A full list of values for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

The ACT values list will help you be more aware of what’s truly important in your life.

When your behavior is not in line with your core values:

  • you may experience unexpected psychological issues,
  • your self-esteem is likely to drop,
  • the decision-making process can become harder, and
  • you may even become depressed.

Everyone has a different set of values, so don’t judge yourself if you don’t share the belief that something is particularly important, even if others do. There is no right or wrong answer here.

Download the list of values PDF  with an exercise you can do right now.

What are the most common ACT values?

It’s important to remember that values change. Try not to think of them as books that line up nicely on a bookshelf. They will continually shift and change positions. What was important yesterday, may no longer have any meaning for you today. What’s more, things that are key in one area of your life i.e. work may be completely irrelevant in others (i.e. relationships).

Below you’ll find a list of common core values as defined by Russ Harris. Try to choose, let’s say 5 values, that are close to your heart. 

  • Acceptance: to be open to and accepting of myself, others, and life.
  • Adventure: to be adventurous; to actively seek, create, or explore novel or stimulating experiences.
  • Assertiveness: to respectfully stand up for my rights and request what I want.
  • Authenticity: to be authentic, genuine, real; to be true to myself.
  • Beauty: to appreciate, create, nurture, or cultivate beauty in myself, others, and the environment.
  • Caring: to be caring towards myself, others, and the environment.
  • Challenge: to keep challenging myself to grow, learn, and improve.
  • Compassion: to act with kindness towards those who are suffering.
  • Connection: to engage fully in whatever I am doing and be fully present with others.
  • Contribution: to contribute, help, assist, or make a positive difference to myself or others.
  • Conformity: to be respectful and obedient of rules and obligations.
  • Cooperation: to be cooperative and collaborative with others.
  • Courage: to be courageous or brave; to persist in the face of fear, threat, or difficulty.
  • Creativity: to be creative or innovative.
  • Curiosity: to be curious, open-minded, and interested; to explore and discover.
  • Encouragement: to encourage and reward behavior that I value in myself or others.
  • Equality: to treat others as equal to myself.
  • Excitement: to seek, create, and engage in activities that are exciting, stimulating, or thrilling.
  • Fairness: to be fair to myself or others.
  • Fitness: to maintain or improve my fitness; to look after my physical and mental health and well-being.
  • Flexibility: to adjust and adapt readily to changing circumstances.
  • Freedom: to live freely; to choose how I live and behave, or help others do likewise.
  • Friendliness: to be friendly, companionable, or agreeable towards others.
  • Forgiveness: to be forgiving towards myself or others.
  • Fun: to be fun-loving; to seek, create, and engage in fun-filled activities.
  • Generosity: to be generous, sharing, and giving to myself or others.
  • Gratitude: to be grateful for and appreciative of the positive aspects of myself, others, and life.
  • Honesty: to be honest, truthful, and sincere with myself and others.
  • Humor: to see and appreciate the humorous side of life.
  • Humility: to be humble or modest; to let my achievements speak for themselves.
  • Industry: to be industrious, hard-working, and dedicated.
  • Independence: to be self-supportive and choose my own way of doing things.
  • Intimacy: to open up, reveal, and share myself- emotionally or physically in my close personal relationships.
  • Justice: to uphold justice and fairness.
  • Kindness: to be kind, compassionate, considerate, nurturing, or caring towards myself or others.
  • Love: to act lovingly or affectionately towards myself or others.
  • Mindfulness: to be conscious of, open to, and curious about my here-and-now experience.
  • Order: to be orderly and organized.
  • Open-mindedness: to think things through, see things from others’ points of view and weigh evidence fairly.
  • Patience: to wait calmly for what I want.
  • Persistence: to continue resolutely, despite problems or difficulties.
  • Pleasure: to create and give pleasure to myself or others.
  • Power: to strongly influence or wield authority over others, e.g. taking charge, leading, and organizing.
  • Reciprocity: to build relationships in which there is a fair balance of giving and taking.
  • Respect: to be respectful towards myself or others; to be polite, considerate and
    show positive regard.
  • Responsibility: to be responsible and accountable for my actions.
  • Romance: to be romantic; to display and express love or strong affection.
  • Safety: to secure, protect, or ensure safety of myself or others.
  • Self-awareness: to be aware of my own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
  • Self-care: to look after my health and well-being and get my needs met.
  • Self-development: to keep growing, advancing, or improving in knowledge, skills, character or life experience.
  • Self-control: to act in accordance with my own ideals.
  • Sensuality: to create, explore, and enjoy experiences that stimulate the five senses.
  • Sexuality: to explore or express my sexuality.
  • Spirituality: to connect with things bigger than myself.
  • Skillfulness: to continually practice and improve my skills and apply myself fully when using them.
  • Supportiveness: to be supportive, helpful, encouraging, and available to myself or others
  • Trust: to be trustworthy; to be loyal, faithful, sincere, and reliable.

(Adapted from the list of values based on the work of Dr. Russ Harris, author of ACT Made Simple.)

If you don’t know what a value is, just think of one word that describes how you want to behave now and on an ongoing basis. 

When I ask about values, most clients give me goals. That’s fine. It’s a good place to start. We can later tease out the underlying values underlying. Good questions to kick off this conversation include:

  • Who do you care about? Who do you like to hang out with?
  • What matters to you?
  • What gets you fired up?
  • What inspires you? What infuriates you?
  • What makes you sad? Happy? Angry? Scared?
  • What do you enjoy? What “floats your boat”?
  • When do you feel grateful or appreciative? For what?
  • When do you feel you’re living life your way? Doing what?

Here is a great metaphor by Russ Harris:

Our values are like the continents on a globe of the world. No matter how fast you spin that globe, you can never see all the continents at once; there are always some at the front, some at the back. From moment to moment, you get to choose: which values come to the front, and which move to the back?

Why do I use values lists in my therapy sessions?

  • As motivation for harder tasks in life.
  • As guidance for your purpose or calling in life.
  • As an everyday life reminder of what is truly important to you.
  • As a signpost of how you want to behave in different areas of life (work, home, etc.)
  • As an important factor in gaining confidence.
  • To ease the decision-making process by knowing yourself better.
  • To get to know people close to you better.
  • To reduce stress before important events.

Tip: Choose one of your most cherished values to be your mantra.

What are my values? an exercise.

Choose an area of life (Work/Education, Leisure, Relationships, Personal Growth/Health). Decide which values are V (Very important), Q (Quite important), or N (Not important) to you.

My top 3 values sheet

Now, go through the ones you marked as V. Choose 3 (or more) that are most important to you. Write them out as a note to remind yourself that this is what you want to stand for as a human being in that particular domain of life.

Summary

Make sure to check back with this list whenever you feel the need. Our values may change with each year, month, day, or even in hourly increments. This is completely normal and being up-to-date with what you would like to be can help you be mindful and present in the moment to improve your overall mental health.

Book a free 30-minute consultation with an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy specialist.

1 Comment

  1. Stephen 24 February 2021 at 22:03

    Finally an article about ACT values that is simple, reads well and is not looking like it’s from 1999 😉 Great job and thanks

    Reply

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