“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 sound 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 flexibility. 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 aligned 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, dream 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, thehappinesstrap.com