Applying the Eightfold Path as a Values Exercise

The goal of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (or ACT) is to improve our psychological flexibility, the attribute that allows us to engage meaningfully with our life as it is, right now. ACT has a strong focus on values as one of the 6 core principles of psychological flexibility and as a cornerstone of living a full, rich life. There are many ACT based worksheets and activities designed and freely available to aid in clarifying your own values. Many of these refer to values words like honesty, courage, or compassion but these never gelled with my thinking very well.

I’ve increasingly found that a far more engaging value guide is the Eightfold Path, a value list of sorts contained within the Four Noble Truths which are the principles offered by the Buddha which form the basis of Buddhism. As written, the Eightfold Path reads like a list that needs to be expanded upon so, to act as a guide, I rewrote the path in my own words and have printed it out and stuck it up on my wardrobe door so I see it every morning. It’s a reminder of what’s important to me. I’ve included below my version of the Eightfold Path:

  1. Right Understanding – View reality directly while acknowledging the preconceptions, biases, and knowledge that colours this view
  2. Right Thought – Think of the good of the whole and how to be helpful to it
  3. Right Speech – Speak kindly and truthfully, meaning what is said
  4. Right Conduct – Focus on the process and allow the outcome to be whatever it will be
  5. Right Livelihood – Earn a living benefitting others and creating things of value
  6. Right Effort – Practice discipline and came back to the Eightfold Path if walking off it
  7. Right Mindfulness – Be with what’s right here, right now, nonjudgementally, and with acceptance
  8. Right Concentration – Practice skills that facilitate the other steps and focus on what’s important

My thoughts and feelings are often reactive, irrational, and unhelpful. Taking actions based on these alone is uncomfortable. Making choices about what to do based on my values, what’s most important to me, feels much more fulfilling and returning to this exercise each day helps me focus on what’s important.

We’d love to hear what values drive you or see how you’ve adapted the Eightfold Path for your own life. Drop us a line, sometime!

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