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The Choice Point
Pivot Toward What Matters
In our last issue of MM, we discovered a few tips from Acceptance and Commitment Training to help us with troubling thoughts. You were then encouraged to write in with a strategy that resonated with you. I received two very thoughtful responses from Dave in Singapore and Perry in Hong Kong. Thank you to both of you for writing in and sharing your thoughts! Dave, however, was the first to submit, and is the proud winner of Dr. Kristin Neff’s book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. Congratulations, Dave!
Just like Dave, each and every one of us has a day filled with choices. Often, however, we are unaware we have the freedom to choose, as we often run on auto-pilot. ACT helps us turn down our auto-pilot and reconnect with the steering wheel of our lives. With our hands firmly on the wheel, we are able to make mindful choices that enable us to live more meaningful and satisfying lives.
The crux of ACT is spelled out in Dr. Russ Harris’s book, The Happiness Trap. In it, he distills ACT into the following:
A = Accept your thoughts and feelings and be present.
C = Connect with your values.
T = Take effective action.
As you might assume, the words be present above hint at the importance of mindfulness in ACT. However, mindfulness involves not only being aware of our inner (thoughts and feelings) and outer (external stimuli) experiences, but also recalling our values in the moment, so that we are better able to take steps that align with them. Dr. Harris calls this moment The Choice Point. (Click HERE to listen to Dr. Harris’s own 3-minute explanation.)
The Choice Point works as follows… Barry has had a hard day at work. Stressed and exhausted, he passes by the convenience store on his way home. He instantly recalls the delicious ice cream sandwiches they sell there and begins to turn towards the entrance of the shop. At that moment, however, Barry recalls his personal value of health, and his desire to lose some weight to support this value. He decides instead to go and refresh by swimming a few laps at the pool in his condo, leaving thoughts of that ice cream behind.
By being mindful of his values, Barry is able to make a choice that is better for him in the long run. Without being mindful of his values, Barry would been on autopilot, and would have chosen the ice cream.
I will be discussing this strategy and more about ACT in my upcoming talk in September, Pivot Toward What Matters. To book a free ticket, you may visit my site.