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A Meaningful Life - The 6 Core Principles of ACT

1. Diffusion

Recognizing thoughts, images, and memories for what they are – just words and pictures – and allowing them to come and go as they please, without fighting them, running from them, or giving them more attention that they deserve.

2. Expansion

Making room for feelings, sensations, and urges and allowing them to come and go as they please, without fighting them, running from them, or giving them undue attention.

3. Connection

Bringing full awareness to your here-and-now experience with openness, interest, and receptiveness; focusing on and engaging fully in whatever you’re doing.

4. The Observing Self

A transcendent part of you; a perspective from which to observe difficult thoughts and feelings, without being hurt by them. The one part of you which is unchanging, ever-present, and impervious to harm. It has no physical properties: it is “pure awareness.”

5. Values

Clarifying what is most important in your heart: what sort of person you want to be, what is significant and meaningful to you, what you want to stand for in this life.

6. Committed Action

Taking effective action in line with your values (again and again, no matter how many times you go off track).

These six basic principles are neatly summarized in the basic ACT formula:

A = Accept your thoughts and feelings and be present.

C = Connect with your values.

T = Take effective action.

The more you live by these six core principles, the more fulfilling and rewarding your life will be. But don’t believe this just because I say so. Try it out and trust your own experience. If these principles work for you, if they give you a rich, full life, then it makes sense to embrace them as fully as possible.

The way you live your life is a personal choice. And while most people find that these six basic principles will transform their lives in many positive ways, it’s important to remember they are not Ten Commandments. Apply them if and when you choose to, and always in the interest of making life richer, fuller, and more meaningful. But don’t make them into rules that must be obeyed absolutely and at all times.

I’m quite sure there will be plenty of times when you “forget” what you’ve learned. You’ll get caught up in unhelpful thoughts, struggle uselessly with your feelings, and act in self-defeating ways. But the instant you recognize what you’re doing, you can choose to do something about it – if you want to, that is. Again, this is a personal choice. You don’t have to do anything. In fact, I’m sure there will be times that you deliberately choose not to use the principles in this handout. And that’s okay. Just aim to be more aware of the choice you make and the effects they have on your life. That way, you are more likely to make choices that enhance your life, rather than ones that diminish it.

Artwork by Frederico Fuentes.

(This piece is based on an extract from the book “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris)

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