How To Identify Your Values And Actually Work Towards Them? - Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

In ACT, values serve as directions that can help to guide our actions. Unlike goals, which have clear endpoints, values are more like compass directions, and there is no set destination. In order to act in ways that are consistent with our values, we first need to identify what those values are. 

Identifying Your Values


Select the values that are most important to you. You can draw on this list for inspiration, or come up with your own ideas.

What are your top five? 






Reflecting on Values 

How closely do you stick to your values in different areas of your life? 

What has been holding you back from enacting your values? 

How well do you enact your values in your important relationships? 

What would you want as your epitaph? How does that reflect your key values? 

Bullseye Exercise


ACT identifies several different areas of our life where our values come into play. The bullseye exercise involves setting up a bullseye with seven rings. The bullseye is divided into quarters; one each for work/school, leisure, personal well-being, and relationships. At the centre of the bullseye lie your values. You can use Xs or colours to mark how close your behaviour is to your values. 

ACT Life Compass


The ACT life compass is a way of looking at seven different valued domains. For each domain, identify the core values that you associate with it. Rate the importance that each domain has for you, and then rate your satisfaction with how you’re doing in that area. In areas where there’s a large discrepancy between importance and satisfaction, that could be a sign that it’s time to review your actions and evaluate whether they’re actually consistent with what matters most to you. Try to identify any barriers that may be getting in the way of enacting your values, and ways of addressing them.


Compass Domains 

• Work 

• Intimate relationships 

• Parenting 

• Personal growth/education/learning 

• Social 

• Health 

• Spirituality 

• Family of origin 

• Community life/environment/nature 

• Recreation/leisure For each domain, identify the following: 

• Core values: 1) 2) 3) 

• Importance (rate out of 10) 

• Satisfaction (rate out of 10) 

• Barriers preventing you from enacting your values and optimizing your satisfaction: 1) 2) 3) 



Goals are waypoints (practical, quantifiable, clear endpoints) that serve as stepping stones to keep you heading in a valued direction. Setting short-term and long-term goals for each life domain can help to keep you on the right track. 

Have you heard of dead person’s goals? It’s best to avoid setting goals for yourself involving things a corpse could do better than a living person (corpses will always be better than you at not doing something). Instead, keep your goals focused on things you can do rather than things you want to not do. 

When setting goals, it’s a good idea to: 

1) identify guiding values 

2) set a SMART goal: Specific, Meaningful, Adaptive, Realistic, Time-framed 

3) identify benefits of accomplishing the goal 

4) identify potential obstacles 

5) make a public commitment to the goal 

What are your short, medium, and long-term goals for each of the areas in your life compass?


Work Goals • short-term: • medium-term: • long-term: 

Intimate relationship goals • short-term: • medium-term: • long-term: 

Parenting goals • short-term: • medium-term: • long-term: 

Personal growth/education/learning goals • short-term: • medium-term: • long-term: 

Social goals • short-term: • medium-term: • long-term: 

Health goals • short-term: • medium-term: • long-term: 

Family of origin goals • short-term: • medium-term: • long-term: 

Spirituality goals • short-term: • medium-term: • long-term: 

Community life/environment/nature goals • short-term: • medium-term: • long-term: 

Recreation/leisure goals • short-term: • medium-term: • long-term: 

Barriers to goals: F.E.A.R. 

• Fusion with thoughts 

• Excessive goals (taking on more than you’re able to) 

• Avoidance of discomfort (change isn’t always comfortable, even when it’s a good thing) 

• Remoteness from values (getting sidetracked from what really matters to you) 

What are some of the FEARS that stand in your way? 

D.A.R.E. to counteract F.E.A.R. 

• Diffusion 

• Acceptance of discomfort 

• Realistic goal-setting 

• Embrace values 

The diffusion and acceptance part of DARE allows you to stabilize so that you can then move forward with realistic goals in a values-consistent direction. 

Summing Up


Coming back to the model of psychological flexibility, you can see the interplay between the different elements of ACT that we’ve covered. Values keep us anchored in who we are, and attention to the present moment keeps us anchored in the here and now. Self-as-context provides the backdrop to allow the acceptance and diffusion that let us stickhandle our way through the world. 

While none of these are that difficult conceptually, some, particularly acceptance and defusion, can be very different from our usual patterns that have been keeping us stuck. Like anything else, though, practice will make it easier.


Pritam Chakraborty

As I was moving through life, I occasionally saw brief glimpses of beauty.

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