Growing Up Resilient: An activity guide on how to build purpose and thrive
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we should be paying more attention to the ways in which our mental health state dynamically interacts with our environment. Psychologists call this the Dual Factor Model of Mental Health, which posits that mental health is actually composed of 2 axes: the amount of stress you have in your life (symptoms of psychopathology), and your subjective well-being. That means, instead of the limited thinking that life is either stress-free and happy (vs. stressful and not), some people lead lives that are stressful and fulfilling, or completely stress-free and unfulfilling.
Whew, that was complicated. Why is this important? Well, according to the Etiology of Happiness, what you do/how you define your circumstances accounts for a whopping 40% of your happiness. Therefore, how satisfied you are with your life story will not depend on things like wealth or job security, but instead on how you perceive yourself and your self-efficacy.
In this mini-series, we'll explore how you can actively build your own resilience through mindfulness practices and action-based activities. Let's make 2021 the year of intentional, meaningful action! In order to do that, we'll be guiding you through a full assessment of your own resilience, and ability to face challenge head-on. We are going to follow what they call the APT Framework, which stands for the Adapt, Persevere and Thrive model. The APT pyramid is made up of three parts: Sense of Purpose (comprised of your values and goals), Healthy Connections & Attachments, and Experiencing Positive Emotions. This article details the first step: defining your values and determining your goals.
First Off: Values and Goals
Personal values can seem like an abstract concept, and it's rare to consider how our behaviors are aligned with our own personal values - even rarer to create intentional goals about how to pursue them in everyday life. However, research has shown that values are a key ingredient to resiliency because they provide directions - a kind of road map - towards leading a meaningful life.
Where values are the road map, goals are the vehicle. They give us the motivation and momentum to get wherever we want to do. However, we often deviate from these goals when we are stressed, because we feel that we cannot tolerate the unpleasantness of emotions that we are feeling. This leads to impulsive, non-goal-oriented actions. For example, I'll eat an entire row of girl scout cookies when I am stressed, even though that action contradicts my value of self-care/living a healthy life. A large part of overcoming this behavior is being mindful of my behavior and realizing that my girl scout cookie binge is due to stress, even though it may feel without cause. Stress is something I can name, face, and combat. When I am mindful, I can realize that there is actually space between my urges and how I choose to respond. It all starts with understanding what your values and goals are in the first place.
NOW: The Bull's Eye Exercise
Let's try the Bull's Eye Exercise. I'll attach it as a file, as well as spelling it out in the remainder of this article.
The "Bull’s Eye" is a values-clarification exercise designed by Swedish ACT and cognitive-behavioral therapist Tobias Lundgren. It is divided into four important domains of life: work/education, leisure, relationships, and personal growth/health.
This assignment has four parts:
Identifying and writing your values in four domains of your life
Locating how fully you are living your values
Identify barriers or obstacles that interfere with living consistent with your values
Creating a Values Action Plan
Let's get into it!
Part 1: Identifying Your Values
To begin with, please write down your values in the four domains of life listed below. Not everyone has the same values, and this is not a test to see whether you have the "correct" ones. Think about your general life directions, rather than specific goals. There may be values that overlap; for example, if you value studying psychology, that may belong under both Education and Personal Growth.
1. Work/Education: refers to your workplace and career, education and knowledge, and skills development. (This may include volunteering and other forms of unpaid work). How do you want to be towards your clients, customers, colleagues, employees, fellow workers? What personal qualities do you want to bring to your work? What skills do you want to develop?
2. Leisure/Recreation: refers to how you play, relax, stimulate, or enjoy yourself; your hobbies or other activities for rest, recreation, fun and creativity.
3. Relationships: refers to intimacy, closeness, friendship and bonding in your life. This domain of your life includes relationships with your partner or spouse, children, parents, relatives, friends, co-workers, and other social contacts. What sort of relationships do you want to build? How do you want to be in these relationships? What personal qualities do you want to develop?
4. Personal Growth/Health: refers to your ongoing development as a human being. This may include organized religion, personal expressions of spirituality, physical health and well-being, developing life skills, engaging in self-care to promote positive mental health.
As you write your values, consider: What would you value if there were nothing in your way, nothing stopping you? What’s important? What do you care about? And what you would like to work towards? Your value should not be a specific goal, but instead should reflect a way you would like to live your life over time. For example, to take your son to the movies might be a goal; to be an involved and interested parent might be the underlying value.
Note! Make sure they are your values, not anyone else’s. It is your personal values that are important!
Part 2: Locating How Fully You Are Living Your Values
Read through the values you identified in Part 1. Now, print (or draw) a dart board (as shown below). Make an X in each quarter of the dart board, to represent where you stand today (a total of four Xs) in that domain. The closer to the center you place an X, the more you feel you have realized your potential, maximized your satisfaction, and are living fully according to your values in that realm. For example, in the diagram below, I have decided that my experience of work is in line with my values. My recreation and free time, however, isn't what I want it to be.
Since there are four domains of valued living, you should mark four Xs on the dart board. See the diagram below.
When you have identified your own location on your printed dart board, write down a very brief description of your location. For example, you could say, "In the Leisure/Recreation domain, I'm in the outer circle. I have lost touch with my values in this domain." Or "In the Work/Education domain, I'm in the bull's eye. I am living fully by my values in this domain."
Part 3: Identifying Barriers or Obstacles That Interfere with Living Consistent with Your Values
Now, write down what stands between you and living your current life as you want to, from what you have written in your domains of value. When you think of the life you want to live and the values that you would like to put in play, what gets in the way of you living that kind of life? Write down those barriers.
Then, estimate to what extent the obstacle(s) you just described can prevent you from living your life in a way that is in keeping with your values. Rate obstacles on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 means "Doesn't prevent me at all" and 7 means "Prevents me completely." Write down that number next to each barrier.
Part 4: Creating a Values Action Plan
Think about actions you can take in your daily life that would tell you that you are zeroing in on the bull's eye in each important domain of your life. These actions could be small steps toward a particular goal, or actions that reflect a broader type of goal, like "being kinder to myself." Usually, taking a valued step includes being willing to encounter the obstacle(s) you identified earlier and to take the action anyway.
In the Values Action Plan, you should try to identify at least one value-based action you are willing to take during this coming week, in each of the four domains listed below. For example:
1. Work/Education: I will communicate more with my coworkers, in order to realize my goal of increasing productivity.
2. Leisure/Recreation: I will spend more time outside, in order to realize my goal of getting more fresh air in between classes.
3. Relationships: I will speak up more at the dinner table, in order to realize my goal of becoming closer with my family.
4. Personal Growth/Health: I will spend ten minutes every night reading a book I enjoy, in order to realize my goal of reading ten books this year.
Ok, that’s it for now! You've got your values, your dartboard, and your action plan. Stay tuned for the next post in this series, and have a great week of bringing purpose back into your life.