Small steps will get you there

Small steps will get you there

WorkLifePsych News 008.

Hi there,

A long time coming, our new podcast series all about psychology flexibility is live. I'm delighted to be collaborating with Ross McIntosh, fellow psychologist and host of the excellent 'People Soup' podcast.

Each episode, we'll explore one of the skills that contribute to psychological flexibility, explain how it works, and share simple ways you can build it into your routines. No prior knowledge is needed to benefit from listening to the series, and even if you know a little about the concept, we're confident you'll learn something new.

We'd love as many people as possible to access this information and start exploring the skills, so we're publishing the episodes on My Pocket Psych, on the People Soup feed, and on the WorkLifePsych YouTube channel, where you get to watch our facial expressions as we record! We're really enjoying making it, and I hope this comes through.

Additionally, we've scheduled free online Q&A sessions starting later this month, where you'll be able to join us on a Zoom call and have all your questions about psychological flexibility answered. All the details of the series, the skills, the resources and the meet-ups can be found online at the appropriately-named

🤨 Psychological what now?

But let's start at the beginning. Psychological flexibility is what we experience when we practice the skills that make up the ACT framework. This acronym stands for 'Acceptance and Commitment Therapy' (Or theory, or training...depending on the context). ACT is an evidence-based framework for improving our wellbeing and performance and decades of research have demonstrated both its impact and how it work.

When we apply these skills in everyday life, we pay attention in the present moment, we stop wrestling with our own thoughts and emotions and we get stuck into doing more of the stuff that really matters. Even if it's challenging an uncomfortable. Or as I put it on my training workshops, we learn how to 'Show up, let go and get moving'.

Psychological flexibility allows us to be the kind of person we'd like to be, to respond more appropriately to what's going on around us and to ensure our behaviour is aligned with our values. You get a lot of bang for your buck, so it's not surprising that these are often referred to as skills for life, not just work.

It doesn't require you to reinvent yourself - small values-aligned daily habits represent the small steps that allow you to experience increased flexibility and we're delighted to be able to share this journey with you.

⚠️ Starting with inflexibility

We started the series by exploring the opposite of these qualities - when we experience psychological inflexibility. For many of us, this represents our starting point. But what could it look and feel like?

It can involve lots of mental time-travel, going to the disappointing past and scary future in our minds. This takes us away from the present moment, and all the opportunities it offers us. Inflexibility can involve buying in to the troubling thoughts and images our minds give us, and then attempting to avoid or minimise them.

Psychological inflexibility can involve a lack of clarity on what really matters in live, so we get wound up by the little things and lose sight of the person we want to be. We can focus on remaining comfortable, and get stuck in behaviours that focus on avoiding discomfort. We limit our options and fail to reach our potential.

We don't start here to make anyone feel bad, but instead to normalise experiences that are part of being a human with a mind. And over the next six episodes, we'll explain how to get clear on what matters, be present when it's important, let thoughts and feelings go, and do more of the stuff that represents who you want to be. You can watch this first episode below.

📍 Be here, now

After some debate, we picked 'present moment awareness' as the first skill to cover in our series. There's no perfect or prescribed starting point when it comes to psychological flexibility. But it makes sense to develop the capacity to notice what's going on in the here and now, so we can take effective action.

In other words, our journey towards increased flexibility begins with being more present in the moment. And minimising our unwanted mental time travel. Or living life operating in 'autopilot mode', where we go through the motions, but without bringing our focus wholly to the moment in question.

(And yes, I share a stunning example of how I managed to arrive at the 'wrong home' weeks after moving house. All because I was caught up in my thoughts and didn't notice I was walking in the wrong direction.)

Obviously, not all of this mental time travel is unhelpful. It's useful to think about the future and plan, and to delve into past experiences to learn from them. This is the kind of intentional time travel that can benefit us. Unintentional or automatic time travel looks like ruminating over past mistakes, or getting caught up with catastrophic predictions about the future. (In this video, I explore the differences between planning, predicting and what I call 'playwriting' - something that should sound familiar to those of us with active imaginations!).

Being more present in the here and now doesn't require any special equipment, but it does take practice. As we explain, it can start with a simple focus on your breath. Or a mindful walk. Or a cycle. Or even cleaning a toilet! And if that sounds too good to be true, check out our discussion below.

⏩ Taking this forward

I know that some readers will be interested in learning how to develop their psychological flexibility in a more structured and accountable way. So we have three training courses that support this kind of learning journey. An introductory session of just two hours, a half-day workshop, and a full-day workshop which can also be run as four online sessions. You can learn all about these by visiting

📆 How to get the most from coaching

A quick reminder-slash-plug that I'm running a free webinar later this month, all about how to get the most from your experience of coaching. I'll be looking at some common pitfalls to avoid, I'll be busting some myths about coaching, and explaining how you can more easily turn what you learn from coaching into action and benefits across your life.

You can reserve your place by visiting the events page.

🥰 Sometimes I love my job...

In between the longer videos and podcast episodes on my YouTube channel, I try to record shorter vlog-style videos. My most recent was a follow-up to a subscriber question: "Does your job ever make you sad?"

In this video, I flip the topic explore some of the things I really like about being a psychologist, including the flexibility and freedom running my own business brings, along with the light-bulb moments I see my clients experience in our coaching sessions. Let me know if it prompts any follow-up questions about what it's like to be a psychologist. I'll answer them in a future video.

Until next month, thanks for reading.