ACT 101: The Observing Self

You’re introduced to someone you’ve never met before.  They say, “Tell me about yourself.”  How do you answer?  Do you say, “I’m a total stress ball, and have no sense of direction in my life?”  Probably not, except possibly if they are your new life coach or pexels-photo-573565.jpegtherapist.  More likely, you’ll answer with a basic description, including your roles.  “I’m a sales representative at ABC Company.” Or, “I’m a dad to 3 children.” Or, “I’m an accountant by day, and a sports nut on the weekends.”  And sharing those high-level descriptions of your roles and interests are fine, even socially expected, when having a conversation with someone for the first time.

With Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT), in which the goal is greater psychological flexibility, we dive a little deeper into the question, “Who am I?”  It is recognized that how we identify and relate to our descriptions, roles, thoughts, emotions and experiences has a profound effect on how we experience life.

For example, if we see ourselves as “a total stress ball, with no sense of direction,” we may make day-to-day choices that narrow or limit our world.  If invited to a party, we pexels-photo-206382.jpegmay think, “No one will want to be around me right now,” so we decline the offer.  Or if we see ourselves as, “overweight and undesirable,” we may choose not to go on a blind date even though we’d really like to be in a romantic relationship. ACT recognizes that the labels we attach to ourselves can impact more than just our perspective, it can affect how narrowly or broadly we experience our lives.  It can cause us to miss out on having or experiencing the things that matter to us.

So, let’s take a deeper dive into this idea of perspectives of ourselves.  ACT breaks it down into “three senses of self”:


When we describe ourselves by a story of our lives (roles, experiences, characteristics, thoughts, emotions, etc.), we’re describing what ACT refers to as Self-as-Content. In other pexels-photo-532389.jpegwords, these are the things that have been a part of you and your life, but are definitely not the whole of who you are.  You may be a mom, but you’re more than that.  You may be an engineer, but you’re more than that too.  You may be smart, or tall, or struggle with anxiety, but none of these represents the entirety of you.


Beyond the content of our lives as described above, we have the capacity to notice our experiences as they’re happening.  It is an awareness of what we’re sensing.  For example, “I am feeling angry,” or “I am seeing a car driving by right now,” or “I am in the process of planning an event for next weekend.”  Self-as-Process is the ongoing process of awareness; it is the realization that we are experiencing our life right now with our 5-senses.  We are making conscious contact with our present moment experience.


This sense of self is the most difficult to explain, because it is more fully understood as an experience.  It is the aspect of ourselves that is the answer to these questions, “Who felt the anger?” “Who saw the car driving by?” “Who is planning the event?”  And let’s take it even a step further.  Think of a time when you were a child and you felt angry.  Maybe a sibling played with a toy of yours and it broke.  Maybe your parents said no to your request to go somewhere or do something.  Think about who it was that felt angry then, and who it is that also feels anger sometimes now.  Somehow you know that there was a “you” then, and there is a “you” now, and that they are the same “you.”  Even though every cell in your body is a different cell, even though your bepexels-photo-247195.jpegliefs are different, your roles are different, your daily experiences are different. But at a deep level you know that you are the same you.  You know that there is an aspect of you that experienced all of those changing roles, changing emotions, changing thoughts; and that aspect of you is the true you.  ACT calls this our Observing Self, or our Self-as-Context because all of our experiences were experienced in the context of this sense of self.

So, why does knowing about these 3 senses-of-self matter?  Because there’s a spacious, calm, peaceful, and transcendent quality to our Observing Self, and when we experience the ever-changing events, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions in our lives from that stable, unchanging aspect of ourselves, we’re able to handle those events similarly to how we handle the changes in weather.  We might not like a storm, but we know that it will lightning-storm-weather-sky-53459.jpegeventually pass.

This 2-minute video demonstrates this metaphor by comparing our Observer Self to the sky in which the changing, sometimes turbulent weather occurs.

You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather. – Pema Chodron

Then finally, through the generosity of Russ Harris, I offer you the opportunity to further the understanding of these senses of self through a meditative exercise.  Here is a 14-minute audio, entitled “Many Selves.”

Often when someone practices being aware of their Observing Self, connecting with it, pexels-photo.jpgand experiencing the events of their life from that “place,” they also experience a greater sense of wholeness.  But, even if that is not the case, there is a greater capacity to be more psychologically flexible when dealing with the unexpected in life.

Just for today, I will remind myself

I’m more than thinking mind,

There is another part of me, I am

the sky, I am the sea.

—  Corinne Shields

Let’s practice ACT together!

ACT 101: Mindfulness

pexels-photo-261804.jpegYou’re reading a book, and you have to re-read the same paragraph once, even twice, because you’re not focused.  You just can’t quit thinking about what you said to a friend yesterday, and wish you could take it back.

You hear them call your name, then say, “What do you think?”  And you realize you haven’t been listening to your child, your partner, or to others during a meeting.  What they said a minute ago reminded you of something else, and your mind took a trip down memory lane.  You’re forced to say, “Sorry, could you repeat that?” So, they do, tersely.

fashion-person-woman-hand.jpgYou set something by the front door, so you’ll remember to take it with you to work.  As you pull out of the driveway, or into the parking space at the office, you realize you forgot it.  You were thinking about your busy calendar when you rushed out the door, and walked right past it.  Immediately, you think, “How could I be so absent minded?”

Do any, or all of these, sound familiar?  We call it running on auto-pilot, because it’s like a plane flying without anyone at the controls.  We’ve all done it.  It’s natural.  It is the way our minds work.  But, there is something that can help.  There is a way to improve your focus—by practicing and cultivating mindfulness.pexels-photo-289586.jpeg


What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness means becoming more aware of what’s going on—right here, right now.  We can appreciate our lives, instead of rushing through them, always trying to get somewhere else.  Being mindful can also help us to be less swept away by our powerful, habitual currents of thought and emotion, which can manifest as stress, depression, negative thinking, anxiety, anger, resentment or self-doubt.  ~ Tessa Watt

Although mindfulness is not something that can be understood by reading or sharing definitions, or explanations, to help convey the concept, I encourage you to watch this 4-1/2 minute video entitled, “What is Mindfulness.”  It does a good job providing a simple, clear overview.

So, stated succinctly, mindfulness (also known as “Contact with the Present Moment”) is being fully connected and engaged in whatever we’re doing and experiencing, while it is happening.  But, no matter how simple or thorough the description, to really begin to understand mindfulness and reap its long list of rewards, we must practice it, and experience it for ourselves.

There are 2 ways to practice mindfulness:

  1. Formal Practice, often known as meditation
  2. Informal Practice, which we’ll light-heartedly refer to as practicing while doing “everything else.”

Informal Practice

 First, let’s say a little about what we mean by “informal practice.” It is simply paying attention to any activity that you’re doing, while you’re doing it, and noticing the experience fully, with each of your senses.  For example, while brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or driving your car, ask yourself:

  • What do I hear?
  • What physical sensations do I feel?
  • What am I thinking?pexels-photo-434284.jpeg

This 2-1/2 minute video entitled, “A Beautiful Summer Day” nicely demonstrates an informal practice of mindfulness.

Formal Practice

 Now, for a formal practice, here’s a 10-minute Guided Mindfulness Meditation, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and a creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.   pexels-photo-267967.jpeg

Studies show that practicing mindfulness formally and informally daily, or on a regular basis, has many benefits.  In an article by the American Psychological Association, “What are the benefits of mindfulness” they list the following:

  • Stress reduction
  • Reduced rumination
  • Boosts to working memory
  • Focus
  • Less emotional reactivity
  • More cognitive flexibility
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Fear modulation
  • Self-insight
  • Numerous physical health benefits
  • Improved sense of well-being
  • Reduction in psychological distress

So, if you haven’t already done so, I invite you to try mindfulness for yourself.  And if you come to cherish it as much as I do, you may choose to give it as gift to yourself every day as an act of self-love.  Then, you too may “Sit. Feast on your life.” as Derek Walcott describes in his poem, Love After Love:

The time will come pexels-photo-103127.jpeg
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

ACT 101: Committed Action

“I’ve tried so many times to reach my goal, but have never been able to stick with it.  I want to believe this time will be different, but I just don’t know anymore.”  Does this Can you relatesound like you?

You’re not alone in feeling discouraged from failing to accomplish a goal, change a behavior, or follow through on something meaningful.  We’ve all felt it.  We all know that staying committed is not always easy.  That’s what ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Training) is all about.

The aim of ACT is to give you tools to help you build a life of meaning and purpose–a richly rewarding life; a life that really, really matters to you.  And equally important, to give you tools to help you take committed action, no matter how many times you’ve gone off track.

Once you’ve clarified your values (see blog post, “ACT 101: Values”), in other words, freely chosen what really matters to you deep inside, who you want to be as a person, and what you want to stand for in your life– the next step is to set goals based on those values, and then take the first step on your new journey.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  ~ Lao-tzu

Often at this point, you’ll hear that voice in your head, “I’ve failed so many times.  I just don’t know if I have what it takes to try again.”  Is that happening for you right now?  I understand, and ACT has lots to say about that.  But for now, can you simply acknowledge those thoughts of doubt, and continue reading anyway?  Can you pay honor to your heart’s desire for deeper meaning in your life, by being open a little longer even if there’s a possibility that you may feel the pain of disappointment one more time?  Can you have the courage to hope?  If your answer is “Yes,” then you’re already practicing ACT!  You are moving in the direction of your values.  You are committing to take action.  You have already started the process of bringing your values to life!

What you just read is an example of practicing one of the 6-Core Processes of ACT, the one that is also the title of this blog post:  Committed Action.   It is a process in which you start taking small steps toward doing those things that really, deeply matter to you.  Then, you build new habits, new patterns of behavior.  And before you know it you’ve expanded your skills, broadened your life and are more fully engaged in doing the things that give your life real meaning.

Now, it’s time for a word of caution, and to share a little more about ACT.  The ACT approach to building the life you desire is not a linear process, it requires more pexels-photo-211757.jpegflexibility.  It is more fluid, more like a dance than a straight “shoot out of the gate” and “full-speed-ahead” motion.  There’s much more on that in other blog posts, but for now, let’s focus on this next step: identifying specific values-based goals.

In the blog post, “ACT 101: Values,” we discussed what is important to us and who we want to be as a person in an overall sense.  Now, let’s bring that practice into a specific area of our lives.  The following exercise may take a little time to complete, but it is so important.  I really encourage you to give this gift to yourself.  You deserve it!

The Bullseye Exercise*

  • Click on this link: Bull’s Eye Worksheet
  • Select one of the four life domains to use for this exercise. It can be the one in which you feel you want to make the most changes, or the one that sounds the most interesting, or even the one your finger lands on when you place it on the page with your eyes closed.  It doesn’t matter for this practice, because ideally you’ll want to repeat the practice for each domain over time.
  • Read the short description for the domain you’ve selected.
  • Answer the “Values” questions listed on the worksheet as they apply to that domain.
    • For example, what sort of person do you want to be in your relationships? (Or at work/school?  Or at leisure? Or in regards to your personal growth and health?)
    • In short, how does the ideal you behave, and what personal qualities does the ideal you bring to that domain of your life?
    • Feel free to use this link to help you define what is important to you in the domain that you’ve selected: Forty_Common_Values_Exercise.  (Select the 3 words that best describe what you want to experience or bring to this domain.)
  • Place an “X” in the area of the domain you’ve selected, which represents where you see yourself today. An “X” in the center means you are living in full alignment with the values you’ve chosen.  An “X” on the outer ring means your actions/qualities are not pexels-photo-226581.jpegaligned with your chosen ideal behaviors or qualities. So, place an “X” anywhere in between that best represents where you see yourself today.
  • Then, write down some action steps you can take that will bring you closer to your valued behavior/qualities.
    • Immediate: What is one small and easy action step that I can take today?
    • Short-term: What are some small and simple steps I could take over the next few weeks?
    • Medium-Range: What are some more challenging steps that I could take over the next few months?
    • Long-Range: What are the most challenging steps I could take that would mean I would be living in alignment with my values (being the person I want to be in this domain).  Allow yourself to reach down deep in your heart, pexels-photo-127968.jpegdream big, and fly free here.  You do not need to figure out if, or how, you would take those steps.

Next, before you take that first step of your journey, I encourage you to watch this 4-minute video on the difference between living a goals-focused life and a values-focused life.

Okay then, with the perspective of a values-focused journey, take action on your immediate-goal step today!  Then, stay tuned for more about ACT and how to take action even when there are barriers, and more tools for bringing your values to life.  You can sign up above to follow this blog and receive future posts, and “Like” the ACT in the Moment Facebook page.

Committed Action is one of ACT’s 6-Core Processes that help increase psychological flexibility and resiliency.  Another is mindfulness.  Regularly practicing mindfulness exercises trains the mind to be more focused, aware and alert.  Mindful breathing is a foundational practice for developing mindfulness.  For a short, yet very effective practice, I recommend MBSR’s (Mindful Based Stress Reduction) 6-minute breathing meditation.

And, one final perspective to support you on your way, remember…

The journey is the reward.  ~ Chinese Proverb

Let’s practice ACT together!

*Much appreciation to Dr. Russ Harris for generously sharing this exercise freely on his website,



ACT 101: Values

Have you ever asked, “What truly matters in life?”  “What gives our lives meaning?”  “What does it mean to live a life of purpose?”  If so, you’re not alone.  Harold S. Kushner borderline-depression-psycholgie-personalities.jpgdescribes the inner searching that most of us have experienced at one time or another:

Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter…What frustrates us and robs our lives of joy is the absence of meaning….Does our being alive matter?

So, where do we find the answers to these questions?  The ACT response is, “deep inside your own heart.”  And you discover the answers by asking the questions from the perspective of YOUR OWN life.  “What truly matters in MY life?” “What gives MY life meaning?” What does it mean to ME to live a life of purpose?”  The ACT approach offers exercises to guide you through this process.  Then, when the answers come, you get to choose how to move forward.  After all, your life is your own; no one can live it for you. pexels-photo-618546.jpeg And there is freedom in recognizing that.  Freedom to be the person you want to be, to do what really matters to you, to behave in the way you really want toward yourself and others, and to dedicate your time and energy to what you truly want your time on this earth to be about.


Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of …your affections and loyalties…out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account – John Gardner

Click on this 1-minute video for a quick recap of values according to the ACT model.

So now, I’d like to introduce you to two exercises* that can help you clarify your values and uncover what really matters to you:

  • Your 80th Birthday Reflection
    • Imagine that you turn 80 years old today, and you take a reflective look back on your life. Then, complete these sentences:birthday-cake-cake-birthday-cupcakes-40183.jpeg
      • I spent too much worrying about…
      • I did not spend enough time doing things such as…
      • If I could go back in time to [today], what I would do differently from this day forward is…


  • Clarify Your Values
    • Click on this link:  Forty_Common_Values_Exercise
    • Read through the list of these most common values and write a letter next to each:
      • V = Very importantpexels-photo.jpg
      • Q = Quite important
      • N = Not so important
    • Once you’ve marked each value as V, Q, or N, review all the Vs, and select the top six that are most important to you. Mark each one with a star. Then, record those six values, and review them often to remind yourself that this is what you want to stand for as a human being. Allow these to be the principles that guide your choices and actions in life (much more about this in other blogs).

Clarifying and living in alignment with your values is so important.  Values can inspire and motivate you.  They can serve as an inner compass to guide you in your choices.  They give your life purpose and meaning, and make your activities much more fulfilling and rewarding.

Clarifying values is one of ACT’s 6-Core Processes that help increase psychological pexels-photo-321576.jpegflexibility and resiliency.  Another is mindfulness.  Regularly practicing mindfulness exercises trains the mind to be more focused, aware and alert.  For a short, yet very effective practice, I recommend this free 3-Minute Body Scan practice from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.

Let’s practice ACT together!

*Much appreciation to Dr. Russ Harris for generously sharing these exercises freely on his website,



ACT 101: Psychological Flexibility

Has this ever happened to you? Psychological Flexibility Meme

  • You set a goal to eat more healthful foods, but you give in to cravings, repeatedly, then think, “I’m never going to get this under control. I feel like just giving up.”
  • You want to be more loving to the people you care about, but you catch yourself in the middle of an argument, waving your hands, saying hurtful things, again. Then, you mentally turn equally hurtful words towards yourself, “What is wrong with me?”
  • You decide you want to further your education, but just can’t seem to force yourself to sign up for that next course? You think, “It’s just too hard.  I’m not smart enough.”

You wonder if you’ll ever be able to be the person you want to be, or accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself.  It’s like trying to get to the top of a steep hill.  You take a running start with such good intentions, and up you go for a while. Then you lose traction and slide back down, maybe sometimes even tumble and roll back to the bottom of the hill.  You get up, look around and see you’re in the same place you started.  You grit your teeth, muster your dogged determination and try again…with the same result.  You try again, and again. You’re disappointed and frustrated, at the situation and at yourself.  You just feel stuck, and furthermore you’ve had it with this exhausting, painful pattern and you’re ready to call it quits.

Don’t give up.  Give ACT a try!  ACT recognizes this stuck pattern of behavior as a normal human experience and it offers 6 Core Processes that, when practiced, help you get unstuck, and help you develop the ability to move forward in the direction of your chosen values, goals, and ways of behaving, even when stuff gets in the way.  This is known as developing “psychological flexibility.”

Below, is a very brief description of each the 6 Core Processes, and we’ll be visiting each in more depth in other blog posts.  But first, let’s take a closer look at what is really happening here.  Initially, there is the desire to move towards something you value (a healthier body, improved relationships, or higher education, etc.).  Next, unpleasant thoughts show up like, “What if I fail?” or “I’m not good enough,” and difficult emotions arise like uncertainty, fear or frustration when things don’t go as expected.  Then, you want to avoid those painful thoughts and feelings, so you’re tempted to quit, or maybe you do quit. And maybe even more painful thoughts show up, “I’m such a loser.”

Again, all of this is perfectly normal.  It even has a name; it’s called experiential avoidance.  But, it’s keeping us from being the person we really want to be.  I encourage you to watch this 3-minute video that explains it.

So, let’s take a very brief look at what makes a difference, the 6 Core Processes of Psychological Flexibility:Hexaflex with credit

  1. Values – Clarifying what really matters to us
  2. Committed Action – Taking clearly defined steps towards our values
  3. Mindfulness – Being in contact and fully engaged in our lives moment-by-moment
  4. Self as Context – Recognizing the enduring part of ourselves that observes our experiences throughout the many stages of our lives
  5. Defusion – Detaching, or unhooking, from our painful mental experiences (thoughts, memories, judgments, etc.) that arise when we’re moving towards our values
  6. Acceptance – Expanding our capacity to experience those difficult emotions that also show up

ACT is about building skills in each of the 6 processes.  For a short, yet very effective practice, I recommend this 3-minute breathing space exercise to begin the process of noticing your internal experiences (thoughts, emotions and sensations), and to experience mindfulness.  I invite you to share your experience by leaving a comment.

Let’s practice ACT together!

Intro to ACT

If you’ve tried to make changes in your behavior or to reach goals in the past, and have failed to stGoal setting pixabay 012917ay committed, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Training) could be the answer for you.  If you’ve beaten yourself up for not following through, or spoken to yourself harshly for giving into temptation, or just plain felt like giving up, the ACT approach to behavioral change could make all the difference!

The first ACT step is to show yourself compassion.  You are not alone in falling short of goals that you’ve set.  We all have. We’re human.  ACT offers an alternative approach to making changes in your life, by first defining what really matters to you, then taking steps to build that life you imagine deep in your heart; a life with purpose, that is meaningful and rewarding.

You’ll learn how to identify your values and how to genuinely connect with yourself, others and the world around you.  Yes, you’ll set goals, but then you’ll also learn how to handle the internal struggle of meeting those goals, those difficult thoughts and feelings that arise…the lack of confidence, the fear, frustration, and stress that come with making changes and trying new things.  You’ll also learn how to experience fulfillment in your life right now, as you steadily work toward making the changes you’d like to make.

The ACT approach is experiential.  Learning about concepts is very different than experiencing them. I’ll share concepts using stories and metaphors, and with videos and audios.  Then, you’ll be asked to try some exercises and practices, some that are quick and some that will take a bit more time.  You’ll be encouraged to participate and interact with me and others who are practicing ACT processes.  You’ll start building skills, and that takes practice.  There may be some exercises that seem a little strange or wacky in the beginning, but if you’re willing to give them a go, I think you’ll soon discover the purpose and value underlying them.

So are you ready to get started?  Great!  Then, I’m going to ask you to do your first exercise.  I’m going to ask you to notice your hand for 6 minutes.  Yes, I said that right.  You’ll follow instructions on a video called, “Mindfulness of the Hand.”  I invite you to take this first step no matter how strange it may seem.  open_handWhat have you got to lose?  It will only take 6 minutes, and we’ll reconnect afterward.  Do it now.  Here’s the link:  Mindfulness of the Hand


So what was that like?  Did the 6 minutes pass fairly quickly?  Did you notice things about your hand that you never noticed before?  Did you see things a little differently?  What if you could notice new things about yourself, your loved ones, and your life every single day?  What if you could see the world differently, much like you did with your hand?

Are you willing to apply this new way of looking at things to your internal and external experiences?  What might you discover?  If you’re ready for this new journey of discovery toward building a life of meaning, purpose and fulfillment, join me at

Coaching – What Is It? How Can It Help?

coaching-pixabay-012917Although globally more and more people are hiring coaches every day, there’s still a significant amount of curiosity around it.  I’d like to help take some of the mystery out of coaching.

Coaching is a forward-focused collaboration between  two equals, you and your coach, with the aim to help you build the fulfilling life you dream about deep in your heart.  It is important to point out here that the intent is to create the life you desire, and facilitate your goal attainment.  Coaching follows your agenda, not the coach’s.

Coaching allows you to see options and resources that may have been hidden, and helps you maximize your potential and performance.   It is action-based and focuses on enhancing the quality of your life.  Coaching is about asking the right questions to reveal the right answers for YOU…then, it’s about taking action, while receiving encouragement, accountability, and support every step of the way.

At ACT in the Moment, the core purpose in coaching is to help you live a full, purposeful, rewarding life.  What would be possible for you if you had a partner in your life who helped you:

  • Identify what REALLY matters to you in your personal and professional life.
  • Clarify your core values
  • Set goals for what you TRULY want, not what you think you “should” want, and support you as you achieve them
  • Improve relationships
  • Learn how to deal with stress, doubt, fear, and insecuritycompass-poxabay-012917
  • Handle painful thoughts and emotions
  • Increase wellbeing
  • Shift your perspective
  • Navigate through challenge and crises more effectively and efficiently
  • Utilize untapped resources, both internal and external, so you can be the person you really want to be
  • Build confidence and resilience
  • Take action
  • Experience greater satisfaction at work
  • Improve performance
  • Complete a project
  • Live more fully every moment of your lifedestination-pixabay-012917

In summary, a coach can help you live the life you want to live, be the person you want to be, and express in the world in the way you intend.

Please note that coaching is not therapy.  Diagnosing and treating medical or mental health problems are outside the scope of coaching.  Coaching assumes the client is whole and functioning, and may be experiencing a challenge, a lack of progress, are feeling stuck, or simply understand the power of a coaching partnership to help them live a vibrant, meaningful life guided by their values.

How Does Coaching Work?

Coaching is usually delivered over the phone, although some coaches meet face-to-face.  Depending on your coach, your goals and your personal situation, coaching is delivered either one-on-one or in groups. Sessions usually range from 30 minutes to an hour, 2 -3 times per month.  Some coaches also offer just in time mini-coaching sessions, which typically last 10 – 15 minutes, and are laser-focused.  As well, some offer between session email exchanges, online discussions, or group chats.

You can hire a coach as a long- or short-term partner, for you, your business, your team, your family, or your organization.  There are coaches who specialize in unique challenges, particular positions or roles, life-stages, or specific goals, and there are coaches who offer a holistic approach to help you redesign and improve the quality of your life overall.

Whatever the focus or venue, in each session, the coach listens intently, asks questions to stimulate your thinking, provides feedback on their observations, supports you in expanding your perspective, helps you assess your options, create action agreements, and draw upon your resources. Every interaction with your coach confirms that you are not in it alone.

For more information regarding ACT in the Moment Coaching and Training, visit our website, like our ACT in the Moment Facebook page, or contact us.

ACT – What is It? How Can It Help?

What is ACT?


Hayes, S. C. (2004) ‘Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the new behavior therapies: Mindfulness, acceptance and relationship’. In Hayes, S. C. Follette, V. M. & Linehan, M. (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive behavioral tradition, New York, Guilford, pp 1-29.

Acceptance & Commitment Training, or ACT (said as a word rather than initials), is an empirically science-based model for therapy and coaching.  At ACT in the Moment, we use this powerful model for training and coaching with two objectives in mind:

  1. To create a rich, purposeful, rewarding life
  2. To effectively manage the painful or limiting thoughts and emotions that sometimes stand in the way of having the fulfilling life we desire

ACT: 6 Core Processes

ACT consists of 6 Core Processes that help achieve Psychological Flexibility.  Similar to how stretching and toning exercises help make us stronger and more agile in performing hour daily physical activities, ACT processes can help us become more flexible mentally and emotionally, so we can better handle the situations that life throws at us.  This allows us to be free to take actions toward what is truly meaningful in our lives.   Those 6 processes are:

  1. Contact with the Present Moment/Mindfulness
  2. Values
  3. Committed Action
  4. Self as Context
  5. Defusion
  6. Acceptance

Values – The Why of What We Do

Reasons, feelings, beliefs—all may change.  If your choices are dependent on those, you’re constantly bouncing around.

— Steven Hayes, PhD

man-on-compassThis quote by Steven Hayes, founder of ACT, highlights why identifying our life values is such a crucial activity.  Our values set our course and keep us focused on what really matters.

So then, how do we discover our values?  The ACT model offers several exercises to support the values clarification process, and one of those is to simply ask ourselves what really matters to us in life?  What do we want our lives to be about?  Who do we want to be as a person? What do we want to stand for?  How would we like to be remembered?  It’s about using what we uncover during the exercises to determine how we really want to spend our time and energy.  Our values become our guiding principles for our actions much like a compass pointing the way.

Committed Action

goals-checklistSo, the next step is to set goals and take committed action.  While our values are there to guide, motivate and inspire our course of action, committed action is about doing what needs to be done to bring those values to life.  Values point the way like a compass, and goals help us identify milestones as we move forward.  They are things that we can check off as arrival points or accomplishments along the way.  For a simple example, if you value being a loving supportive husband, a goal may be to plan a special evening out with your spouse.

Our values are what truly matters to us, goals and committed action are ways we pursue or demonstrate our values.

But, we’re human, and stuff gets in the way.  Stuff like:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Overwhelm
  • The feeling of being stuck
  • Self-criticism or perfectionism
  • Thoughts that we’re “not good enough”

So, then what?   ACT’s 6 Core Processes were designed specifically to help with these.  One such process is to make contact with the present moment.

Contact with the Present Moment

Our minds are like pieces of technology or software programmed to think constantly, 24/7, 365 days a year.  They ruminate, analyze, recall, compare, strategize, fantasize, and evaluate.  They evoke things from the past and surmise things about the future.  Memories and projections show up as, “If only this hadn’t happened,” or “Once I have this, then I’ll be happy.”  Our minds can run us ragged.

here-and-nowACT offers training and exercises to help us manage this constant mind noise by making “contact with the present moment,” so we’re more aware of our here-and-now experience and so we can engage fully in ourselves, our lives and the world around us with an attitude of openness and curiosity.

For a very quick and simple exercise, right now, turn your attention to your breath, as you inhale pay attention to how your chest or belly rises, and as you exhale notice how it recedes back again.  It can be that easy to bring our attention to the present moment.  And it can be done anytime, anywhere.

Connection means being fully aware of your here-and-now experience, fully in touch with what is happening in this moment.

— Russ Harris, M.B.B.S., Physician, Therapist, and Trainer in ACT

Self as Context

Another life-enhancing ACT process is known as Self as Context.  The ACT model recognizes the importance of perspective, and acknowledges that we have 3 ways of experiencing who we are, or senses of self.  Understanding each of these senses of self can also be helpful in dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings as they arise.

  • The Conceptualized Self is the way we view our appearance, our roles, our personality, and so on. It is the process of evaluating and summarizing who we are.  Our conclusions and descriptions can be accurate or inaccurate, and can influence the choices we make in life.
  • Self as Process is the activity of being aware of our current experiences. For example, “I am feeling anxious” or “I am thinking that I need bread from the store.”  A conflict between the conceptualized self and the awareness we have of a current experience can be disturbing.  For example, if we see ourselves as someone who is always nice, our thoughts of anger and resentfulness may be difficult to admit.
  • The Observing Self is the part of us that can see all of our past and present experiences like a string of pearls, connected by a golden thread (that aspect of ourselves which remains constant). The part of ourselves that was who we were when we were young, and is still who we are now. Recall a time when you were young and an experience you had, maybe playing outside with friends.  Now think of brushing your teeth this morning.  The observer self is that part of us that recognizes that that young person and the person who brushed their teeth today are the same person.

Becoming familiar with each of these senses of self and knowing their purpose can be very helpful.  For example, it can help us with the next process called defusion.


We all know that feeling of getting hooked by our negative thoughts.  They show up as worry, guilt, self-doubt, perfectionism and the like.  These are the thoughts that slow us down, or can even stop us in our tracks.  They zap our confidence and motivation.  The ACT model calls that getting fused with, or hooked by, our painful or limiting thoughts.

Defusion is the process we use to create some distance between ourselves and these negative thoughts, beliefs or memories.  It consists of techniques we can use to remember that our thoughts are really just a type of language in our minds.  We can learn to mentally step back, detach, or unhook ourselves from these thoughts and return to the perspective of being a curious observer, and then take action toward building  the life we desire.


At one time or another, each of us has experienced disappointment, failure, illness or injury.  What’s a common reaction to those feelings?  Very often, we think, “I should be able to just get over this,” or, “Why can’t I just pull myself up by my bootstraps and move on?”  But struggling with negative emotions does not make them go away.  Studies have shown that it actually can make them worse by adding additional layers of suffering.

So, what do we do?  Let’s use the metaphor of quicksand.  If someone falls into quicksand their natural reaction is to thrash around to try to get out of it immediately.  But, what happens when they do that?  They sink even faster.  Negative emotions work the same way.  The more we struggle to get away from them, the tighter their grip can be.  With quicksand the best thing to do is relax back and lay yourself out flat like a starfish.   With emotions, we can learn to pause, make some space for those feelings and become skilled at letting them come and go without struggle.   ACT has many techniques to help us do

It’s about embracing the full spectrum of our emotions and recognizing the richness and depth they bring to our lives.

It’s about knowing what matters and managing the thoughts and feelings that stand in our way, so we can build and experience the rich, purposeful, rewarding life we truly want.

If you’d like to know more about ACT, you can visit our website, connect with us on our ACT in the Moment Facebook page, or contact us.