|via Sarah Wilson|
Whilst decluttering and packing, I came across some exercises I’ve used in various group therapies as well as in my Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) training and thought it might be nice to share.
ACT is based on mindfulness and values – these words are interchangeable with ‘self-awareness’ and ‘knowing what you stand for’ respectively. Knowing who you are and what your values are is essential to navigating your life towards achieving a full, meaningful life. ACT means knowing and accepting who you are and taking committed action towards living by your values. If you want to read more about it – or are generally interested in living a full, rich life – I strongly recommend starting with The Happiness Trap pocketbook before proceeding to more advanced writing on mindfulness by Russ Harris and Jon Kabat-Zinn (who incidentally is speaking at The School of Life in London on May 2nd).
In the meantime, you can try some exercises.
It’s important to remember that a value is a verb and begins with ‘to’.
Positivity is not a value. To look on the bright side of difficult situations is.
Happiness is not a value. To pursue interests [hobbies, spending time with loved ones] that bring joy to my life is.
Wealth is not a value. To be grateful and appreciate the abundance in my life is.
Ambition is not a value. To continue to learn and develop expertise in my field is.
Relationships is not a value. To treat myself and others with respect is.
Health is not a value. To take care of my body is.
So if someone asks you why are you running 1k each day, you can say ‘it’s because I value taking care of my body. So even if something happens to my health, I know that the action I take will be based around my value to take care of my body.’
The exercises below will help you discover yourself and your values. Here’s to you fellow soul-searchers out there. Go wild.
- Identify your values. Your life is split into four quartiles: Work, Relationships, Personal Growth, and Free Time, as below – it would be great if you could print out this image for this exercise. For each area, identify your top three values (these often change depending on where you are in your life). Then, if the bullseye is YES 100% and the outermost outline of the target is HELL NO, mark where you think you are in terms of living your life according to your values. Then write down one thing you could do that would bring you closer to the bullseye and do that thing. This is a good exercise to do regularly – quarterly or even yearly.
- Write yourself a small postcard. On the one side, write what you want your life to be about – what you want your ONE HOLY GUIDING VALUE to be. On the other side write the obstacles – DEMONS – in your life that prevent you from doing so. Keep it in your wallet indefinitely. It serves as a reminder that you can live with both your ONE HOLY GUIDING VALUE as well as your DEMONS at the same time. Stay the course.
- Mind-reading. Pick two people that you trust and know you well. Imagine you know what they are thinking. Write down how you think they would answer the following questions about you. Then actually ask them. Compare your answers.
- What do you think of me?
- What are my values? (What kind of person am I?)
- What are my positive qualities?
- What am I to you?
- What role do I play in your life?
- Write a fairy tale. Fill in the blanks below:
- Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away. Describe the kingdom.
- There lived a king. Describe him.
- And his queen. Describe her.
- They had a child. Describe the child.
- But the kingdom had an enemy. Describe the enemy.
- After the king’s and queen’s child grew up, they asked the child to help overcome the enemy. How did the child respond?
- And so the child begins their long journey to find the enemy. The child travelled for many days and nights, eventually growing weary and stopping to rest under a tree. A creature of the earth bursts from the tree! What is it?
- It shook and some part of itself and out came a gift that would help the child face the enemy. What is the gift?
- And then says: ?
- The child continues to journey through the kingdom for more days and nights searching for the enemy and starts to get thirsty. The child stops at a river to drink some water and a creature of the water appears! What is the creature?
- It shakes it’s [?] and gives the child a gift to help face the enemy.What is the gift?
- And it says: ?
- Once the child’s thirst is quenched, the child takes the gifts and continues searching for the enemy. After several days and nights, the child reaches a clearing and creature of the sky appears. What is the creature?
- It shakes it’s [?] and gives the child a gift that will help the child face the enemy. What is the gift?
- And it says: ?
- With all three gifts in tow, the child continues the journey and after searching for so long, is suddenly facing the enemy. How does the child use the gifts?
- And then what does the child do?
- What happens after the enemy is faced? How does the story end?
Refer to the end of this post to see what your answers mean.
- The Straw Basket. Imagine that you have a straw basket. Think about all of your problems – imagine placing them in that straw basket and put it somewhere safe in your head. Your problems won’t disappear, but this way they don’t consume your mind.
- Draw a picture. Put yourself in the middle of the picture, and in each quartile (as above) draw a picture of your RESOURCES and the things you are grateful for. Take your time and enjoy it.
- Funeral Speech. Imagine you are at your funeral, and someone is reading a speech about you. Write down what you would want them to say.
- Some extra guiding questions:
- How do I want to develop?
- What personal characteristics and qualities do I want to cultivate?
- How do I want to behave?
- How do I want to treat myself?
- What kind of relationships do I want to build?
- How do I want to treat others in my relationships?
- What do I want to believe in?
- When there is a crisis and I am being challenged, what do I want to champion?
- What areas of my life are most important?
- What is really, truly, most important and meaningful to me?
Fairy tale interpretations:
- Kingdom = my ideal place
- King = ideal father figure
- Queen = ideal mother figure
- Child = inner child
- Enemy = inner demon
- How the child responds about having to face the enemy = how you respond to those you are closest to
- Creature of the earth = your relationship to material things
- Creature of the water = your relationship to your emotions
- Creature of the air = your relationship to your values and your spirituality
- How you face the enemy = how you face life