The Nerd-Lite Value Tacker
Part of my training as a counselor involves delving into many different theoretical perspectives and approaches to therapy. I learn a lot about different interventions, which is a fancy word for “Things to Do with Clients.” Today, I want to share an intervention that I like, which I adapted from both Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Donald Super’s Life Role Pie Chart. For lack of a better word, I’ll call this the Nerd-Lite Value Tracker*. Perhaps it will be helpful to you!
From a Person-Centered perspective -- and this is one of my favorite perspectives -- the goal of this intervention is to identify sources of incongruence. Although the term “Incongruence” is likely new to you, the sentiment is probably quite familiar. It’s this: The self I really am is different from the self I can express in this moment. For a much more detailed and eloquent description of incongruence, see Carl Rogers.
If we’re being honest, there’s a good bit of ME (Anna) in Nerd-Lite Value Tracking, as well. I have a strong penchant for tracking change over time -- particularly in Excel. (That’s where “Nerd-Lite” comes in. Nerd because I use Excel. Lite because this is all I know how to do in Excel). If you have a similar affinity for spreadsheets, then click that little green icon, and let’s begin the exercise!
How to Complete the Nerd-Lite Value Tracker
1. Create a list of your most important values and life roles (Hint: Condense when possible. You’ll be putting these in a pie chart soon and, just like in real life, no one is happy when the pieces of pie are too small.)
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of values and life roles to get you started:
Career, Community, Creativity, Family, Friends, Health & Fitness, Helping, Home Environment, Learning, Money, Parenting, Personal Growth, Play/Leisure, Religion, Rest, Romantic Relationships, Service, and Sexuality.
This part's important: In listing your values and life roles, try to reflect who you really are. Think less about who you think you should be. (For most people, these are at least slightly different.)
2. After listing your values, assign each a percentage based YOUR ideal. The combined total of values can’t add up to over 100%. (Although my middle-school english teacher would beg to differ, grades above 100% don’t make sense.)
Here’s a hypothetical example:
3. Here comes the FUN part. (Note: not everyone will find this fun.) Highlight the two columns, go to the Insert menu, hover over Chart, and select Pie. Boom! You have a color-coded value pie.
4. Now for tracking. I love tracking, but I find most real-world “trackers” to be rather soul-sucking in nature (e.g., pedometers, calorie counters, etc). Nerd-Lite Value Tracking addresses something a bit more existential than kcals* (and, dare I say, more important): to what extent do my daily actions reflect my values?
You can choose any unit of time to track your values - daily, weekly, monthly, etc. I chose “weekly” in the example below. Next to your ideal column, list a few “Actual.” This means that at the end of the day, week, or month, you write down how you actually spent your time -- that is, what values were actually reflected in your behavior.
Last but not least, highlight a single row of Actuals, and Excel will automatically calculate the average! Look to the bottom right of the spreadsheet to see the average, and then list it on the column on the far right.
5. Obviously, the next step is to compare the Ideal to how you actually averaged over time. Notice that the average means a lot more than how your values shake out in any given week.
In this example, for example, our girl took a dream vacation to Hawaii in Week 3. She spent a lot of time hiking and chatting with her traveling buddies, and she only answered work emails on the plane. This helped to keep the career average around 20% in the end, despite allotting 40% to career in week 1. Good for her!
6. If you find that the Average and Ideal columns are pretty different, great!
Well - ok - no - that’s probably indicative of some deep psychic pain. But now you know where the work is!
Differences between columns highlight incongruence - which, as a refresher, means "The Self I really am is different from the Self I can express in this moment."
7. Now, we can begin the process of closing the discrepancy, or incongruence, between who you know you are, and how you find yourself behaving in the world.
HOMEWORK: After completing the exercise, add one action that will reflect one of your more neglected values. Also, give yourself a little hug.
“Hi, self. I’m sorry about the incongruence; that can’t be very fun for you. Let’s see what I can change!”
Happy Nerding, Friends!
*Note to reader: Counting kcals may actually be an expression of existential angst. Future post coming soon!
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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]