Hop on this journey toward a liberated mind in this throwback episode with Dr. Steven Hayes.
Dive into the mind-bending world of psychological flexibility with a throwback episode featuring the legendary Dr. Steven Hayes. Originally released three years ago, this gem quickly became a fan favorite, boasting not just high downloads but also an impressive listen time— a testament to its transformative impact.
In this episode, we unravel the secrets of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as Dr. Hayes masterfully guides us through the art of hacking our thoughts, building habits aligned with our core values, and creating a life that’s authentically ours. Imagine outsmarting your inner critic and achieving true psychological freedom!
Whether you’re new to ACT or revisiting its power, this episode is your ticket to unleashing your full potential.
Get ready for mind flexing, habit hacking, and a sprinkle of Dr. Hayes’ signature wit. It’s time to rewrite your mental script and embrace a life of psychological agility. This episode is a game-changer, and the stats don’t lie!
If you don’t have time to listen to the entire episode or if you hear something that you like but don’t have time to write it down, be sure to grab your free copy of the Action Plan from this episode— as well as get access to action plans from EVERY episode— at JimHarshawJr.com/Action.
[00:00] Steven Hayes: We have to slow this thing down and kind of learn how to create modern minds for the modern world, because the modern world challenges us in ways that are orders of magnitude more difficult than your grandparents. They did not see people dying constantly. They did not know that tragedies could happen anywhere.
[00:18] Steven Hayes: You know, you feel insecure. Violence is less now than it's ever been on the planet. Less now. But you know, you can't even let your kids go out and play in the park, or you might get, you know, a cop showing up and saying you're endangering your children.
[00:32] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Welcome to another episode of Success Through Failure, the only show that reveals the true nature of success.
[00:39] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: This is your host, Jim Harshaw, Jr. And today I bring you Dr. Stephen Hayes. Now, if you're like me and probably most of the other listeners, you're someone who, while you understand that failure is a necessary step on the path to success, You also realize that you don't want to spend a whole lot of time dwelling on your failures, dwelling on your weaknesses, thinking about the adversity in your life.
[01:02] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Well, here's the catch. What if doing that is actually what you need to be doing in order to unlock your success. This is the kind of work that Dr. Stephen Hayes is doing in. Acceptance and commitment therapy. Now, what is acceptance and commitment therapy? It is a popular evidence based form of psychotherapy that uses mindfulness acceptance and values based methods.
[01:26] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: His research has been cited in the New York times, men's health, the wall street journal, Oprah magazine, and tons of other media outlets. Google scholar ranks him as among the top most cited scholars living or dead in any. Any area of study. I mean, this guy is legit in terms of his scholar, his academic background, and he brings to us real life stories from his own life and others and how they've used acceptance and commitment therapy, and it's actually used with Olympians, professional athletes, and elite performers from all walks of life.
[02:00] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: It's a new way of thinking. He is the originator of this acceptance and commitment therapy act. ACT. If you talk to any therapist, they're going to know exactly what this is. They know it's cutting edge. They know it's one of the best therapies out there and we're bringing it to you straight from the originator, straight from the guy who created this and brought this to the world.
[02:22] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: So here we go. My interview. With Dr. Stephen Hayes. By the way, this is a republished episode. I published this about three years ago. It's one of the most downloaded episodes, but it's also, here's what's important. It's also one of the episodes that has the most listen time. Okay. So what that tells me is anybody who clicks play on this. Listen to the whole thing, like most people who, who click play, they love what they're hearing that they listened to almost the entire episode or the entire episode more than almost any other episode that I've ever published. So you're going to love this. Here we go. Let's get into my interview with Dr. Stephen Hayes. Let's dive in. I want to lay a foundation for the listener for our conversation. Like we live in these amazing times and the level of technology and healthcare and entertainment that we have are just previously. Just unimaginable. People are living longer than ever. We have more accurate information about, you know, illnesses and everything else in our lives than we've ever had before.
[03:20] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Yet it seems that as much as ever, or maybe more than ever, many people struggle to be happy and healthy and live meaningful lives. Why is this still a problem?
[03:32] Steven Hayes: Well, it's because we're the very things that we are using in our success is to be able to use our problem solving mind. We have not learned how to put it out of a leash and not use it when other modes of mind are helpful.
[03:46] Steven Hayes: So we basically are kind of like an athlete, let's say you wanted to do weightlifting only worked on his right arm. Had this ginormous right arm and had this withered, you know, pathetic left arm and there's all kinds of things you need to do you can't do and it's like that we have got these ginormously over extended and wonderful.
[04:10] Steven Hayes: I mean, look around the room you're in almost nothing you see. Would be there without language and cognition, without problem solving, without, you know, imagining futures that have never been and comparing one to the other. Yeah, but then how about when your mind says, yeah, but I only want to feel good. I don't want, I only want to remember good things.
[04:29] Steven Hayes: I don't want to have any kind of sadness, anxiety, worry, et cetera. Okay, what are you going to do about that? Well, I'll get rid of it. Well, that means you're focusing on it. And by the way, if you're trying to get rid of it, like anxiety, now when you start feeling a little anxiety, that anxiety is something to be anxious about.
[04:45] Steven Hayes: Holy shit, I feel more anxiety. Well, it will work even harder to get rid of it. Maybe I take a pill. And now it's even more important, more central. You're focusing on it. So, we've got to figure out how to put the problem solving mind on a leash. Use it when it's really helpful. All the things you mentioned, reign it in, and use another mode of mind when it's not helpful.
[05:08] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: You say in the book that we treat life as a problem to be solved rather than a process to be lived. What do you mean by that?
[05:15] Steven Hayes: Well, you know, once you're into a kind of problem solving mode, what you're going to do is compare what's going on right now to some sort of verbally imagined future that you think's ideal.
[05:26] Steven Hayes: There's a piece in there that's wonderful. What are your values, where are you going, where do you want, but, you know, when you make that comparison, guess what, you're always on the short end of the stick, no matter how much money you've made, you could make more, no matter how many people are interested in where people could be.
[05:40] Steven Hayes: I mean, you just take anything that comparative mode of mind means you're not good enough. Yeah, there's a piece in there that could be helpful motivation, but it's this negative motivation instead of the positive motivation That really uplifts people the process to be experienced Kind of mindset is there If you saw sunset tonight and you looked at it say wow, look at that.
[06:02] Steven Hayes: You're not going to say The pink one yesterday was better, you know, God, that that, you know, that cloud is wrong, but you know, when you look at your life, you'll do that, you know, and so we need this kind of wow mode of mind to appreciate our kids to, you know, to hug our spouse to, you know, really care to have peace of mind.
[06:25] Steven Hayes: And so we, we haven't learned how to do that. And where did we learn that? Where did we used to, well, mostly we used to learn that inside our wisdom traditions or religious traditions or spiritual traditions, all of which are weakening. The dogmatic side of them are still there, but not the kind of mystical side.
[06:41] Steven Hayes: We're trying to put it in now. You know, almost everybody knows something about meditation. That's there because people know we need something more than just problem solving. Because once you bring that problem solving repertoire just to yourself and evaluate yourself, you're always on the short end of the stick.
[06:57] Steven Hayes: You never have that kind of feeling of Yes, I can start from here with my failures, for example, with my stumbles, that's part of it. That's actually what part of what's given me wisdom, you know, so you no longer try to subtract things out, but you try to sort of show up, orient towards what's a Importance and move ahead and that, uh, the problem solving doesn't know how to do that.
[07:26] Steven Hayes: It puts you on hold when you figure it out. You know, when I feel better about myself when I'm confident, you know, when I'm more comfortable when I'm so is this conditional thing life will start when. Dude, look at the clock. Every tick tells you life has started.
[07:41] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Right. It's so interesting. You know, one of the core tenants of what I teach in my program is that, you know, we also often live our lives and set goals based on what's parked in our neighbor's driveway.
[07:57] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Or what we see on social media or what mass media is telling us that we should want, and it leads to these unfulfilling lives. But when we base our goals upon what we actually value, what I value and what you value, and those are different things, it leads to a more fulfilling, purposeful, meaningful life. Am I right?
[08:17] Steven Hayes: Exactly right. No, you're exactly right. And, you know, that toxic thing of, you know, comparison as a way or, you know, relative to others, we have, that's one thing that the, when you said, why are we having this, you know, you got a computer in your pocket. It's 120 million times more powerful than what landed people on the moon and that computer in your pocket will expose you to pain anywhere happening in the world.
[08:44] Steven Hayes: You can see a freaking thing alive. People will live stream, but they're going to go shoot up of school. Yeah, you know, you can't avoid it. Now it'll feed you a comparison, you know, this is better than that. You know, et cetera. It sort of feeds these processes of, you know, pain and others are doing better.
[09:07] Steven Hayes: And by the way, maybe you could avoid it. It'll feed avoidance, it'll feed indulgence. So that combination is a toxic combination. And in order to step into the modern world. With its exposure to pain and comparison. I mean, do you want to see gold plated doorknobs or gold plated toilet seats of the rich and famous?
[09:30] Steven Hayes: You can do it. You know, you can look at somebody's Instagram account. Boy, does that look great? You know, but you're not seeing their insides. You're seeing your insides, not their insides, you're seeing their outsides. People look at your Instagram account, they're thinking, boy, you're like, your life is awesome.
[09:45] Steven Hayes: No, this is cartoons. These are, you know, not real. We have to slow this thing down and kind of learn how to create modern minds for the modern world. Because the modern world challenges us in ways that are orders of magnitude, more difficult than your grandparents. They did not see people dying constantly.
[10:03] Steven Hayes: They did not know that tragedies could happen anywhere. You know, you feel insecure. Violence is less now than it's ever been on the planet. Less now, but you know, you can't even let your kids go out and play in the park or you might get, you know, a cop showing and saying you're endangering your children.
[10:19] Steven Hayes: I mean, I used to say bye mom. And I would go out. In the canyons of El Cajon and throw rocks at rattlesnakes, you know, try to capture tarantulas, you know, and come home, you know, like six hours later, hi, mom.
[10:34] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And they say that you can't do that today because it's so dangerous out there, but—
[10:38] Steven Hayes: So dangerous.
[10:40] Steven Hayes: It's less dangerous than it's ever been ever, but we're exposed to it constantly. So we feel almost like, shoot, you know, get the guard at the gate, you know, I mean, electrify the fence, you know, give me someplace where I can be safe. So that is a challenge. We need modern minds for this modern world, or we're just going to be eaten.
[11:02] Steven Hayes: By the devices we've produced that, that challenges psychologically, we've got to be like wiser than previous generations, not stupider. And so everything's going in a navigative direction with psychology and behavior. Everything's going in a positive direction with everything else. It's like a paradox of the modern world.
[11:19] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And ACT helps us create this modern mind for the modern world, right? So can you talk about what ACT is? It's acceptance and commitment
[11:29] Steven Hayes: therapy. In a non therapy context, acceptance and commitment training. Okay. And it's, it's very, very similar. So if we're working with Olympic athletes, it's acceptance and commitment training, working with business leaders.
[11:40] Steven Hayes: That's what it's called. If we're working with people, depression, whatever it's called therapy, but it's really the same thing.
[11:48] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Quick interruption. Hey, if you like what you're hearing, be sure to get the notes, quotes, and links in the action plan from this episode, just go to Jim Herschel, jr. com slash action.
[11:58] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: That's Jim Harsha, jr. com slash action to get your free copy of the action plan. Now back to the show, I guess, kind of give us a little bit about the Genesis, kind of the 30,000 foot view and why it's been so revolutionary.
[12:13] Steven Hayes: Well, the Genesis, personally, it came out of my own panic disorder and watching me as a young academic, you know, almost 40 years ago, spinning down to a point where I couldn't give a lecture to undergraduates, you know, could hardly make sound come out of my mouth as terrified of them.
[12:28] Steven Hayes: And, you know, in a three year period, it got me down to the point where basically I was going to lose everything. And at a kind of a dramatic night, it's on a TEDx Talk, you can Google it and see it, I think I'm having a heart attack. I realized I'm having a panic attack. In that hitting bottom kind of realized there's a voice inside my head that's telling me to run to fight and to hide like I actually sort of had an out of body experience.
[12:54] Steven Hayes: I could hear the voice. We all carry it with us. I mean, four year olds understand, you know, goofy with horns on one shoulder and goofy with a halo on the other shoulder, four year olds do. So we get that we have voices in our head kind of telling us and that dictator's voice, you know, that's telling you things like you have to have the better car than the person next door or whatever driving, you know. I caught it.
[13:17] Steven Hayes: And I said, basically—
[13:19] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: You caught that dictator voice.
[13:20] Steven Hayes: I caught that dictator voice.
[13:22] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I want to emphasize this for the listener. You have this dictator voice inside of you. And so I'm sorry to interrupt, but that's just such an important point. I want to point out to the listener. So you caught this voice and then go ahead.
[13:33] Steven Hayes: Well, and I caught that it was telling me to run and fight and hide from my own experience. Well, so then I know you have an interest in failure and stuff. Well, let's choose, you know, if you go, for example, let's say you go into a relationship setting and you know, you've got a sixth sense that this is this person is not good for you.
[13:52] Steven Hayes: Right. Why? How would you know that? Because you interacted with somebody like that in the past and it was a train wreck, but it's the sixth sense, right? Well, the mind will kind of tell you not even to notice your own feelings because bad ones are bad and we only want good ones. Well, how do we produce only good ones?
[14:11] Steven Hayes: When you've had failure experiences, when you've had betrayals, you've had abuse, you've had things happen, you want to learn from that and how are you going to feel it? You're going to feel it in your, that sense. So, you know, I had played out this runaway, runaway, hide and fight to the point where I couldn't function at all and when i realized it was the dictator within telling me to do that i basically said f you i'm not doing it anymore i'm not gonna run for me. I'm not gonna run for me so if i'm feeling bad i'm gonna take my time to feel bad and then realize bad is an evaluation what is the actual feeling how to pull it let's join see what's really going on orient to where i am step forward.
[14:53] Steven Hayes: And I quickly learned in a few years that really, values can't be done if you don't have that posture, because when you really care, you're right on the edge of the places that you know how to hurt. If you really want good relationships, it hurts when they fall apart. That's a package. If you really love your kids, you're worried about bad things might happen to them and you want to protect them from that.
[15:15] Steven Hayes: That's a package. So you can't really care and pursue anything if you're not open to what you've been talking about, not open to failure. You have to be open to the pain part in order to have the joyful journey part. And that's not logical, but it's psychological. It's how we're arranged, because we're historical creatures.
[15:36] Steven Hayes: And our past pains inform how we best can move forward. And our aspirations raise issues of how painful it would be not to succeed at that. And so you, you have a kind of a paradox. And when I saw that, I started bringing it into people's lives in therapy. And boom, you know, things are opening up just like it did with me.
[15:55] Steven Hayes: And then I started saying, well, what else? And really early on, I mean, this is now 35 years ago, we should, you could do a better job of losing weight and you could do a better job dealing with physical injuries. And so I knew from 83, 84, that we were on to something that applied everything. It's basically everywhere that a human mind goes because we quickly did a few studies and then I went on a 20 year journey to figure out what are the processes.
[16:26] Steven Hayes: I stopped doing outcome studies. I was not very well known. I'm one of the best known psychologists in the world, sorry for saying it that way now, but at the time I give talks to five people. We went for like 15, 16 years and we kind of hacked the code. What are the processes? That drive this. So the dictator's voice is one, but there's others.
[16:46] Steven Hayes: And then we came back in, describe what we were doing. We had three or four randomized trials and time magazine wrote us up in a five page story, blah, blah, blah. It exploded. And it's now the most researched new method of, uh, Not just psychotherapy, but, but of psychological intervention, I think, in the world.
[17:06] Steven Hayes: And there's a worldwide community developing it. Why? Because it works. Not, but it's not work like it's everything in there is right or there's nothing to add. No, there's stuff in there that's wrong. Of course, that's everything in science. Everything, everything Einstein's wrong, everything's wrong, but we've got to find out where it's wrong.
[17:24] Steven Hayes: So we've been on a exciting journey of figuring out where it's wrong, tweaking it, adding it, and it'll go on past my lifetime. But we've hacked the code enough that we've got the 20 percent that will do the 80 percent and that's. That's what's in a liberated mind that new that new book that walks out that whole story in history and shows you how to apply It to almost anything you can think of.
[17:45] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Yes, and for the listener, you know I definitely recommend the book a liberated mind of read a good portion of the book didn't get the whole way through it before this interview, but I've taken so much from it already and so I want to dive deeper into this idea that our thoughts are automatic and they're so convincing and how do we catch that?
[18:08] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Because they just happen, right?
[18:10] Steven Hayes: They just happen.
[18:11] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Most people aren't aware of it, you know. They're just automatic. I feel like I'm pretty aware of it because in part because I'm a coach and I have to think about my own thoughts and I do this own, this work on myself.
[18:23] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I have my own coach, I happen to be married to a licensed therapist.
[18:28] Steven Hayes: Sure.
[18:29] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And I'm reading and researching, but I think most people, certainly most people who come to me before I began to work with them is they're not conscious.
[18:37] Steven Hayes: No.
[18:37] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Conscious of their thoughts. They happen automatically and they're so convincing.
[18:42] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: They say, I failed and they don't even think this. They're just subconscious. I failed. And therefore I can't do X. And you're saying we need to look at that failure, live with it, face it, embrace it, walk with that pain. Because if we failed and it hurts, that means that's something that we actually care about because it hurt and we need to live with that and stick with that and embrace that.
[19:11] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: So how do you do that?
[19:13] Steven Hayes: Allow it to empower you and inform you. And so there's six things in there, but the thing you're poking pointed to on the, you know, the dictator's voice first is just to sort of show up and catch that you're thinking because you're being driven by your thinking all the time, but you don't control it.
[19:30] Steven Hayes: It's an automatic thing. You have contradictory voices back to the horns and halos on each shoulder. And it's even freaking doing it in your sleep. I mean, you wake up from a dream and the whole day feels a little different. I mean, the idea that you're controlling this thing is ridiculous. It's like a little spider in your head was weaving webs, constantly making connections and they're so complex.
[19:51] Steven Hayes: You'll never clean that up. But you can back out of it enough to watch the spider do its work and use it when it's useful and not use it when it isn't. If I have a thought, like I haven't done my taxes yet. I only got two more weeks. Well, cool. Thanks. Thanks for that. Or, you know, you'll only be good enough if you well, thank you for that thought mind.
[20:10] Steven Hayes: Uh, I think I got that covered. You know, you gotta be able to kind of use the voice when it's helpful. When problem solving applies and not when a kind of wow mode of mind, you know, observe and describe and appreciate mode of mind is really what's needed. You don't want problem solving when you're looking at a sunset.
[20:27] Steven Hayes: You don't want it when you're looking at your past failures. Well, parts of it you do, but you don't want it when you're looking at your emotions. So you bring the dictator. How do you do that? We have a, if I could just give you a sense of it, a feel of it. Let's just take one. Instead of saying, you know, Oh, I'm a failure, say, I'm having a thought that I'm a failure. You know, when you put people in imaging, your brain lights up completely different when you say I'm bad versus I'm having a thought I'm bad, but aren't you having a thought?
[20:58] Steven Hayes: Yes. Is an evaluation? Yes. We'll just tag it. Just learn to name it. I'm having this feeling. I'm having this sensation. I'm having this memory. Just don't do it out loud. People think you're weird, but do it inside your head. So when you note something, note what the category is. Now, what does that do?
[21:15] Steven Hayes: It takes something that is psychologically right up on your face and moves it out a couple inches so that you can see it, but not just look from it when you're invisible to the fact that you're looking from it. The mind does damage is where it tricks you into kind of putting it on like colored glasses and then everything you look at is colored by it, but you don't realize you're looking through glasses.
[21:39] Steven Hayes: So if you could just take off the glasses enough—
[21:41] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: That's a great analogy.
[21:43] Steven Hayes: Colored glass, and there's the part that isn't colored. So I'm having a thought. I'm a failure. Cool. Is that useful to me right now? Might be. If it isn't, well, I got some other things. It was so thank you for that help, but I've got some other things to do.
[21:55] Steven Hayes: Now, you don't have to convince the spider to stop weaving that web. Some of the stuff you say to yourself, you came by, honestly, you had your parents tell you stuff. You had things happen. You had people you love. You had people, you know, lovers say, you know, I don't want you anymore. You know, that's going to be in your head forever.
[22:15] Steven Hayes: But it doesn't have to be what your life is about. So when you notice it. Tag it. That was just one of about 200 methods for creating a tiny little gap between what the conscious human being and the thoughts that you're having so that you notice your thoughts, use them when they're useful, but you don't allow them to get on your face like colored glasses and you forget that you're wearing them.
[22:40] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I think this is along the lines of psychological flexibility, right? Is this one of the six? Okay. So, and we'll talk about that in a second. So I want to first explore this just for a second. So when we recognize this thought, okay, so we have this feeling, right? This dictator says, you know, you're a failure.
[22:55] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Right. Yeah. You can't, you can't do that. Don't even go try it because you failed last time. So why would you try it again? Right. And it's scary. It's bad. Right. And then you said, Whoa, I just recognized that I had this thought that I'm a failure. Can we speak the truth to ourselves? Wait a second. You're not a failure because you actually have done these other three things, or you've had these other experiences.
[23:21] Steven Hayes: Well now here's the problem. Here's the issue. Sometimes it's speaking the truth gives you some new information, gives you a slightly different perspective. In addition to thinking about this way, I could think about it that way. That's cool. Sometimes it gets you into the silly kind of make the spider do its work.
[23:37] Steven Hayes: Only one particular way thing where you go like, I'm not a failure. I'm a success because, and then there's this little voice saying, yeah, but you also— and they say, yeah, no, yeah, that's true. But I have this. Yeah, but you have that. But yeah, meanwhile, life's happening and you're in a freaking argument with what? With some sort of automatic mechanistic process happened in your head.
[24:00] Steven Hayes: So what we teach people to do is when you've extracted the usefulness, sometimes exploring it, criticizing and talking about it, creating flexibility, that's all good. But then when you've extracted it, put it on a lease. So for example, in addition to just like, Okay. Noticing, like I'm having a thought, suppose you have a habitual thought, like I'm a failure keeps coming up, comes coming up.
[24:20] Steven Hayes: It's a theme. Sing it to the tune of happy birthday. Say it in the four voice of your least favored politician.
[24:29] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Yeah.
[24:30] Steven Hayes: You get it.
[24:31] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Sure.
[24:31] Steven Hayes: You know, say it in Donald duck's voice. . I mean, literally do it out loud. Distill it down to the word failure. Say the word failure fast about once per second for 30 seconds.
[24:44] Steven Hayes: Failure, failure, failure, failure, failure, failure. You know, these are one of like 200 methods, like it was a bunch of 'em in the Liberated Mind. Once you get onto it and you got on, you can go out on the internet and you can see all the stuff that act people are doing. Why would you do something so weird?
[24:57] Steven Hayes: Because you're trying to put the voice in a place where you can hear it and look at it. But you don't kind of give the keys to the car to it, you know, you can't kind of don't let it just drive you. It's part of you. It's in you. It's useful. It's helpful when you're fixing your car or doing your taxes. It's not helpful for peace of mind. It's not helpful for confidence. You know, take confidence as an example.
[25:23] Steven Hayes: I bet you, most high performers know the confident people do better, right?
[25:28] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Right.
[25:28] Steven Hayes: Found that?
[25:29] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Yes.
[25:30] Steven Hayes: What does the word mean? Con means with. Latin for with. What does fides mean? It comes from the Latin word fides. What does that mean? Faith. Fidelity. Same root as fidelity. Yeah. Okay. So with fidelity, with faith.
[25:43] Steven Hayes: In who? Yourself. Okay. Now think about it logically. See the problem, Jim. If you've got to eliminate your bad thoughts, eliminate your bad feelings, what you're saying is I'm not good enough and I'm not there yet. Instead, if you can have the self fidelity and the self faith to notice your thoughts and to notice your difficult feelings and now come in consciousness into this present moment and what could I do that would move me towards what I deeply care about by choice, not by wagging fingers because I have to, not because the car is better in the next driveway, but because I choose it and build habits around that.
[26:20] Steven Hayes: Those are the six flexibility processes. And so, yeah, you know, you can— cognitive flexibility. Yes. Cognitive wars within? No. Having the tools, it's called cognitive diffusion, to sometimes with habitual thoughts, it's not thinking differently, it's undermining the impact of the things you think habitually, you know, where the impact on you is more like what happened when I said, I'm a failure, than it is what usually happens when you have a thought like I'm a failure and you buy it, it's hooked you, you're now into the world in which you're a failure.
[27:02] Steven Hayes: No, you're not. You're just thinking. You're just thinking. You're not in any different world because you have the thought of a failure you're in the world, which now you're having a thought of a failure. What are you going to do about that? Well, you can sing it. You can repeat it. You can have fun with it.
[27:16] Steven Hayes: You can say it backwards. I don't know what failure sounds like backwards, but that's another number of techniques. And then come into the world now kind of fresh with your ability to focus, your attention flexibly, fluidly, involuntarily on what? On what is of importance to you. Subtract anything to do.
[27:38] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: You talk a lot about that psychological flexibility.
[27:40] Steven Hayes: That's psychological flexibility. It's basically show up in the present with your thoughts and feelings as they are. Notice them now show up in the world within and without with your attention under your control. Now focus on what brings meaning and purpose to you in the sense of the actual intrinsic qualities of your behavior that you want to reveal to the world and want to make manifest in the world, whether that's authenticity, creativity, being loving, compassionate for others, caring about justice, I mean, I don't know, family, whatever you care about, and now build habits around that.
[28:17] Steven Hayes: So open, aware, and actively engaged. That's six things, but it's really three things, but it's really one thing. It's being able to sort of be your whole self in the moment and focus on what's important, but carrying your history with you and your past history includes things like failures, which can be a powerful ally, includes negative thoughts, which comes along with the territory.
[28:41] Steven Hayes: Yeah. Don't put your life on hold while you solve the problem within. And like, if you fight for the feeling of confidence. That's the least confident thing anyone can do, because it's the least amount of self fidelity, the least amount of self faith. Don't be fighting for a feeling of confidence. Do the actual behavior of confidence, and you will soon enough get the feeling of confidence.
[29:05] Steven Hayes: And the behavior is, have faith in yourself that your whole person can have a history that includes things that are painful, thoughts that are difficult, but that if you come into the present moment with your full consciousness, and your ability to focus on what You care about that. You can build a life worth living.
[29:24] Steven Hayes: And that's the 20 percent that does the 80%. And it doesn't matter if you're an Olympic athlete or a fortune 100 CEO or a person dealing with anxiety and depression, same deal, same hack.
[29:36] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I know that there are Olympic athletes using this. I know that there are fortune 500 CEOs using this. I mean, this is performance psychology at its best.
[29:45] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I mean, what are the relevant sort of use cases for a CEO or an athlete? I mean, you know, most of the folks listening are probably more along the CEO line that they're not competitive athletes. Now there are some competitive athletes listening, but for the rest of us who were in the real world and we're trying to be our best selves.
[30:05] Steven Hayes: Well, you know, you look at psychological flexibility principles, these things of open to your emotions and thoughts as a conscious human being using your attention, flexibly, fluidly, voluntarily towards your chosen values and creating habits around it. Those are the six things. It takes something like leadership.
[30:22] Steven Hayes: Well, dig into some of what the leadership science shows with things like transformational leadership, you've got three or four or five of those processes right there. It's not like we're inventing something brand new. We're finding things actually that are in our wisdom traditions, our meditative traditions, our contemplative traditions, spiritual traditions are also in just what we've learned about things like leadership and so forth.
[30:43] Steven Hayes: But by having the 20 percent that does 80 percent and also by being a little slow when somebody says, yeah, let's try this. Some of those things that are contradictory produce short term gains and long term pains. And I would take, you know, long, larger, later over smaller, sooner, anytime, because, you know, life is a long term game.
[31:05] Steven Hayes: It's not an immediate game. And most of the things that are immediate are, you know, if you just want to feel great. You know, go down the fourth street and you can probably find somebody who'll make you feel great, you know, but your life's not going to open up by doing that. And so, you know, so give an example, let's take leadership, taking the time to know the internal lives of the people around you.
[31:28] Steven Hayes: Being able to show vulnerability, being able to show that you have emotions, be interested in other people's emotions, find out what their values are, don't just say what the company's values are, what are your values, get into a conversation where you can have the team come together about values and vulnerabilities, those are the kinds of things that are in the team.
[31:47] Steven Hayes: Our leadership training that I think at its best, you know, taking the perspective of others, for example, a thing I do if I'm going to meet with somebody, anybody, especially if the meeting is challenging for me, if I have time, I'm going to do a two or three minute thought of imagining this person and I'm They're coming to meet me and I go behind their eyes and I try to get a sense of what are their emotions, what are their wants, what are their desires, what do they bring into this moment and really kind of open up in a compassionate and accepting way to their thoughts and feelings. And then when that person walks in the door and I'm behind my eyes, I have a whole additional world to guide me other than the, you know, the game I'm playing and the, you know, the pool to put on a mask and pretend and, you know, take command or whatever the freaking thing is that the dictator is telling you what to do.
[32:39] Steven Hayes: I can come in there as a human being and connect to another human being. And guess what, when you do that. Things go better. People feel connected. Nobody wants to walk around in a clown suit all the time. And yet leaders sometimes think they have to walk around in clown suits and treat other people as if they're just objects to be moved around, like, you know, pegs in a machine.
[33:01] Steven Hayes: And some of this is crippling us and so we've done for example randomized trials with let's say stockbrokers and you know we walk into it this acceptance work attentional focus in the moment work values work what starts happening. Will they do odd things like they wanna have family day where they bring their kids to the stock brokerage and show what they do.
[33:23] Steven Hayes: How's that going to make money? Well, here's one way to make money. We begin to have work contexts that feels life enhancing. And then these best stockbrokers who have clients who will move with them when they move, they don't want to leave that work environment. Even if they're maybe not making quite as much as they could over here, this environment really feels supportive.
[33:48] Steven Hayes: And by the way, the family feels supported. And by the way, you know, they take the time to know. You think about this, if you're in leadership, do you know the kids names of the person that were working with you? What are the names of the kids? How old are they? Where does that person live? What schools do they go to?
[34:05] Steven Hayes: I bet you you don't know. You know people you've worked with every day for years. You don't know their kids names. What the heck are you doing? These are— are you with me on this?
[34:17] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: A hundred percent. Yeah.
[34:19] Steven Hayes: When you open up to this flexibility space, it naturally starts softening you, extends your vision, and the work shows like in these randomized trials and banks and Salesforce thought they do a lot better,
[34:35] Steven Hayes: they sell more, and they start creating values based workplaces, and they start using language with each other that is more human and open and linked to emotions and caring and kids and family and they don't leave, you know, you don't have the constant turnover. You don't have that constant fighting between people that is all ego based and, you know, who got the corner office with the windows and all kinds of nonsense, and you can come together as a team. You see it in competitive athletes. You know, we have act coaches in— I just visited China. They got a number of them in the Olympic team there. The UK has a number of them on their Olympic teams, Olympic rowing team, et cetera, the Swedish hockey team, individual teams.
[35:19] Steven Hayes: I was in Rio, literally saw somebody win a gold medal who I know has an individual act coach. I don't have permission to say the person's name, but everybody listening to me would know that name if I said it out loud. So, why? Because this is a healthy way to be, is to show up with your history, come into the present, and you can learn it.
[35:40] Steven Hayes: It's not rocket science. You can learn it.
[35:43] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: That's the important thing is I want people to realize that this psychological flexibility can be learned in, you know, we can only go so far in a short interview here, but there's so much more in the book that you can get out of this. But what I'm taking away, the biggest takeaway that I'm getting here, Steve, is that this is not about becoming somebody new. To be that leader that we want to be, or whatever it is in the world that you want to accomplish, you don't have to be somebody else. You have to be the opposite. You have to be fully you. It's not about putting on the clown suit. It's about being genuinely authentically, vulnerably, 100 percent fully you. And whenever you can be that, then it allows everything else to flow from you. All of your gifts, all of your talents, all of your abilities, all the potential that you have, it's all able to flow out of you once you get to that point.
[36:42] Steven Hayes: I want to transcript that paragraph, Jim, and I'm going to steal it and put it in my next book because that is so right on.
[36:48] Steven Hayes: It's every freaking word is right on. That's exactly right. You can learn this thing. The cool thing about the flexibility processes is they focus them down to these little micro things, you know, like who would think to be saying their habitual negative thoughts in Donald Duck's voice? It just wouldn't occur to you.
[37:06] Steven Hayes: But just try it. Just try it.
[37:08] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Sure.
[37:09] Steven Hayes: You know, if you get the book and it has these methods that walk through it, it tells the whole science story and personal story. You'll see. And the science, there's 3,000 studies we're sitting on 40 years ago. 3,000 studies. 320 randomized trials.
[37:22] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: This is based on science. I love that.
[37:24] Steven Hayes: It's ginormous. And you know, you have a lot of folks out there saying blah, blah, blah, blah. And it's not based on anything other than personal experience. And usually some of it's right and some of it's wrong. We've been able to weed out, that's what science can do, the stuff that's wrong.
[37:37] Steven Hayes: And we keep weeding it out. And so, you know, you can learn this one step at a time way, and it puts you on a journey in your life where, you know, kind of, is useful everywhere that you go. Can I give a quick example?
[37:54] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Please.
[37:55] Steven Hayes: Okay. So I've worked for 30 years, about 10 years ago on all these processes that helped me with almost everything that I do, you know, creating habits really of being more open and being more focused on values.
[38:08] Steven Hayes: And then my ears start ringing. Well, you know, you're talking to an old punk rocker. I'm now turning 70. Guess what happens when you're 70 if you're an old punk rocker? Your ears ring. It's a bit hammering. I'm standing in front of 160 decibel speakers, you know. Warning to young people, don't do this. But if you do, your ears ring.
[38:30] Steven Hayes: Well, right as I say this right now, my ears are ringing. They ring 24/7. But for all of the early part of our conversation, they weren't ringing. Except they were ringing. What's the difference? I wasn't attending to him. Why? Well, because I went through a three year spiral down of oh my god this noise. Oh my god When is it gonna stop?
[38:49] Steven Hayes: Oh my god, and finally I had this thought if I shoot myself, it'll go away. And then I had this thing. Dude, that's a suicidal thought. Maybe you should apply your life's work to this. So I went out on the walk. I came back. It was solved. You know the Mark Manson thing, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck?
[39:08] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Yeah.
[39:09] Steven Hayes: That's what I did. Sometimes what you learn from your past and your failures is like, okay, that was a bad idea and that's it. There isn't anything else to learn. So respectfully, my ears are not getting any more of my unwanted attention. I'm not going to give it to him. But I'm not going to be thinking, Oh, is it still ringing?
[39:31] Steven Hayes: Have I taken away the attention? Because as soon as you think, Have you taken away the attention? You've attended the attention. There's this subtle thing of you just don't give a f. And sometimes it has that face. Sometimes you learn from it, you know, sometimes, you know, that portrayal when you really go into your learn something about what your values are about what you did that didn't work with that relationship, but sometimes you learn things like next lifetime.
[39:55] Steven Hayes: Don't stand in front of 100 speakers. Thank you. Okay, I got it.
[40:01] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: See, for the listener who is saying, I get it. I love this. I'm in, I want to learn more. What would be the next action that they can take? Well, you know, if they were to take an action in the next 24 to 48 hours to really start applying this to their lives outside of buying A Liberated Mind.
[40:18] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And by the way, for the listener, I'll have the link to the book in the action plan. Just go to JimHarshawJr.com/action. I have the link right there. But what's an action item that they can take in the next 24 to 48 hours?
[40:28] Steven Hayes: Well, and they could come to my website and I don't spam them, but they can get a seven mini set of my mini course.
[40:34] Steven Hayes: And of course I'm doing it to capture the emails because I will send you then my blogs or stuff like that. And there's a one click out if you don't like it. But I think if you had this one thing you could do, take a thought that you know has been a problem for you that pushes you in a direction where you don't want to go.
[40:54] Steven Hayes: Write that thought down actually. Write it down in the actual words and let's just take the things that you and I've talked about here, and try them out. So in other words, let your experience actually apply and see if for example distill it down to a single word, say it out loud, look around, find a private place and nobody's gonna think you're nuts. Save that word like failure, loser, you know, I don't know what it is.
[41:23] Steven Hayes: Get it down there out loud fast for about 30 seconds. And just watch what happens. And I pretty much, we've done now something like 20 studies on this one little technique. It's one of hundreds that are in the book, blah, blah, blah. The silly voices. Well, here's one. I'll give you one, it's a little different just to give you a little sense.
[41:44] Steven Hayes: How young were you when you first ever had thoughts like that? When you first ever wondered, were you good enough, lovable enough, smart enough? Okay, take the time to picture yourself at that age. And now take these thoughts that you're running around trying to race and make different and have that child say that thought out loud in their child's voice in your imagination you as a young child saying those things. What do you want to do? My guess is you don't want to slap the kid.
[42:17] Steven Hayes: You don't want to say stop it. You don't want to say, Oh, you're thinking wrong. My guess is you probably want to hug the kid. So have a little compassion for yourself. You're a human being and we're historical creatures. And you know, if you've ever had something go into your nervous system, there's no delete button.
[42:38] Steven Hayes: You know, you don't forget, can you name a painful memory that you've ever forgotten 100 percent and it's completely been eliminated from your life and had no impact on you?
[42:47] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Of course not.
[42:48] Steven Hayes: Of course not. So far as you know, once in, always in, right? Short of injury. And brain injury is not what we pray for, is it?
[42:56] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Sure. Right.
[42:57] Steven Hayes: So, let's learn how to carry the voice within, learn from our history, carry those painful memories, but then bring our attention towards what's of importance and build a values based life and habits around it. You do that, you've hacked the code. And there's a lot of folks out there who will help you for free.
[43:17] Steven Hayes: We've got public support groups. For example, if you go to the groups.io and find act for the public, several thousand people are in a constant conversation there. And if you just wonder about how to apply all this act, self help stuff, there's hundreds of act books out there, a hundred. And so I'm not pitching my book or whatever. But you can just go on the internet and find lots of stuff for free. Come to my website.
[43:42] Steven Hayes: I'll send you stuff for free. Or just try what you and I've just talked about. Let your experience guide you. And then if you get a sense or something in there, it's crazy, it sounds crazy, but actually, you know, there's something in there, pursue it and trust your experience and see what happens.
[44:00] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I'm going to do that right after this episode. I'm going to do the exact action item you just gave us. So—
[44:04] Steven Hayes: Awesome.
[44:04] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Steve. Wow. There's so much more here. For the listener, there's so much more in the book. I urge you if this struck a chord with you, get the book, look for the resources. This is Steve's life's work. And like you say, his mission is to spread this and to give it away.
[44:22] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And he told me that off air before we even started recording. His mission is to just give this away. This is amazing stuff. This is transformational stuff. Steve, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming onto the show.
[44:34] Steven Hayes: Awesome. I had a great time. Thank you, Jim.
[44:38] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Thanks for listening. If you want to apply these principles into your life, let's talk.
[44:42] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: You can see the limited spaces that are open on my calendar at JimHarwshawJr.com/apply where you can sign up for a free one time coaching call directly with me. And don't forget to grab your action plan. Just go to JimHarwshawJr.com/action. And lastly, iTunes tends to suggest podcasts with more ratings and reviews more often.
[45:04] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: You would totally make my day if you give me a rating and review, those go a long way in helping me grow the podcast audience. Just open up your podcast app if you have an iPhone, do a search for success through failure, select it and then scroll the whole way to the bottom where you can leave the podcast a rating and a review.
[45:23] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Now I hope this isn't just another podcast episode for you, I hope you take action on what you learned here today. Good luck and thanks for listening.
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