Through various avenues, we’ve been told that journaling is a great form of self-expression and a helpful tool in finding what’s important to you. Many journal prompts ask you to write about what’s going well in your life and what’s not. While journaling is a great tool for reflection and putting feelings into words, it isn’t always effective in answering this prompt for those who are more visually-inclined. The search for a similar practice to help reflect on what’s important to you as a visual learner is over – enter the ACT Values Bullseye.
This exercise explores your values: What you hold near and dear to your identity and how you want to live your life. Not sure what your values are? Using the ACT Values Bullseye not only shows you what your values are but categorizes these values into four parts of your life and how strongly you’re following your values. And it might even be easier than writing out your thoughts in your journal!
About the ACT Values Bullseye
The ACT Values Bullseye is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes actions to increase well-being, as opposed to getting beaten down by negative thoughts. There is also a heavy emphasis on values and self-compassion, which makes this therapy effective for those with anxiety, depression, and stress. Swedish Psychologist and ACT therapist Tobias Lundgren took the framework of ACT and created today’s exercise-of-interest, the ACT Values Bullseye.
The ACT Values Bullseye not only helps clarify what your values are, but places them on a bullseye graphic to determine how closely you’re living your life by your values and where there’s area for cultivation. By drawing out where you currently stand in terms of your values, we can visually see what needs our attention. We can then identify barriers to reaching a higher level of value-based living and make an action plan.
Identify your values
The ACT Bullseye starts off similar to many common values-finding exercises. When completing this ACT Values Bullseye exercise, you will start by identifying your values. What is important to you in your life? What core concepts guide your thoughts, feelings, and actions in life? After determining what your values are, you’ll place them into four domains: work and education, leisure, relationships, personal growth and health.
A few examples of values per each domain are as follows:
- Work/education: fairness, evidence, achievement, ambition
- Leisure: joy, connection to others, experiences, adventure
- Relationships: connection to others, love, fairness, respect
- Personal growth/health: health, exercise, mindfulness, appearance
Note that there are some values that show up in more than one category. This is okay! While they show up in multiple domains, they might not show up in the same spot on the bullseye – you might be living quite closely to your ideal value of fairness in your career but perhaps not so in your relationships.
Values are not goals. A goal is something that is measurable or achievable, a value is not something you can “complete.” While goals and values are intertwined, make sure that your values are not something that you want yourself to do, rather how you want to live your life.
Locate how fully you’re living your values
After writing out your list of values for each domain, place an X on the bullseye according to how fully you’re living your values day-to-day. The middle of the bullseye means that every day this value comes in action, that it’s something guiding your thoughts and behaviors. The outermost ring, however, means that you aren’t living by your values and they aren’t such a focus for you. Consider why you place your values on that specific ring. Can you think of examples of this value in action in your life? What would it look like to live fully with your values?
Taking the example of a specific value - connection to others. You might place this in the middle of the bullseye for your leisure domain, but on the outside ring for relationship. This means that when you’re having fun (leisure), you connect with others, perhaps at a bar or social club. However, when you’re dating someone (relationships), you might not pay much attention to your connection, maybe instead focusing on the activities you do with your partner. You can place an X on the bullseye for your values at large or for specific values, just be sure to spend time reflecting on why you’re placing it there.
Make a plan for living your values
Looking at your bullseye, it’s now time to make a plan for fully living your values or moving those Xs closer to the center. In thinking about the Xs that are towards the outside of the bullseye, what would it take to move them inwards? What stands in the way of living fully by your values, by getting the X perfectly in the center of the bullseye?
Perhaps you need to build better habits towards something that’s important to you. Or perhaps you need to spend less time with certain people with whom you have a toxic relationship. Figuring out the barriers in your life to becoming closer to your values will give you an action plan. Is there something you need to do more? Or something you need to do less? How do other people play into your values?
Next to your bullseye, write out a few goals (remember, these are things you can do) to work towards bringing those Xs to the center.
Consider seeing a therapist for extra support
If you struggled with this exercise – or, on the flip-side, you really enjoyed it! – finding a therapist that practices ACT might be beneficial to figuring out your values and how best to live by them. ACT therapists in your area could support your exploration of defining your values, help you reflect on why you have these values, what they look like to you, and what’s stopping you from fully embracing them in your daily life.
People explore their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and values in many different ways - hopefully the ACT Values Bullseye exercises a different part of your brain (the visual part!). Combining journaling, visual exercises, and therapy with a trusted clinician is the best recipe for understanding and living through your values and staying true to your authentic self.