relationships and leisure has remained relatively stable since May 2013.
To my eyes, I’ve a long way to go to be fully living within my values, but at least I now know what my values are.
Hopefully, by completing this exercise, you’ll have a better understanding of your values as well. :)
~ Previous installments in this series ~
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?