Knowing your values motivates change

There is considerable research suggesting that being clear on one's values is conducive to high self esteem and self confidence. In a recent New York Times article, a group of seventh graders who were struggling in class did significantly better after spending a year repeating an exercise involving writing their most important values. These students improved their average G.P.A. by 0.4 points higher compared to those students who had not participated in the exercise. The improvements continued through eighth grade, researchers observed.

Values work is an essential part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and really, any thorough, introspective therapy. Are you living the life you imagined? Are you living a satisfying and fulfilling life? Are you happy? Values give us a guidepost, or a direction we can use to make our decisions in life that help bring fulfillment and satisfaction into our lives. The map is not the territory, but having a map can help us navigate the territory. Values are the points on the compass, and when we are clear on our values, we begin to make choices that move us closer to living our values on a daily basis.

If you'd like to work with a more comprehensive list of values you can take a look at the Personal Values Sort exercise developed by Miller, W. R., C’de Baca, J., & Matthews, D. B at the University of New Mexico. The exercise consists of a list of 83 values to sort through and ultimately identify your top 5 values. You can find instructions, and a pdf of the exercise here. You can also find online flash versions of the Personal Values Sort exercise here, and for a version focused around your job and career, the University of Minnesota has a nice one posted here.


Personal Values Sort (pdf)
Personal Values Sort (flash required)
Job/Career Values Sort (flash required)


Values Sort Exercise Example