Using acceptance and mindfulness to build a life that is rich, fulfilling and fun
Life Is Messy
The truth is that life is messy. It’s chaotic, unpredictable and change is just about the only thing that remains constant. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out and learned the rules of the game, life changes and you need a new set of rules! And even the most robust and well intentioned set of ‘rules for life’ will come up short at some point.
So, what if there was no magic answer, no set of rules? What if the messiness and chaos of life wasn’t actually the problem? What if it were possible to live a rich, meaningful and rewarding life despite all the storms and uncertainty, the fears and the setbacks?
Life Is for Living
The exciting – and revolutionary – thing about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is that it is not a set of rules – it is a way of life. ACT has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of helping people to start building lives that they are truly engaged in and fulfilled by. It helps people to ‘un-stick’ themselves: to escape from the quicksand of uncomfortable internal experiences, not by fighting, suppressing or trying to change them, but by developing a sense of willingness to do the things that bring them fulfillment, even when that means coming into contact with painful thoughts and feelings. When we talk about ‘acceptance’ we do not mean simply resigning oneself to a life of pain and unhappiness. We mean acknowledging that certain things in life are outside of our control. We are going to propose that we have a lot less control over our thoughts and feelings than we have been taught to believe, but that we can still take full responsibility for what is within our control – what we do and say, how we live our lives every day.
But ACT is also about more than that. Life is for living and many of us are so busy attending to the business of living our lives – jobs, bills, responsibilities, routine – that we don’t stop to think about what is really important to us. ACT involves pressing the pause button and asking the questions that most of us rarely spend much time considering. What kind of a person do I want to be? What do I want to stand for in life? How do I really want to use the limited amount of time and energy available to me every day? We use these questions to help us to set goals that will take us closer to the lives that we want, and to motivate us to take actions – even tiny ones – that are true to our values.
Open, Aware, Active – Skills for Life
ACT is simple. It doesn’t require that you have to delve deep into your past to find hidden answers or to spend your days identifying and challenging ‘wrong’ thoughts. Using ACT, anyone can transform their lives for the better by being three things – Open, Aware and Active.
Being Open means learning to respond more effectively to the painful and unpleasant thoughts and feelings that are an inevitable part of the human experience, so that they no longer act as a barrier between you and the things that you value.
Being Aware means easing out of automatic pilot mode and beginning to connect with what is going on around us and inside us right here and now. It means using the skill of mindfulness to notice the small details and beauty around us that we can miss when we’re wrapped up in our busy minds, problem-solving, comparing, judging, criticising and doing all the things that minds are great at! That awareness can also help us to notice the opportunities that may have slipped under our radar – opportunities to know ourselves better, opportunities to do more of the things that make life worth living.
Being Active simply means becoming clear on what matters to us most in life, and then pursuing those things vigorously – living life on purpose, rather than drifting through unconsciously. It’s about knowing the kind of person that you want to be, the kind of life you want to live, and then intentionally taking steps in that direction. More than that, it’s about doing so even when you know that it might be uncomfortable or challenging, and being fully open to and aware of the experience as you go.
Three simple skills. And while they might be simple, the impact they have on your life could be transformative. In our book ‘ACTivate Your Life’ we guide you through how to become more Open, Aware and Active – how to nurture a mindful approach to life and use this perspective to do more of the things that you love. It’s available now from Amazon.com and iTunes.