The Real “Life Hack”

While it is fun to look at a number of these “life hacks” and see the creative uses people find for old toilet paper cardboard, pop tabs, empty ketchup bottles and pool noodles, these aren’t as much “life hacks” as they are “time hacks.” Life is in itself, more comprehensive than pool noodles and ketchup bottles. As I was setting forth on my journey to become a psychologist, I found out about something that is so simple, yet so complex at the same time . . . acceptance. I learned about acceptance while being introduced to a therapeutic technique on internship called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) by Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D. To learn more about this technique, I encourage you to read about how Dr. Hayes came up with the idea of acceptance as a therapeutic technique and how it helped him with his anxiety struggles.

Nonetheless, acceptance is the notion that everything is “okay.” That no matter what occurs we can face it and that we can adjust accordingly to it as long as we are welcome to it being present. We can still choose to “like” something or “hate” something, but we recognize that these are just feelings, evaluations and interpretations of events and that these feelings and interpretations will most likely not lead to change. In fact, they will probably cause us to limit our ability to change out of fear and stubbornness. Take anxiety for instance. Most people hate anxiety and want it “totally gone.” However, this is impossible. If we take anxiety away we would take with it the uneasy feelings that cause us to actually accomplish things, get up for work and pay bills. I often share how a lack of anxiety may cause you to run toward the giant grizzly bear, as opposed to running away (by the way, one “life hack” suggests you play dead with a grizzly bear for the best chance of survival) because a lack of anxiety would mean no fear. Anxiety is necessary for life and since it is necessary we would benefit from learning to live with it, even in it’s most intense times. Acceptance is more than living with it, acceptance is welcoming these undesirable things into our lives. Now I’m not suggesting you invite them you’re your life, but if they are there already, just try to be okay with them being there.

I understand that this is a brief interlude into the idea of acceptance as the ultimate life hack. Choosing to accept what is occurring to us or around us is an essential first step in realizing that we are the secret to our own progress. However, it is important to note that while the idea of acceptance is a simple one, its implementation is very difficult. Most of us have spent many years learning to “fight” these things we dislike and externalize or push blame onto “bad luck” or other people. With anxiety again, when we hate it and spend our time thinking of how to make it go away, we are spending our time actually thinking about it. Similar to the idea of “Don’t think about lemonade.” Well,did your mouth water? Did your mouth react with the idea of the tartness of lemons? I thought I told you not to think about lemonade. Choosing to “be okay” with these things lets them coexist in our lives and gives us the freedom to spend the rest of our time in the lives that we choose for ourselves.