Another important ACT concept is doing what works rather than either repeating unhelpful patterns that have short term payoffs but long term downsides in terms of what you value, or pushing yourself so hard to do what you want to achieve that you end up adding excessive stress and exhaustion to your suffering.
So after my second miscarriage, I faced the thought that this could be my pattern – get pregnant easily and lose the pregnancy just as easily. A cruel fertility twist. It occurred to me conceiving might need to be a long game, allowing space for other areas of my life too. So rather than get frustrated at having to wait for a period, I tried to use the time positively to catch up with friends, host BBQs, enjoy some runs in the beautiful countryside where I live and focus also on work. This boosted my wellbeing much more than just allowing myself coffee and wine. From that perspective, we also booked a trip to Australia. I planned that if I wasn’t pregnant we could enjoy wine tours, and if I was, I’d be happy to forgo them. It helped me feel I’d set it up as win-win rather than all or nothing on getting that second line each month. As we got closer to the trip and I got the necessary period, I considered following my reverse compass and skipping trying for a month, but then decided to “not try, not prevent” as a compromise – and what happened next?
Useful questions to test the workability of what you’re doing
Why am I doing this?
Is doing this getting me closer to my goals?
what am I trying to achieve here, and is what I’m doing helping or hindering me?
Is what I’m doing making my quality of life richer or poorer? In what way? Which aspects of this matter most to me? To my family? To others?
What are the benefits of this course of action to me? To my family? To others?
What are the costs of this course of action to me? To my family? To others who I care about?
Some common short term payoffs that trap us in unhelpful patterns
The feel good factor of a couple of drinks – trouble is when you add a few more the suffering begins
The pleasure and comfort of a chocolate box – eat a few of those, and the suffering begins
Compulsive exercise – initial buzz and self esteem pay offs, long term pain and injuries await
Avoidance – short term relief, long term anxiety awaits