by Robin Fraser (of North Brisbane Psychologists)
Australia’s best-selling book of 2017 was “The Barefoot Investor”. In this book, author Scott Pape discusses a tragic situation where his family farm was burned to the ground in a runaway fire. As he walks around the charred remains of what used to be his home, he recalls seeing in the distance his Alpaca herd. The alpacas had just been through a frightening and devastating experience. Yet there they stood, steadfast and courageous. When Scott got closer, he realised the alpacas were actually protecting some of the other animals. Despite the odds, the alpacas had stood resolutely committed to their natural instinct – to fiercely protect what was important to them. Scott uses this story to draw the analogy that when it comes to managing personal finances, you can be like these alpacas, with a total commitment to achieving your goals.
This really got me thinking! There have been so many times I’ve made a decision to do something, and as time has gone on, my commitment to that decision has waned, and I start making small compromises. Before I know it, I am back to square one. What’s even worse are the self-defeating, critical thoughts that start going through my head like, “You see, you’ve got no backbone” or “You’re such a failure – you should just stop trying to change because you’re no good at it”. Sound familiar?
In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), we talk about a number of Core Processes. One of these processes, that of Committed Action, aligns with this idea of embracing your inner-Alpaca. Dr Russ Harris, a leading ACT author and practitioner, has written much about how we can use ACT principles in our lives. In an article he wrote for Psychotherapy Australia magazine, Russ describes that this principle of Committed Action is about setting goals that are guided by your values and taking effective action to achieve them (click here for the link to the article) in spite of fear and worry.
In the appendix of his book, The Reality Slap, Russ provides a helpful worksheet to guide you towards achieving those goals. More information is available in the worksheet, but here is a brief outline of the Five-Step Plan for Goal Setting and Committed Action:
Step One: Identify Your Guiding Values
Step Two: Set a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timed)
Step Three: Identify the benefits
Step Four: Identify obstacles
Step Five: Make a Commitment.
I would like to add that when it comes to working towards goals, it’s helpful to focus on what you want to START doing, rather than what you want to STOP doing. Often in my work with couples, the one partner wants the other partner to stop a particular behaviour. Something unhelpful happens in people’s minds when they hear the word ‘stop’ or ‘don’t’. Therefore, I encourage each partner to request a specific type of positive behaviour instead.
So, if you’re like me and you often find it hard to stay committed to goals and decisions you’ve made, I want to encourage you to embrace your inner-Alpaca! Whether it’s standing committed to a decision to improve the relationship with your partner, give up smoking or another unhealthy habit, getting into shape (and yes, round is a shape too!), or getting that diploma or degree you’ve always wanted, let’s embrace the inner-Alpaca and go for it!
If you are frustrated about feeling stuck or in limbo about things in your life, and if you’d like to fast track your progress, it’s time to book an appointment with one of us. At North Brisbane Psychologists, we welcome the opportunity to walk the road with you towards achieving your goals. Our evidence-based interventions can help you to focus on what you want to achieve, whilst our kind and compassionate personalities can give you the support you need along the way.