In any piece of academic writing we are frequently told to define the key words we use in the context of our writing. In this piece I am defining happiness as having a rich, full and rewarding life. And I am going to share with you a very simple but effective approach to achieving that happiness that I recently read about.
Eighteen months ago, I wrote a blog on this community entitled Adaptability Rules. In it I identified aspects of my learning framework that seemed most relevant to the lockdown we were then caught up in. Self-belief is one of the areas of my learning framework and the phrase I chose to write about was ‘being aware of how your emotions influence your response to situations and people’. That was the time when we were all just beginning to use the word ‘unprecedented’, when we often weren’t always ourselves and, unsurprisingly, had a tendency to overreact to whatever was happening. So recognising your emotions and being kind to yourself and others seemed a good place to start to build your self-belief. Today I am writing about another of the phrases within the self-belief aspect of my framework: ‘Acting in line with your values and principles and doing what’s right for you’.
A couple of months ago I came across Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in connection with a charity I am involved with. As its name suggests, and in a nutshell, ACT encourages people to accept a situation then commit to actions to make the best of it. One of the key tools within ACT is the Choice Point and it is this tool I want to share with you. If you google ACT you will see the framework is in the shape of a capital Y. At the bottom of the Y is the challenging situation you are facing. At the fork in the Y is the Choice Point, where you can decide whether to take steps Towards or Away from your values and goals. There will be Hooks (triggers, thoughts, feelings, alternative activities) that will try to lead you on to the Away path. However you can try to counter these with Helpers (your values, goals, skills, the support around you) that can lead you on to the Towards path.
I was supposed to write this piece last week but inspiration was lacking and I was given an extension! I’d decided I would write about the Choice Point but this morning found me answering emails, tidying away papers, putting the washing on – all pure procrastination around the challenging situation I was in. I even found myself watching a video about the Choice Point as an alternative to starting writing – and discovered that my procrastination was technically called ‘experiential avoidance’. Apparently, what you then need to do is reflect on your Helpers, in particular your core values, to help you move on. ‘What would you like somebody to say about you at your ninetieth birthday party?’ I hoped they might say I am authentic and that I believe in the power of learning. That simple step meant I felt I could start writing – and here you have me sharing my authentic experience in order to promote more learning! The reason why I am so excited about the Choice Point is that it makes you feel so good – because you are trying to do the things that move you towards your values and goals, towards a rich, full and meaningful life, towards happiness.
So why did I decide to write here about the Choice Point? I’d included one slide about it in a long presentation I recently gave about my research. Afterwards a fellow accounting academic contacted me to say they had completed their doctorate a year or two ago but were stuck as to how to take their work forward. What advice did I have? I offered to chat on Zoom. Their opening comment on the call? ‘We don’t really need to talk – it’s actually all in that slide. I just need to use the Choice Point to help me start to take some small steps towards my goal.’
The Choice Point – a simple but effective approach to doing what’s right for you. And it makes you feel good!*The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW’s.