Transcript | PPP0096: How to Flourish Outside Your Comfort Zone with Dr. Diana Hill

Ellen
0:00:02 - 0:02:05
Hello and welcome to the Potential Psychology Podcast. I'm your host, Ellen Jackson. And it's my mission to share the science of human behaviour in a practical, fun and inspiring way. In each podcast episode, I interview an expert from the fields of Psychology, wellbeing, leadership, parenting or high performance. I pick their brain to uncover what they know about living well, what tips do they have for you and I and I quizzed them about how they apply their expertise in their own life. Join me as we discover simple, science backed ways to live, learn, flourish and fulfil your potential.

Hello and welcome back to the show. It's been a little while since our last interview, and I hope you're well. I don't know about you, but I am still fine to get difficult to establish a sense of rhythm and routine inn my days and weeks in 2021. I realised that we're approaching halfway through the year, but I suspect that the upheaval of 2020 has maybe left a few of us not quite into a new groove yet. Maybe, or maybe it's just me. But regardless, I do know that I'm still spending a fair bit off my time in 2021 for an assortment of reasons outside of my comfort zone. I still find that I'm adapting to new routines and just getting back into the world and the activities that come with that and I'm adapting, I think, I hope to things, returning some things, at least returning to some semblance of how they used to be but others not at all. And then this the whole, what's going to happen next? Which is a question that we might all have running through our minds. What happens with this Covid vaccine? What happens next in different parts of the world? Will there still be further lockdowns? What's happening with international travel? Will Covid be with us forever? That's what my nine year old asked us last night.

Ellen
0:02:05 - 0:04:00
And what does that mean if it is? We've talked a lot on the show about all of those sorts of challenges and the questions and the uncertainty over the past 12 months and the experience of being outside of our comfort zones and so we know the challenges but what are the healthiest ways of dealing with these challenges? What are the best strategies for not just staying resilient, but really growing and thriving and learning through this. If you're like me and things are still feeling a bit too much, on occasion, or maybe there's just is too much for you right now. I think I've signed myself up for too much. What can we do to maximise that experience instead of filling the overwhelm and the challenge that comes with it but maximise the experience to really become our best selves to not just survive but thrive because I'm quite sure that's possible. And that is exactly what we're talking about on the show today and not just in relation to Covid. In fact, not particularly in relation to Covid at all, but in relation to each of the little everyday struggles and challenges and difficulties that we face. The feelings of overwhelm that come from having too much on your plate. The things like our beliefs about ourselves that maybe stop us from trying something new, or maybe replacing a less than ideal habit with a new, more positive one, or facing a difficult situation at work or with your partner or kids, or just not losing ourselves in chaos when something unexpected happens, and the key to not just surviving but thriving through this, according to our guest, is psychological flexibility, which is the skill of not getting sidetracked or bogged down or overcome when difficult thoughts and feelings and sensations arise.

Ellen
0:04:00 - 0:05:56
And those thoughts and feelings and sensations arise, they come up for all of us all the time, at work, at home, in our everyday interactions. So how do we make space for those experiences knowing that they're always going to happen and then to continue to thrive and grow rather than being derailed by them? That is the topic of today's conversation but before I introduce you to our guest and expert and we get into that lovely conversation, I just wanted to let you know that you can now not just listen to the Potential Psychology Podcast. You can also watch us on YouTube. You can see me and today's wonderful guests and each of my wonderful guests in all of our authenticity with a podcast behind the scenes. It's audio plus visual, and in keeping with that authenticity is something we always like to achieve here on the show. You'll see us exactly as we are as we record the interview, there'll be me in my kitchen with my family chaos behind me, my guests, who are often in their lovely home offices, of which I'm always rather jealous but you'll see them too in real life as they're recording the interview, there's no fancy studios. Nothing is hopefully produced. It is the podcast as it looks every time and we'll pop a link to each of those YouTube episodes in the relevant show notes and promoted on the socials. In fact, you might have seen some of those already, and you could always search for Potential Psychology on YouTube. Okay, I think it's time we met today's guest, yes? Let's go.

With me today is Dr Diana Hill. She is a clinical psychologist based currently in Santa Barbara in the United States. She's a fellow podcaster, and it's always lovely to speak with a fellow podcaster and then expert in acceptance and commitment therapy, otherwise known as ACT.

Ellen
0:05:56 - 0:07:44
And we've spoken a couple of times now with guests about ACT on the show, but it's one of those fields that is so fascinating and so powerful, and I certainly, for one, is a coaching psychologist that really still building my understanding of it that I thought, oh another great opportunity to have a conversation about ACT and in particular, Psychological Flexibility. And Diane will explain all of what that means in a moment. Is an opportunity too good to pass up, as we all dove a little bit deeper into how these incredibly powerful skills can help us in our everyday life and in particular today we're going to be talking a little bit about how they might be able to help us in the workplace. So a little more about Diana - she is co author of a recent book with Dr Debbie Sorenson called The Act Daily Journal. And it is a tool kit really, for breaking down Psychological Flexibility into an eight week programme. So, something to think about and we'll mention it again at the end of course, as you become intrigued by the tips and tools and strategies that Diana is going to share with us today. A useful tool kit to be able to put some of this into practise. So welcome, Diana, thank you so much for being here with us.

Diana
Well, thanks for having me. And I'm really excited to chat with you about ACT and, like you said, how to bring it into our daily lives because ACT is best done regularly and frequently, so that it's a skill that you learn that's practised over time to build your psychological flexibility like you mentioned, yeah.

Ellen
Yeah and so could you just give us a really brief overview of ACT as a therapeutic practise, I suppose, and then we'll start to talk about what that does the for like in daily life for the majority of us.

Diana
0:07:44 - 0:09:32
Well, it's interesting you use the word therapeutic practise because it's called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy but it's also called acceptance and commitment training when we're thinking about it in the workplace or when you're not in therapy, because not only is act beneficial in these six core processes beneficial for things like anxiety and depression and chronic pain, it's also really been beneficial for things like being a more effective parent or for not getting so burned out at work for performance as an athlete. ACT is being used with Olympic athletes, and it's really about how to flourish in your life as a human, given the human mind and the things that trip us up about the human mind and really get yourself moving in directions that matter to you that are aligned with your values. So it's behavioural psychology is really steeped in behaviourism, but incorporates a lot of acceptance based approaches and values based approaches to really living well.

Ellen
Perfect. So I'd not heard of it using that terminology acceptance in commitments, training but I think that does sound or certainly perfect for our audience today. But as a workplace psychologist to be able to take the word therapy out of things is, yes, in terms of acceptance of what it is you're talking about makes a big difference. And while we talk about acceptance Diana, and because this is a concept, I suppose, that I know some people struggle with a little bit around. What exactly do we mean by acceptance in this context?

Diana
Yeah, well, acceptance is one of those six core processes that build your psychological flexibility. And when we talk about acceptance and act, we're not necessarily talking about approving of something that you don't like or allowing something to happen that is unhealthy, right?

Diana
0:09:32 - 0:11:18
But it's more about accepting the difficult thoughts, sensations, emotions that can show up under our skin when we are pursuing something that matters to us. So you know, I think folks can think about in the workplace. There's all sorts of things that you may want to do, you know, even just starting a podcast or pursuing, you know, asking for a raise. Doing things that you care about often require stepping out of your comfort zone. And when you step out of your comfort zone, there's going to be a whole slew of thoughts that show up. There's going to be uncomfortable emotions that show up and acceptance is our capacity to really get curious, open and allow and be willing for that to happen without getting bogged down or entangled in it. It's more about curiosity, I think, than anything else. Yeah, so that's the acceptance part.

Ellen
Yeah, I love that reframing about the curiosity because I think a lot of times when I've heard people talking about acceptance or the pushback, perhaps that I've seen in regarding its evidence has been this idea that I just need to accept what's happening to me or I have to accept a set of circumstances. And of course, it's not about accepting any of that at all is it. It's about getting curious and starting to get, well, you say comfortable, which I think is probably the right word. Takes a while to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Diana
Yeah, I say it's not even getting comfortable, it's making space for it, right? And the word curiosity is an interesting one. I often use that word than I'll use curious and willing more than I'll use acceptance sometimes when I'm working with the coaching clients or working with people in the work place, because the nature of curiosity is that it has a sort of like lean in open eyes, wonder. And when we are curious, I actually interviewed Judge Brewer, who's a neuroscientist, and he studies cravings as well as anxiety and habit loops around anxiety. And what he's found is that when you take when even when you open your eyes big and when you lean into something and you take a curious stance, it actually changes the way your brain, what's activated in your brain. So, we can get curious even just by like huh? I'm noticing anxiety in my body right now. And what what is its shape? What is its texture? How is it moving? Is it moving up? Or is it moving down? When I feel dread in the morning about my day like I don't want to deal with today. I have an energy moving down, right? And I can notice that. And I can still get out of bed and do my day, even with that energy that's moving down. So curiosity is more of taking an open stance, and that frees us up a little bit to be able to move with our hands and our feet and really be directed more by our heart than by the thoughts and feelings were entangled in.

Ellen
That is fascinating about that neuroscience that. No idea that it is actually triggering something. I'm fascinated by curiosity generally as a field of study, but also just in terms of practise. That's something I talk about a lot with clients, so to know that there's actually that link and also that linked to the physicality that's, that's really interesting. How attuned do you find people are to what's going on in their physical cells? Because it's not something we often talk about or get kind of trained to do? Is it?

Diana
No, I think most the time. We're just walking heads chattering about, cut off from anything below the neck. I mean, we're just, our minds are just nonstop chatter boxes saying lots of things tend to be a little bit critical and how the negativity bias and a lot of our culture, also, especially in the West, trains us not to connect with our bodies, right? We are told how to feel, we're told when we train ourselves, even through simple things like going on chronic diets, right, or pushing through pain. And you know, I actually have a strong interest in embodiment, and I'm a yoga practitioner and a yoga teacher. And embodiment is incredibly helpful for things that are uncomfortable because when you can start to notice what's happening in your body and open up and allow sensations to be there without being so in your head about it, it frees you up a little bit. Actors actually used a lot with chronic pain, and it's used with chronic pain, not because it actually changes the pain. It changes your relationship to the pain so that you can function more and you're like you have greater range of motion. So embodiment is I would say it goes under the strategy as an act of acceptance as well as being present, because when we can get present with our bodies and listen in, it also could be helpful. Sometimes our bodies are sending us really important messages that we need to listen to and we just blow past them. We don't listen and that can lead to all sorts of problems.

Ellen
I'm trying to imagine my listeners here thinking about, well, what exactly does this mean? How do I pay attention to my body? What are the tips and strategies? Because, obviously, for somebody who does practise yoga to practise yoga myself, so you kind of get it but then you forget that years and years of practise at it isn't normally the experience that everybody has, if you know what I mean. So what do you suggest people actually do? What should they be paying attention to?


Diana
0:14:44 - 0:16:34
Sure. So one of the things that I'll have folks do that I work with is I do something called Embodiment Check-in. Throughout your day make, take a pause and check-in, am I in my head or am I in my body? And turn my eyes what I sort of do is to eyes in. So two eyes and I can do this with my eyes open right now and you can do this with me. Two eyes in. What do I notice that's happening where my feelings sensations in my body. Can I notice the speed of my breathing? Can I notice there's just sort of the quality of my emotions inside of my body? Just sort of two eyes in. And then I can also do two eyes out where I start to look at my five senses. So what's around me? What do I see? What do I smell? What do I touch? Those were some of the mindfulness practises some people gotten accustomed to, but I think the skill set is to do is one eye in and 1 eye out. So, if I'm in engaging, if I'm in a conflict with somebody, often times, I'm just way up in my head. I'm not in my body, and I've also not engaging with the person that's in front of me, right? So I can keep sort of grounded with one eye in. Okay, just noticing my body, noticing my breath, staying present in this moment, but also making contact with one eye out. Listening what the other person is saying and not being so caught up in my head about what I'm going to say next.

Ellen
Which is fascinating.. I have just been doing some work with groups around listening skills and this idea of kind of multi layers of listening and global listing being this idea that we can or should be ultimately being able to do that to listen with one eye out so that we're both paying attention to the individual were very present in the conversation but at the same time, we are also noticing our reactions are response at having a level of awareness. That means that we can actually respond in a positive, proactive way. We could have collaborative conversations instead of perhaps becoming defensive and responding angrily or becoming disengaged because we are too busy thinking about what it is we want to say. Next is a way of winning the innovative commerce argument. So, it really equates to that, doesn't it? This idea that we can, with a bit of skill and practise, learn both things or pay attention to both things at the same time


Diana
Yeah, and I think it also taps into another ACT process and all these processes sort of work together. I kind of think them is like sides of a Rubik's Cube. We're working on one side, but the other side's are also getting worked on too, right? So one of the I think most valuable processes, especially when you're talking about conversations in the workplace that you're working and just trying to problem solve something together is this perspective taking. And the process of perspective taking, we actually as humans, we developed the ability to take perspective when we are able to tell the difference between me versus you so self versus other, and also tell the difference between here versus there and then versus now, right? So we can start to tell these different aspects of ourselves that we are separate entities from another. But that separation can often cause a lot of problems because we can get stuck in our own heads and our egos and ourselves. We can create self stories about ourselves. We create mental models. Our minds just do that because it's easier and when you talk to neuroscientists will just say like we have lazy brains. Basically, they'll find shortcuts for anything.

Diana
0:18:14 - 0:20:04
And so we create these mental models about ourselves like I am this. I always that. You never this, you never that right? And they could be positive or negative. But what happens is when we don't have the capacity to take perspective on our own models, we get in these really narrow viewpoints, and it really limits both our collaboration, our critical thinking, our lateral thinking of being able to think outside the box, which is so important for creativity and innovation. And so one of things I have folks do is like, and you could do this with me, Ellen is actually physicalize things a lot. So, it's imagine. So I'm putting in my two hands like two O's and one of the Os, maybe like a belief that you have about yourself that kind of trips you out at work. Some people, it's like I'm bad at math or i'm bad at writing or whatever. And then another would be a belief that you have about yourself that makes you feel a little bit superior. I'm always on time, you know, or I'm always a little ahead of time or whatever it is, like a positive belief and a negative belief, okay. Do you have two? Would you have to be willing to share?

Ellen
I'm just I think while we do this so something that no, I'm not very good at. Well, I always say that I'm not very good at detail, so good ideas but when it gets to the detail, not too good. So okay, I'm not very good at detail. And then something that I am good at is it's always hard to talk about. It's funny, even if somebody who encourages other people to talk about their strengths to talk about them yourself publicly doesn't feel all that comfortable, does it? So I'm good at seeing different like, all the different sides of a situation. So that is one of when I do the VIA strength is one of those so being able to kind of look at a situation or an issue from a number of different perspectives. Okay so I've got my two Os.

Diana
You've got your two - so you have I'm not good at detail, and I'm gonna like, exaggerate this because it sounds like you have some flexibility with it, but if you were pretty inflexible, you'd have this belief I am not good at detail. And I am good at seeing the whole picture. Is that the big picture? Okay, so we're going to put those up to your eyes like binoculars. And you can imagine that your


Ellen
For those of your who are listening in, Diana and I are actually seeing here with their hands up to our eyes, like binoculars you have to watch the YouTube video

Diana
Acceptance, Curiosity. Okay. What gonna happen next? So you have that I'm not good at detail, and I'm really I'm always good at seeing the big picture. And then you can imagine you walk into a work situation. You have these goggles on, and someone comes up to you and has some kind of feedback for you about how great your detail was. Or how you need to look big picture a bit more like something that was against this belief. How well can you see the periphery and the person around you right now? The're the one that made a comment to you about this belief systems.

Ellen
Yeah, I'd be really, really kind of tunnel vision. That'd be like, what, what?

Diana
Tunnel Vision?

Ellen
Yeah,it doesn't seem right.

Diana
So now here's what I wanted to do. I want you to take this to beliefs and I want to move them away from your face and put him in front of you. And I want you to look at this belief I'm not good at detail. And open up your hand a little and close your hand and open it up a little. Sometimes, sometimes I'm good at detail. Sometimes I'm not, depends on the context right? And then open up this hand and close it. Open up this hand. Sometimes I see the big picture. Sometimes I not depends on the context. Okay? And then you start to notice like there's some flexibility here.


Ellen
Yeah...

Diana
0:21:47 - 0:23:24
How well, could you if someone came up to you and said, hey, you know, I really love the detail that you put into this podcast by being so in time and paying attention to me, showing up and helping me with the audio. How would you able to receive that feedback with this flexible stance?

Ellen
Yeah, well, obviously, yeah, not obviously I would in that situation go. Oh, actually, hadn't really even thought about that as detail. I suppose that's one of the things, isn't it that we are kind of narrow and fixed in our views? On what detail even looks like and when you're not good at it and for me that perhaps hadn't occurred to me that that even could or would be a level of detail that I do have flexibility around.

Diana
So our self stories these like goggles that we wear. Sometimes we put on those binoculars or goggles at, like, eight years old. Andt hen we've been carrying them around until we're 38 years old and still believing them. And they become these self fulfilling prophecies. We look for evidence with our narrow vision that supports them. We block out anything that doesn't support them. We don't see the context of how it really is kind of sometimes not always, and they become rigid ways in which we operate in the workplace. Rigid ways in which they operate in our relationships. So perspective taking in ACT one of the first things that you do with perspective, taking is taking perspective on your own self story and you notice that I didn't chop your hands off and I didn't write other stories on your hands.


Ellen
Yeah

Diana
We just got a little bit of squeeze from them. We looked at them and then we kind of moved around a little bit. So with ACT we do a lot of flexibility training. So flexibility training is even just doing that exercise. You had to be a little bit flexible doing something different on your podcast that usually do. So doing that in the workplace helps us. First take perspective on ourselves. And then, ultimately, we want to do the skill of then taking perspective behind someone else's eyes that sometimes other people have a story that they're caught in. And can we understand why that is there, because we develop self stories for a reason. On often there's there's, like really reasons, or like deep reasons why you may have a story like I'm unlovable or I can't work well , I don't work well on teams. I only work well on my own. That's my self story. I only work well on my own. So I structured my whole life for a private practise. You know I don't... that becomes a problem when all the sudden you're working on the team right? So yeah that's one of the processes.

Ellen
Yeah, and I love actual physical acting. Acting use a kind of a bit of a pun there on the term but you know the physicality of using your body and looking through your fingers as binoculars, because again it does access, I suppose. And I'm no neuroscientist but different elements of your brain. And it's just not something that we do all that much. As you said way tend to be these walking heads, so just being able to be a bit more physically present with your hands and your body, it does feel different. I can say that now, having just done the exercise with you.

Diana
Well, what it's doing there and it's intentional and in ACT. There's a lot of these kind of weird things that you do, but they're intentional. It's getting around language because I could have an argument with you about yourself story all day long and say, well, Ellen, but you are detail oriented, really. I just really see how detail oriented you are, and I could give you the long list.

Diana
0:25:08 - 0:26:48
It's like telling a woman that she doesn't look fat in those pants. You can say it like a million times over, and she's like yeah you don't understand, I feel this way. So trying to argue against oneself story and that's also sort of some of the older models of CBT, which were a lot about I change your thoughts or dispute. It's nothing of my evidence. Support don't support. That's the nature of doing that is really interesting because it in some ways, as soon as you start to dispute something, there's a resistance and pushback from that very thing that you're disputing, and it actually increases the very thing that you don't want to think about. So there's, like science or


Ellen
It focus on grows.

Diana
Yeah, there's a white bear experiment where people are accompanied into a lab and told not to think about a white bear, and that's like the very thing they think about. But we've all had that before. It's like you've tried to, like, cut out carbs and all you can think about, is you know, the candy bar on the on the counter. So the mind doesn't like to be controlled. And when we use physicalizing or kind of these, playful ways, these exercises, which Debbie and I include a lot of them in our book, we can get around the tricky mind that is problematic with thought.

Ellen
Yeah, and even that notion. As soon as she started talking about flexibility and watching your hands move backwards and forwards and open and close. It was like, yeah, I can open and close. I can change circumstances are different and there's adaptability in there that perhaps isn't consistent with just that logical, analytical head based few of how I operate as an individual, I suppose.

So again, we've got these six core processes that we've talked a little bit about the acceptance and the perspective taking. Tell us a little about this notion of psychological flexibility because it's a kind of a strange term, isn't it? I think perhaps it might be meaningful to psychologists and some, but perhaps is just very odd to others. Could you just delve into that a little bit for us?

Diana
Yes. So, psychological flexibility is all the processes together. So if you think about that Rubik's Cube again, it's being able to engage and respond to life as life shows up flexibly adapt while staying true to your values that are personal and chosen to by you. And when you think about something like psychological flexibility and I think we've all one thing that's been fairly universal is we've all been through a pandemic, no matter where you are in the world. The pandemic has impacted different groups differently in different places and different parts of the world differently. But we've all pretty much been through pandemic. And when they look at some of the research that's coming out around the pandemic around psychological flexibility, what they have found is that folks that were able to open up allow, get sort of cognitively flexible think outside the box and continue to pursue what matters to them during the pandemic. Fared better in terms of lower suicide rates, lower anxiety and depression as well as were better parents must spill over effects of stress onto the family, less marital discord, right? Because you can think about that during the pandemic, the places that you were not flexible and how that caused problems and inflexibility in the workplace. Oh my gosh, I was meeting with clients who were in their bathroom, in their car. I had to flexibly adapt to figure out how to work with somebody on Zoom that is talking about trauma.
That was very new for me to work in this environment and I know that listeners here can think about all the ways in which they adapted flexibly because it was linked to something that they cared about, that they pursued and then also all the ways in which we didn't adapt flexibly and what the consequences of that were. In some of those consequences, they're some of the darker sides of the pandemic that were also seeing in terms of what is called the Second Pandemic, right? The mental health implications that we're seeing and everything from we see increases in drinking and it was interesting is like something like 23% increase in alcohol used to cope but among parents of schoolchildren, elementary school children. It was 50% increase in alcohol.

Ellen
That was me. I've done so well at reducing my alcohol intake to a couple of glasses of wine a week, having gone from somebody who drank a glass of wine every night in the latter part of 2019, and then come March 2020 and all correct. Not not too problematic level, but certainly around just re engaging in those habits that were old habits that I had tried to change. And I'm only just getting back into shifting those habits back to something more like what I want them to be at the moment


Diana

Yeah and we can think of them as habits that we can also think of them as emotional avoidance strategies. So experiential avoidance in ACT is the opposite of the psychological flexibility. And experiential avoidance is something uncomfortable is showing up like the stress of Covid and I'm doing something to get rid of that feeling, that's showing up. Now the way that I like to think about it, so here in the US, we don't have a lot of roundabouts, but it seems like people are starting to plop them in all over the place.


Diana
0:30:22 - 0:32:08
You know around about when you get in a car and you go round

Ellen
Yeah we had lots of them here

Dina
Yeah, okay, we don't have a lot of them. And when you plop one in somewhere in California, the California's get really confused and they get scared and they get on the roundabout and they can't. There's actually movie about this European Vacation with Chevy Chase. They can't get off because what they're doing is they're going around around around. What's keeping them on is the discomfort of having to exit is uncomfortable, right? So when we think about experiential avoidance were caught in a roundabout of avoiding pain. And we do it in big ways, like drinking, that's like an obvious one but we do it in subtle ways, like working a lot. Some people move to working and striving and doing and perfectionism as a means to avoid the discomfort of their lives and I work a lot with folks. I spot that a mile away, right, or we pick up our phones and just kind of like, uncomfortable with my partner. I don't really know how to connect with you, so I'm just going like, scroll, you know. So experiential avoidance is when we're getting caught in the roundabout of turning away from that discomfort of having to be in our life but what's interesting is that sort of helps you take the exit and the exit is uncomfortable but then it frees you up so that once you're off the roundabout now you can go anywhere you want in town, right? You're free to drive and do things like apply for jobs or, you know, engage in a work project that you have a feeling of impostor syndrome around or, you know, you have a lot more freedom to move when you're willing to accept and open to the discomfort of living. And that's where you grow and that's where you grow. Yeah, yea.

Ellen
0:32:08 - 0:33:42
Yeah, It's been interesting, actually. I've been having a lot of conversations with clients, coaching clients and workplace clients around this notion of noticing when you're uncomfortable, because I think one of the things that we often do when we turn up work is we put on this. I call it because I work with a lot of managers, leaders, so I put on my manager hat. You know, this kind of identity that says this is what I do. This is how I operate it. It's not a particularly flexible identity. I don't think often times it is a kind of I'm the manager. I'm the boss. I need to know, be able to answer everyone's questions, solve everyone's problems, make things happen, and then when we're in circumstances where we can't do that, because increasingly, work is complex and people are complex and it's not a straightforward matter of just solving the problems and doing the do, and that is where people's discomfort begins to show up. So having this idea that they can get off the roundabout.


Diana
Yeah, it takes noticing what you do when your discomfort, what is your automatic habitual avoidance behaviour when your discomfort shows up. So it may be something really subtle where you just start getting into your head and ruminating like ruminating and worry is actually an experiential avoidance strategy. This is, I'm going to folks but it is. When you are worrying you are trying to not feel and you're trying to do something about the feeling of anxiety, uncertainty. So there's uncertainty. So I worry. I'm like 2am. I'm worrying what we're doing to this. Who does a problem solving?

Diana
0:33:42 - 0:35:35
I mean, you know, that's actually an experiential avoidance strategy because you are trying to manage the unmanageable or maybe we fluff our feathers and make ourselves feel really important when inside, we feel really uncertain. So we can look at what are we doing that are experiential avoidance strategies? And some of these doesn't these don't really doesn't really matter if, like, hey, you know, I have a cup of tea multiple times a day when I'm like, just wanting to, like, do a little self soothe right, but they become problematic when they get you on a roundabout and you can't actually perform in line with your values. So a lot of the work with ACT and ACT in the workplace is getting clear on what type of leader do you want to be? How do you want to be? If I were following you with a video camera throughout the day, and I were to show you that video at the end of the day and you were to feel good about it, you'd feel content. You'd feel satisfied with how you how you lived and how you acted behaviorally today, what would I see, behaviorally? And values are very much about qualities that you bring to your actions. So it may be when I'm with another person, my values are to be present with them and engaged and open and kind and compassionate and whatever it is. And for someone else, my values are to be playful and humorous and interested and their their personal in chosen. But that's really what ACT at the end of the day is about is helping people clarify that for themselves. And it turns out that when you engage in orienting around your values, the workplace starts opening up because now you have an intrinsic motivator as opposed to a gold star or a extrinsic reward. You have something that you can dig deep into when you are burned out and you have something you can dig deep into when chaos is ensuing. You can say like, well, here are my values and I can root is a yoga instructor before I do like a balance posing like root on your feet, feel the ground feel rooted. And then, from there you can move up and open up your arms or whatever pose you want to take.

Ellen
So, it's really grounding, isn't it? To be able to have that clarity around who I am, what I stand for in this case, you know what kind of leader I want to be a what kind of parent I want to be. It's not dissimilar is it? This idea that if I'm really clear, then it does give you that grounding to then make decisions from there. I'd call it working from first principles, I suppose, rather than just getting tossed about from the latest fad or the latest or what somebody else thinks I should be doing or what I've habitually done. I'm imagining some of the people that I've worked with who perhaps have a value of wanting to be a really supportive, coaching, mentoring type leader, someone who is really bringing out the best in their people and wanting to see them thrive and flourish. And yet, when things start to feel a little out of their control, their default is to try and grasp that control. And they become much more likely to be a bit micromanaging or really try and just tell people what to do or their anxiety manifests then into the workplace and makes other people anxious. And there's a disconnect there, isn't it? Between what it is, they say they want to be and how they are behaving.


Diana
Yeah, and I would say that's normal. That's the human condition. It's a lot of times all used before and after. We use a lot of metaphors, and it's really helpful. Another way to use language to get own language.

Diana
0:37:22 - 0:39:08
But I'll use the metaphor of like a musician playing a guitar, tuning a guitar, and so you can think about the domains of your life is like the strings of the guitar. And a lot of times when we were asked, people about their values will say things like, I value my health or I value my family or I value my work. Those were really the domains there, the strings. How you plays those strings is living your values. And sometimes they get out of tune and actually just a guitar sitting around is out of tune, right? But when the musician goes up to play, we give them time to tune up. We don't rush the musician were like, take your time. We know it's going to sound a lot better if you tune that thing, right? And that it's important for us to give ourselves that time to tune up. And the tuning up is you play it and then you listen and then you make adjustments and you play it again and you listen. You make adjustments, and that is for the rest of your life. And only you know when you are out of tune, right? Only you really really know. You know, people can tell you like what can I do you sound so good. You know the way you just did that. But really, it's a I would say it's a yearning inside for us as humans to feel in tune with our best selves, really, and in the important domains of our life. But what pulls us out of tune often is that experiential avoidance stuff like uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and sensations. So all of a sudden we're like, you know, doing our thing. So we can keep coming back to tuning into our values and then acting from that place in our heart. And I would say, just like I said, you know, there's all those strings of the guitar and you play them together that they do play together. So how we are in the workplace and how we are at home. I mean, this year taught us anything. It's like, well, those aren't really that different because my work place is my home, you know and how we take care of our bodies. One of the things that I'm really interested in my own values around work. I'm yoga instructor and I'm a therapist that sits all day. And so I'm like who I really want to bring some of my values of caring for my body into my work. How do I get creative to make that happen. This is important to me. And so I do things like this. There's a concept that I talk about called values rich living, which is living out many of your values at once. So for me in the workplace, one of the ways that I adjusted that so that I could move more is I sit on the floor so that I can move my legs. I could I sit on cushions, I might like if I miss seeing a client person I sit on cushion same as their height but I'm getting up and down and I'm moving. I moved between my sessions. I do movement with my clients, you know, so that its values rich, that we can start to incorporate how we want to be in these different domains would also see that they play together. And the more that we can engage in lots of values at once. Then we actually start to feel really satisfied in the work that we do.


Ellen
And I love how personal that is, too, because and as opposed to something around, giving us permission to be really personal, tailor this to our individual values to not think that there is a cookie cut away to do things. So for you as a therapist, you know, there is a lot of that physicality because that is important to you. But and somebody else might do it quite differently because their values are different. And that's all okay.

Diana
Yeah. Sometimes I'll say values are like favourite colours. Where yours maybe Red and mine maybe Blue

Ellen
How did you guess?


Diana
I just thought of guessed it. And you can't of, you know, with your values, right?
And so and right is not better than blue and blue is not redder, better than red. But when you see red it activates something inside of you that feels right, feels good. And I think the other important part about values is because I'm talking about them and like this engaging, positive, intrinsically motivating way is that values have a flip side, which is that they're intimately connected to what is most painful to us. So when one avenue in is like, where do I feel energised in the workplace, where I feel like I'm in flow, right? Those kind of point to some of your values and the qualities of action. But another way in to uncover what your values are, is what is most painful for me in my life right now, because if it is painful to you and the bigger the pain it is, the bigger the arrow, it is pointing to what matters to you. And so that could be really helpful, especially in the workplace. When you're like struggling with procrastination, you are going to procrastinate on projects that have some degree of meaning and purpose to them. They're linked to something you care about, right, and it may be like just like there's drudgery around a project. But usually there's some kind of like I care about what you know someone is going to think about. You know, my performance on this or this is like a really, really big project that is important to me in this way, so you're more likely to procrastinate on things that matter to you. And the things that matter to you, therefore, are not things that you should avoid.

Ellen
But it's understanding that, isn't it? I think that's where so those terms fear of failure and fear of success that you have been bandied around for a long time and you know what prevents us from making progress towards things while it's fear of failure and then at an analytical level that just it's kind, well, why would I be afraid of that? That doesn't make sense. But this idea of procrastinating around something that's meaningful to you because there's something there around your values starts to kind of unpack that a little bit or certainly does for me.

Diana
Yeah, you could think about, like procrastinating on calling someone back, because it's going to be a difficult conversation. Well, what's the value under there is actually something that I care about in how that conversation will go. There's something about the relationship that you care about. There's a way that you want to be in that relationship. So sometimes we procrastinate because we set standards around things that are really high standards. And why are we setting really high standards? Because it's something that we care about. We set a high standard around it, and so that's where some of these acceptance and commitment skills come in because the commitment part, which is one of the core processes as well, is about taking small, committed action towards what you care about, even in the face of that difficulty and seeing that what is it that I care about here and how do I want to be with this with this thing? And there's a good amount of research on ACT, with procrastination and its benefits in particular with procrastinating.

Ellen
So that commitment pace. This one of these, the one of these six sides of the Rubik's Cube is that

Diana
We're working a way around it

Ellen
Yeah we are.. it's the small action, isn't it? I think that's often when we think of action, our brain defaults to big action and bring commitments and big things we need to do. But it's not always about big, is it?

Diana
No. Sometimes it's about big. Sometimes it's great when your motive, this is BJ Fogg, his work, I love Tiny Habits from Stamford. Sometimes like your motivation is way this super high. Go for it. Take that big action. Do your future self a favour and go big, put your motivations high because your future self will have a low motivation at some point in time and when your motivation is low, then you take small steps and you take little tiny, tiny moves, but that are continuing to move in the direction of your values and because those moves are in the direction of your values. Your values are the reward that keeps them going. The values when you do a tiny mint. For me, here's an example. I look at things behaviorally, so every behaviour cycle or at least operately condition behaviours occur with a cue, a behaviour and a reward. So if we're trying to build a values rich behaviour cycle, we may have a cue that triggers us to reminds us to engage in that value. So for me, when I'm with my kids, the cue is I'm on my phone and the kid walks in the room. What would be the values based behaviour their most parents would say? Put the phone down and looking your kid in the eyes, right? But oftentimes there's an uncomfortable thing that happens is like oh I want to keep doing what I'm doing. I'm finishing this email or I need to get this text out or I was just going to get that one more deal, right? So I'm going to open up allowing, and accept that discomfort. I'm going to engage in the value of putting the phone down and looking my kid in the eyes and the reward for me is intrinsically motivating because I'm savouring the feeling of both connecting with my child as well as the feeling of doing my future self a favour when my child does that from me. Because better do that for me when he's 16, right? So, here we go values which habit look. It's just in your daily life and getting clear. What is my values and knowing what are the barriers from you to act on those values? So this kind of things we could do in the workplace when this shows up when this cue shows up for me. How am I going to open up, allow and accept, notice my thoughts, but then turn my attention towards my value and then reinforce it by really savouring and being present with the feeling of engaging in what I care about and that keeps the habit loop going, and we do that in lots of different ways and you start to see that your life starts to feel like, hey, I'm kind of acting and being the type of person that I want to be in the world.


Ellen
So they're those wonderful upward spirals aren't they? We get that positive reinforcement that is authentic to who you are. And then yet life spirals in a positive way rather than the negative downward spirals that we saw often send ourselves in. Diana, I'm intrigued to know, because I think quite often we use the term values and it's not always clear, perhaps to everyone how to. And I know you know, it's been a life journey for me, I'm now 48. So I'm still trying to figure out well, all this stuff and I am inadvertent come as, you know, an expert in the area. So for those people for whom they're like, I get what you're talking about, but I don't really know what my values are. What, is there a simple strategy for at least starting on that journey of uncovering your values?


Diana
0:47:43 - 0:49:29
Well, it's tricky. I mean, sometimes we give people lists of values so you can just start to see some of the words that sometimes people associate with values, so it may be like I value independence or I value compassion or I value being humorous, I value being present. Usually they're qualities that you bring to different areas of your life, but I really think one of the ways that I like to look at values for people is just to say, when you are at your best, when you're when you feel like you're in the best version of you, like the version of you that you want to be. What do you like? How are you? You know, ask you that, Ellen. When you're at your best at work? What do you, what do you like? Describe that to me.


Ellen
Yeah, well, that's been something because I've been noticing. So I've started a new role in the last 12 months in addition to my consulting work. And it has been interesting because it does. It pulls me a world different directions that I'm not used to because of a little at you, you know, like working on my own. That was always my thing. And now I'm sort of I've got meetings that I've got other people who need help and these sort of things, and it's been really interesting trying to pay attention to that is where am I at? Where do I feel it my best and my most authentic and my most energised? And it's usually when I'm creating something. So, it's the times when I get to actually go deep and solve a problem and think through an issue and try to come up with solutions and put models and ideas together that I can then communicate to other people and that really feels like it's when I'm at my best in that role.


Diana
Yeah, so then if I were to kind of like boil that down, you know, to just like the juice of like the boil down essence of it. When you feel that you're at your best.
When you are creating, when your problem solving and you're coming up with solutions that you can share and that sounds like that feels engaging to you, that's you at your best.

Ellen
Yeah

Diana
Great, definitely. When challenges arise for you in the workplace and you feel like you're out of your alignment with your values, what does it look like? When you feel like you're not at your best? How would you know?

Ellen
That's I think, when I feel like I'm being pulled from thing to thing that I don't ever get a chance to go deep into, and I'm conscious that there's these things that I need to get to that I'm not getting too because I've got meetings and emails and phone calls and it's a difficult one because they're all things that are important. I think this is where I struggle, you know? They're all important and I can see why they're important. I'm helping, I ran a leadership programme. I have 16 people. I want to be able to help each and every one of those individual people. I want to be able to support my boss in strategising around new stuff. I want to be able to do all those things, but the doing of them, I don't think really gives me that same sense of being my best in a way that creating does. Does that make sense?

Diana
So what can pull you away from that feeling of the engaged with creating and problem solving is it sounds like tasks like a lot of tasks into do's, and so the expectation that you need to go deal with all those task, they can pull you away. And oftentimes what someone may say is like okay, well, so we just need to, like, change your work load. We're going to get rid of those extra tasks and we're going to make it so that you don't have it, so you could just be at your best. But my guess is you just said I just opened up my career in this way, to corporate. There's more people. There is more you know, your involvement.

Diana
0:51:23 - 0:53:21
And my guess is there's probably something that you care about in doing that and that if we were to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling of, like all these other tasks, it probably would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I know that's a term they use in Australia, they use it here. But like throwing away this thing that you kind of care about, too, right, because you want to get rid of the bath water. And so actually in ACT, what we would say is not what if nothing were to have to change about your situation? Stay exactly the same but you were to take that value of you being a creative problem solver and bring it into these other areas. And we'd start to work on that, like how to bring that value of yours into the areas that you don't feel like you're able to use it without work having to change because sometimes our workplace is not going to change for us to be like comfortably in our values but we can still bring our values to that. And we have to spend a whole hour long therapy session here together doing this. That's what I would get curious about Ellen. That's what I would get out of the box thinking about. It's how to bring your values, especially to the areas like especially too, when you go visit your in laws and you feel like I can't handle this. Or especially to women who are incredibly frustrated as a parent, especially too when you feel like you're just at a dead end with work and you've got nothing left. That's actually where I want those same values that you identify when you're at your best to show up, that version of you to show, and it takes that it takes values and also takes a good a good dose of compassion for yourself.


Ellen
Yeah, there's definitely an overlay to all of this around self compassion and that. And I suppose that may be linked somehow to this acceptance that this is just part of the human condition. It's it's just living life.


Diana
And going back to like I feel like this is why I used the Rubik's Cube. Example. The purpose of a Rubik's Cube is actually not to solve the Rubik's Cube and put it on your counter. Because once the Rubik's Cube is solved, it's no longer fun. Then no one could touch it. I solved the Rubik's Cube. Don't play with that.


Ellen
Kind of a mess it up.


Diana
You're going to mess it up. But actually, the fun part of the Rubik's Cube is the tinkering. Ooh look, I got these two piece together and then figured out this and I was present here, and I was perspective taking here. I just really feel like I was totally aligned in my values here. And I didn't let my thoughts get in the way there, right? So that's the tinkering of ACT. And you just moving around in a flexible way with this Rubik's Cube that is you, that has one life to live. And we could be a little bit more playful about the whole thing. And I not so rigid and there's room to move. And you know what? If a side gets messed up, that's not a big deal, just keep tinkering.


Ellen
So many wonderful things, you know actually just maybe think of, I don't know of the original Lego movie. The subtext around all of that was the dad who's freaking out because the kids have actually made a mess off the Lego and you get the glue out and have to kind of piece it all and it becomes this perfect thing that you then can't touch and play with and how that is the antithesis, really, of what playfulness and Lego and creativity and the parenting piece around that as well. You know, around us being so controlling that you know. No, I've made this and you can't touch it now because it's done and has to all be glued together and has to stay that way. And what you're describing here is, was the message behind that movie that you know you should be about playfulness and creativity and connection and fun and understanding that there are things in life that we don't need to control, because that's not where we learn and grow and become our best selves.


Diana
And being a perfect leader or a perfect parent or a perfect friend is really unfortunate, because what about the one day when your child doesn't feel perfect or your employee doesn't feel perfect or your friend doesn't feel perfect. They're not going to want to come to you, that they perceive that. So the nature of the perfect Lego piece or the perfectly untouched Rubik's Cube is that it distances us. And when we become psychologically flexible, we become more human and see that we are all human. No matter what position that we are in, we are human. I am incredibly, psychologically inflexible and that's why I'm drawn to ACT. Because I, one of the lines I'd like to say is that I am not a work in progress. I'm a life in process, the life in process. There is an aggression to the self improvement world.

Ellen
But this goal that we have to attain.


Diana
Yeah, we'll have to self improve. We could just be in the process of our lives and enjoy the process and the fluidity of our lives and flexibly move through our lives adapt and change and evolve over the course of time with each other, and part of that is not being perfect. And that is hard because perfection is one of those emotional void and strategies that many of us know, well and I do it and it's distancing.

Ellen
Diana so many wonderful things in this conversation, and I love that you've got me doing the work at the same time. And I must admit, I think that is I'm thinking back to a couple of podcast episodes that I've had, where I've had someone doing the work with me or helping me to do the work. And I think they've all been ACT practitioners. So it's very much doing. It's only happened a couple of times. But when I think back, I'm like, yeah, that's obviously doing the work but making it real and making it real through my experience and then sharing that experience with our audience so hopefully that's really making it real for them as well. And I just, you've shared so many wonderful ideas and tips for us. I have to suggest to all of our audience that they look up your book, which is called ACT Daily Journal, and we'll put links and all of the detail to you, to all of your work to the book in the show notes for today's episode, so that people can find out a little more. But it has been a really glorious experience. Thank you.

Diana
Well, thank you for modelling such psychological flexibility for me. You're like doing that. You're willing, you're going for it. And I will tell you half the time while I'm doing it, my head is saying, oh my gosh, what am I doing? Am I making sense? So I hope that we just remember that, we did it. And the ACT Daily Journal I just want to say is it's organised. So if you feel like this is all a disorganised mumble in your head of all the different processes, and what? Where did we go on this journey? That's one of the reasons why Debbie Sorenson I wrote this book is because we got it organised. And Debbie is actually really great at that. We have it organised into each of these processes that you try on for yourself with exercises and story and journaling props and really moving through these processes in your daily life, like today. What are you going to do to help yourself be more present or engaged with your values.


Diana
0:58:43 - 1:00:38
And we really hope that it's helpful to folks. Thanks for getting me a chance to talk about it.

Ellen
Yeah. No, not at all. And I think yes, if this's hopefully engaged a bit of curiosity for those of you listening, then the book will be the handbook for making it happen in your own life. So I'll make sure that everyone's got the details for that. Thank you again, Diana. It's been really lovely speaking to you. Thank you for the little bit of joy that you've brought to my life in the last hour. You've certainly given me some things to think about. I'm going to go and be true to my values and go for a walk outside now, because that's what I need to do and best of luck with the book and thank you for all of the work that you do.

Diana
Thank you.

Ellen
Thank you for sharing that conversation with Dr Diana Hill with me. If you want to see me as Diana takes me through that perspective, taking exercise with my hand goggles, you can. You can watch it on YouTube and our new podcast YouTube video episodes. There is a link in the show notes, or you can pop on over to YouTube and just search Potential Psychology and you'll find it as well as some of our other recent episodes and every episode to come. It's a new thing we're doing here. We will also include all of the links in the show notes and on the YouTube channel to learn more about Diana and her work and ACT and Diana's book ACT Daily Journal. Get unstuck and live fully with acceptance and commitment therapy. And if you love this episode of the show, as I did, please let us know. It's always so great to get messages from you. But it really helps me and the team also to know which episodes most excite and engage you so that we can more do more like that, you can message me directly via email or on our social media channels, or and or you can pop a review on Apple podcasts.

Ellen
1:00:38 - 1:02:19
In fact, if you do that then Apple is more likely to promote the show, and then we get to share our guests with an even wider audience, and we'd love to be able to do that. We have included a link to the Apple podcast reviews how to do it in the show notes and, of course you can leave review via your podcast app if you listen on an Apple device. Okay, so now that we're getting back into a bit of a rhythm again with the show, I'm excited to let you know about our next guest. She is Marie Macleod. She is a positive psychology coach and qualified and experienced social worker, and she has a very exciting documentary project coming up. And I love talking to people who are venturing into the world of things like film and documentary making, because it's something I know nothing about. I'm going to read you a little promo of this documentary, which is called How to Thrive. Here it is. The world of psychology has for far too long studied what goes wrong with the human mind. Whilst these have led to important understandings around our disorders, there is another side, the science of what is right about the human experience and what makes our lives worth living. It's time to progress the conversation, get real about mental health and do something positive and proactive about this massive problem. And if that's not a great topic for the Potential Psychology podcast, I don't know what is. So here's Marie to tell you a little bit more.

Marie
I think one of the things that's very important for us with this documentary is that we go past awareness raising. Know there have been very many documentaries about mental health that raise awareness. We know it's a problem. What we don't know so much is, what do we do about it? If you just hear the science, it's boring. If you just hear their stories, you just raise awareness, you know. So how do we take good storytelling and blend together something that is entertaining enough, engaging enough but also educating enough to shift the dial and get people immediately some things that get them thinking about, oh that doesn't sound so good. I could write down the three things that we welcome in a day or I can start making eye contact with a stranger and just have a little micro moment of connection. Alright, put a little more focus. A little bit more I'm getting some exercise or a bit of sleep or thinking about having compassion towards myself.

Ellen
That's the next episode of the Potential Psychology podcast hitting the airwaves in early June 2021 I can't wait to be back with you then.