About Psychological Health: Take Action
This is the final post of a six-part series on psychological health. Psychological health is all about how you can feel less stuck and live a more vital life. In previous articles I talked about the importance of being present, being willing, observing your thoughts, seeing yourself differently, and getting clear on your values. In this post I focus on taking action.
In the last five posts I’ve discussed the factors that matter in moving toward psychological health. They all have to do with how you relate to what goes on in your head and in your heart - your thoughts, feelings, memories, values, etc. This is important, but ultimately, if you want to make a change in your life, you will have to change something. That something is your behavior.
Behavior is something you see
Behavior can mean a wide variety of things but one way to think of it is that it is something that you or someone else can see. It could be your body language, the words you speak, or the choices you make in how you act throughout the day. It could also be how you interact with others, the relationship patterns you engage in with partners, friends, family members, co-workers, etc.
If changing behavior was easy you would have done it by now
We can get in touch with our values and realize that we want something different for our lives. So why can taking action be so challenging? Taking action is often difficult because of all the hard stuff that shows up inside: the thoughts, feelings, and memories that can be painful and that we struggle with. It is hard to take action if it means experiencing the hard stuff. That’s why being present and being willing are so important - noticing what is coming up inside and being willing to have it are the first steps in making change happen.
It’s not all or nothing - how to scale actions
It can be easy when thinking about making changes to consider some dramatic change you’d like to see. You think about your values and the kind of life you want and you see something really different. There’s nothing wrong with that but I think it’s important to think of how you can scale actions to something doable.
Consider this: every moment in your life is a choice - you get to choose if you are moving in the direction of what you value or away from it. Some days you will have the energy and time and focus to go big but other days you won’t. What is the smallest thing you can do that will help you feel like you are moving your life forward? Is there something that you could do right now?
Try jumping off a cliff
One of my favorite metaphors for considering how to commit to change and figure out what you can do is to consider jumping off a cliff. What if I told you that everything you wanted for your life was at the bottom of a cliff? Would you jump? I doubt that anyone would jump without thinking and hesitating and I’m sure many wouldn’t jump at all.
But what if I told you that the cliff was only one foot high? Would you consider jumping now? Taking action is like that - thinking about huge goals that you want to achieve can be useful but hard to make happen. What small step could you take today? What small cliff are you willing to jump off of to have the life you want?