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Clarifying Values for Psychological Flexibility

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, one of the ways of increasing psychological flexibility is increasing the clarity of your values. Values are like a compass in that they guide goals and actions through your life. If you know what is most important than it will be more clear what decisions and actions to take. For example, if you value connection with family, then ideally your actions should include quality time with your family. However, difficulties can sometimes arise when the values are not clear or are in conflict or if ongoing choices are not in alignment with those values. So we suggest spending time thinking about what is most important to you, especially emphasizing what is important to you, rather than what society or habit has dictated. To clarify your values you can think about the different areas of your life and reflect on what is most important. For example, what do you want your relationships to look like? In each of your roles, what type of person do you want to be, and what qualities do you want in your life? For work and career, what is important about the work you do, what motivates you in this area? Once you have clarified your values it will be easier to identify when you are living within those and what changes you may want to make in order to align more with those values. As an example, when reflecting on my values, I have a strong value in play and creativity. I realized that during COVID times it had become easy to let that part of my life dwindle under the stress of just surviving. With the process of reflecting on my values, I was able to make a change by bringing out my tub of boardgames and I started adding more playful times to my week. These playful times not only decreased stress, but living in alignment to these values makes me feel more at peace.

There are value worksheets online that can help with this problems. For example, on a positive psychology website there is a worksheet that asks you to reflect on the following 10 Categories:

· Romantic relationships – What sort of partner would you ideally like to be? How would you describe your ideal relationship? What sort of behaviors do you aspire to show toward a significant other?

· Leisure and fun – What kinds of activities appeal to you for fun? How would you enjoy spending your down time? What’s exciting for you? Relaxing?

· Job/career – What career goals matter to you? What kind of employment? Do you aspire to particular qualities as a worker? What sort of professional relationships do you want to develop?

· Friends – What social relationships do you consider important to develop? What do you consider an important social life to have? How would you like your friends to see you as a person?

· Parenthood – What kind of mother or father do you aspire to be? Are there particular qualities you’d like to role model for your kids? How would you describe your ideal relationships with them?

· Health and physical wellness – These questions will be based on fitness goals, aspirations, as well as the importance of personal health, physical well-being, and personal care.

· Social citizenship/Environmental responsibility – This category is about being part of the community, environmental aspirations, and can include volunteer work.

· Family relationships – Like parenthood above, these values pertain to relatives like siblings, extended family, and so forth.

· Spirituality – Relevant questions here will concern religion, personal beliefs about anything that’s meaningful at a deeper or bigger level.

· Personal development and growth – Reflections in this category should relate to personal capabilities, competencies, skills, knowledge, and growth.

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