You have this one life to live and it is lived moment by moment. And it doesn’t matter if you make plans for the future or just let things happen. Our life consists of moments that are linked together through time, forever passing from one moment to the next until it ends.
No doubt that in the past you’ve had moments that you’d rather forget and moments that you’d choose to live over and over again. Many times you’d have done your best and once or twice, you’ve stepped up and have been bold in the face of what life has thrown at you.
So what has guided you all this time? What values have you tried and sometimes failed to live up to? If you could be free to choose how would you like your life to be? What things would you be doing and what kind of person would you really be?
These are challenging questions for anyone and if you are an average human being you might just be doing your best just to get by. Sometimes life is so busy that you’ve not got time to set a direction. You hope that will come later once you’ve got a grip on whatever you are struggling with at the moment. But that moment never comes and life seems to fall from one moment to the next and you don’t seem to have control.
Or you know how to act, and you’ve acted this way in the past. But there always seems to be a big gulf between the person you want to be and how you are. Maybe under great stress or when it really mattered you’ve stepped up. But living this way all the time seems emotionally hard work.
But the secret to achieving this goal is to understand that your actions are guided by something. Even if that something is a reaction. Many times we are guided by our reactions that we take to avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings. In the moment our judgements, anger, anxiety, frustrations, guilt and shame all seem to stand in our way.
But what if you could act in a way that you would choose and overcome your worst fears?
In Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) we explore how you can answer the big questions in life and make room for the thoughts and feelings that come with them. ACT is simple because it doesn’t require you to analyse your past or spend your days fighting with negative and challenging thoughts. Anyone can transform their life for the better by being more open, aware and active.
Being open means being able to make space for unpleasant thoughts and feelings that are a fact of life. And responding in a way that they no longer act as a barrier to the things that you value.
Being aware means connecting with what is happening for you right now. It means using the skill of mindfulness to notice the small details and beauty that life has to offer. It means removing the autopilot that drives you when your mind is full of noise about problem-solving, worrying, comparing, judging and criticising. While your mind is busy talking to you, you miss opportunities to live your life better, more fully and more true to yourself.
Being active means becoming clear to what matters to you and then living that life on purpose. Rather than falling from moment-to-moment, you choose what direction you want your life to go in. Asking yourself, if I could choose, who would I want to be right now? And being able to be that person and be open and aware of the experience as you go. No matter how challenging life can be, you can cope with the experience and focus on what truly matters to you.
Becoming more open, aware and active is about defining your values clearly, then living them vigorously. But also holding them light enough so you can make space for unwanted experiences to come and go. Our normally self-critical mind forces us to react without thinking so rather than endlessly reacting you decide to act in a way that is conscious, curious, and flexible.
Acceptance and commitment training helps you achieve this by teaching you skills that allow you to accept unwanted experiences and take committed action based on your values. Life is full of unpleasant experiences and the more you try to control these experiences the worse they become. But it is possible to live with your struggles and still achieve a sense of happiness, contentment and willingness to experience all that life has to offer you.
ACT works because it is based on tested science and is constantly evolving based on the latest available evidence. But you still have to do work, it isn’t easy but with ACT you can learn to surf the waves of emotions and allow them to happen and move on with your life, always heading towards a valued direction.
With ACT you learn that your mind is just a machine built for thinking and that its thoughts are often unhelpful. You learn how to separate yourself from your thoughts and see them as they truly are, just thoughts with no meaningful value or merit apart from what we place on them.
And you learn how to take action on purpose in a direction that takes you towards your goals. An action that might be uncomfortable at first but once you’ve learned how to overcome that discomfort it becomes easier to experience. Helping you to transform your life for the better.
How open, aware and active are you?
Download and carry out this exercise.