Conversation 6: Committed Action

Barriers & Counter-Strategies

Barriers & Counter-Strategies – a recording of Julian McNally (3:04 min) 

(Barriers & Counter-Strategies by RMIT Counselling and Psychological Services, Six ACT* Conversations, RMIT University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

There is a great temptation at times like this to use the bad feeling – whether it is nervousness, shyness or embarrassment, lack of confidence – as an excuse not to start at all.

close up of old fence with barbed wire
Photo by Connor Luddy on Unsplash

Sometimes people bring themselves to the brink of action and then withdraw. Knowing they’ve done that usually results in guilt, shame, disappointment and a reluctance to make commitments or have expectations of oneself in future. 

Other people don’t even go close to starting on the promised action. Instead, they distract themselves from their promise, frequently denying that they care about the value underlying the goal. They devote energy to avoiding anything that reminds them of their values. That kind of avoidance usually starts with a feeling like the twinge of fear I referred to when I stated that “making friends” goal in a specific form.

So here are three things you can do when difficult feelings show up, just as you’re getting started on your goal-directed actions.

  1. Remind yourself that the unpleasant feeling is a sign that you’re attempting something that both matters to you and provides the opportunity to fail. After all, if it were easy and totally risk free, you would have already done it, wouldn’t you?
  2. Take the feeling with you.
    In Conversation 5, Values & Direction, I spoke about the futility of waiting to feel warm before you light a fire. If you wait for the anxiety to go away before you get started, you may never start. On the other hand, if you start even when you’re not emotionally ready, who knows. The confidence may follow, or it may not, but at least you will have achieved some progress. This is why I asked you to make the action specific and observable – you won’t have any uncertainty about whether or not you’ve done them. Taking the feeling with you means you do the action because it’s consistent with your values, not because it’s consistent with feeling good.
  3. Practise the Expansion exercise from Conversation 3.
    Focus on the feeling of fear or embarrassment. Acknowledge it and give it room to be there. You may find that the feeling reduces or disappears altogether.
    Of course, many times it won’t. But as we established in Conversation 3: Acceptance & Willingness ,  that needn’t stop you from taking actions that you say are important to you.

Exercise 3: Barriers & Counter-strategies

Nothing in life always goes smoothly – you’ve probably already learned that – so you can expect that you will meet with barriers or obstacles to your progress.

What are you going to do when that happens? Rather than be surprised or ambushed by barriers, you can prepare for them.

The Barriers and Counter-strategies worksheet is designed to help you do that.

Completing this worksheet requires you to think of all the possible barriers that might stop or slow you down.

Once you’ve done that, you brainstorm strategies for overcoming, avoiding, or accommodating those barriers.


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