Moving Towards Our Values

Today is World Values Day! Values are a key aspect to Acceptance and Commitment Training because committing to move towards your values creates the pivots which lead to success.

Values ARE NOT goals. Values inform goals, but if a goal is achieved the value persists. Values are foundational characteristics that define who we are. We define our values. Imagine you are a tree. Your values are your roots. The branches reaching out, the leaves created, the fruit grown, those are all the fruits of your values. They are the goals you achieve and the things you do and create.

I did an exercise where I listed my values and then formed them into a motto of sorts. This motto informs my pets and professional life. The crest in the image was created by my dear friend, Robert Ennis, who is now my business partner at Legend Masters LLC.

The crest itself is formed around my values. The central structure of the crest is a top down view of the Middleton family crest of a tower (a Scottish clan). The Celtic knotwork if a nod towards my Scottish, Irish, and Germanic heritage. The fists represent conflict while the shaking hands represent resolution. The compass and light from the gem represents finding direction and light through action. The gem itself is a star sapphire, which is my favorite gem because it will take any light from its environment and reflect and intensify it.

Metaphor is powerful as a tool because it helps the verbal problem solving machines of our minds find connections and move towards our values if we are intentional about it.

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Problem Solving Machines

Relational Frame Theory builds on B. F. Skinner’s verbal behaviors. It is a continuation of his work in the truest sense and the foundation of ACT.

The integration of ACT into ABA is natural and necessary because it teaches the individual self-management tools which empower them to have control over their lives. It enables the individual to have greater choice in their future. It affords them (and us) greater dignity and respect.

ACT is evidence-based. ACT is trauma informed because it teaches the individual how to grow beyond the trauma, not by pretending it did not happen, but by acknowledging it AND lighting a path forward. ACT is beneficial for everyone regardless of age, ability, neurotype, or belief system. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend reading up on the topic.

Recommended books:

The Liberated Mind by Dr Steven C Hayes

ACT Made Simple by Russ Harris

Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life by Steve C Hayes

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: The Process and Practice of Mindful Change by Steven C Hayes, Kirk D Strosahi, and Kelly G Wilson

Learning ACT by Jason B Luoma, Steven B Hayes, and Robyn D Walser

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Observing Our Own Thoughts

Observing your own thoughts is important. Self-as-context is crucial in the process of being able to accept and commit to move towards your values. This exercise can be done with anything from clouds in the sky to leaves in a stream. It can be visualized in your mind’s eye or inspired by real things such as this amazing jellyfish exhibit I saw years ago at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Either way, I invite you to take a moment and to this activity.

The longer video that is looped is linked below if you wish to do the exercise for longer, although I encourage you to try doing it different ways.

Extended video is found here:

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An Introduction to ACT (& ACT Week)

Our verbal abilities create connections in amazing ways. Humanity is fantastic at problem solving as individuals and as groups. But this ability is a double edge sword. Because we can connect anything with anything through our verbal abilities, we can connect pain, fear, anxiety, and more with objects, situations, songs, words, thoughts, memories, and yes, even other emotions.

Acceptance that everyone feels physical and psychological pain is not exclusive to nihilism. In fact, that acceptance is an important part of being able to build resilience and compassion for yourself and others. The act of turning away from your pain pairs the things you do to escape from that pain with that pain. Avoidance creates a verbal connection between that avoiding and the pain which in turn forges suffering. It is when we turn towards the pain, accepting it and then moving toward our values that we see that the path of life, while filled with pain, is also filled with joy, meaning, love, caring, kindness, and more.

When I struggled most was when I sought to escape the pain. To hide from it. Struggles with my autism and not understanding the social interactions the I seemingly always screwed up, depression, a failing marriage, family struggles, disagreements, and crippling loneliness. All of these seemed to be the concrete shoes that pulled me deeper into the waters of despair, anxiety, and fear. It was not until I found a friend who understood and shared that the weight had been lifted.

The relationships I have built, and jettisoned, since are founded around my values. Interestingly, I have been told by close friends and family that I am happier and healthier. Whether that is true or not, the foundations of ACT were certainly in play in helping me overcome those challenges I faced then and will continue to face. The beauty of ACT is that instead of it being guesswork, I can directly identify what is happening and how I can help myself and others.

ACT is not a magic cure. It takes work, but it is work that is meaningful and worth it. I highly recommend you read a book on ACT. The ones I prefer are:

The Liberated Mind by Dr Steven C Hayes

Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Dr Steven C Hayes

ACT Made Simple by Russ Harris

Thank you for joining me on this week of ACT.

#aba #appliedbehavioranalysis #appliedbehavior #behavior #act #cbs #contextualbehavioralscience #acceptanceandcommitmenttherapy #acceptanceandcommitmenttraining #beardedbehaviorist #ACTweek