Sometimes we can learn very helpful life lessons from unexpected places. I had an interesting conversation with one of my nieces about her acting class, and began thinking about how the skills she is working on there might apply to all of our lives. She was sharing with me how she is learning to (1) identify and develop her character’s motivation before she begins any scene; and (2) use techniques to make each scene completely fresh, as if it was unfolding in the moment and not coming from a well-rehearsed script.

Perhaps there is some wisdom in this for all of us to consider.

First, in terms of identifying our motivation before we begin any “scene,” it can be helpful to think about what our deepest values are at the start of each day, and how we can use those values to motivate us toward actions as we go through our day. Teachings from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy encourage us to identify what we most value in different areas of our lives and use this as motivation to pursue what is most important, even if that means tolerating some discomfort along the way. As an example, one of the things I value is being able to share ideas and help others discover greater well-being. This motivates me to keep writing blogs and put my writing “out there” in cyberspace despite some discomfort and worries about what others will think.

Take some time to consider what you most value in different areas of your life (relationships, work, leisure time, etc.). How might these values motivate you to take inspired action, to bring you closer to living the life that you want today? If you recognize that developing friendships is something that is important to you — despite your shyness — what actions might you take this week, or today, to work toward that goal? Perhaps you might initiate several conversations with co-workers that you would not otherwise do, or sign up for a social event in your town, even though you don’t know anyone. If being healthy so you can run around with your young children is important to you, how might this value motivate you and affect the choices you make as you go through the day today? The actions need not be monumental. Perhaps you might go for a 15-minute walk today, or forego a sugary snack.

Dancing on the Tightrope: Transcending the Habits of Your Mind & Awakening to Your Fullest Life

If life can feel at times like a challenging tightrope walk, how do we face life’s difficulties yet remain resilient and open-hearted? Rather than seeking “perfect” balance, or tiptoeing on our journey, how do we learn to embrace life and “dance,” in order to live most fully?

In this book, clinical psychologist and award-winning author Beth Kurland reveals five common obstacles–habits of the mind that get in the way of living your fullest life–and five tools to transform these obstacles into lasting inner resources for resilience, peace, and joy.

As you think about qualities that you value in yourself and your life, notice how holding those in the forefront of your mind today may bring greater meaning and purpose to your day. Ask yourself:

  • Why is this value important to me?
  • How does it reflect who I most want to be as a person?
  • How can I show up today acting from this value?
  • What is one small action I can take today that aligns with this value?
  • And importantly, am I willing to experience and tolerate some “discomfort” (e.g., anxiety about going up and introducing myself to someone; tolerating a craving for that sugary snack; pushing myself to go for that walk even when a part of me would rather be surfing on my computer) in order to go after what is most important?

As I write about in my newest book, Dancing on the Tightrope: Transcending the Habits of Your Mind and Awakening to Your Fullest Life, these values can become like “beacons” that we can keep in view, helping to direct our actions, motivating us to stay on course as we go through our day, and redirecting us when we start to go astray.


Read more from:
Beth Kurland, Ph.D.

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