They say pressure makes diamonds.
But for me, sometimes it just revealed the cracks.
In July 2016, I found myself sitting on the M1 on my commute from the Gold Coast to Brisbane, crying my eyes out. And it wasn’t because I’d messed up yet another flatpack.
In fact, logically it all made sense. I was in the midst of my own perfect storm.
My second daughter had arrived. She had silent reflux and was a terrible sleeper.
I’d had a shoulder operation after throwing a water polo ball as hard as I could for 20 years, so I’d spent the last 8 weeks trying to sleep upright on the couch because it was too painful to lie down.
My father in law was in hospital with leukaemia.
And my own father had died from a brain tumour 6 months earlier.
Of course there was the grief, the worry, the lack of sleep, the physical pain.
But the sense of enormous frustration I was feeling still didn’t seem to fit the facts.
I tried everything to resolve it.
I was listening to motivational audio books, writing manifestos, reading mantras to myself, seeking counsel from family, friends and mentors. I tried to maintain my exercise, meditation, good food, staying off the booze.
While it all seemed to help a bit, nothing appeared to have a meaningful effect. The frustration just kept on sitting my chest tainting everything.
I just couldn’t put my finger on the source.
I felt really stuck.
Then I was introduced to the Valued Living Questionnaire.
3 mins later, the problem became clear.
Valued Living Questionnaire
The Valued Living Questionnaire (VLQ) is an evidence based, self-assessment tool that was developed by Professor Kelly G. Wilson, (Professor of Psychology at Mississippi University and founder of OneLife Education Training) in 2002. His original questionnaire (PDF) is here.
The VLQ guides a self-rating of importance and satisfaction on a scale of 1-10 in research-backed domains.
It turned out my problem was work.
I rated Work a 9 out of 10 in importance and only 2 out of 10 in satisfaction.
That was a monster gap. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it.
It didn’t solve the problem, but enabled me to get specific with my actions.
Digital VLQ Self-Assessment Tool
A few months ago, I had a conversation with psychologist Dr Jason Wessel about the value I’d experienced in using the VLQ for myself and now with my coaching clients.
We put our heads together and adapted Professor Wilson’s work into a free digital VLQ self-assessment tool that will guide you through the questions and help you make sense of the results. (A worksheet version is also one of the five tools in my performance toolkit.)
In the tool we help you to assess these areas:
|On a scale of 1-10 how important to you is this domain? 10 is the highest importance.||On a scale of 1-10 how satisfied are you with your actions in this domain? 10 is the highest satisfaction.|
|Family Relationships (other than intimate or parenting)|
|Citizenship/ Community Life|
|Physical self care (diet, exercise, sleep etc)|
Once you’ve completed the assessment, there are follow on questions to help you design action and put the insights into practice immediately without having to speak to anyone:
- Did any of your answers surprise you? Why?
- If you could focus only on one of these domains, which would it be?
- What specific action might you take to improve this domain’s satisfaction score by just 1 or 2 points in the next 24-48 hours?(What, Who, Where, When…)
- How might you combine your high importance domains into a single activity?
If you’d like to give it a try, please do – it’s freely available here >>
Ambiguity Is The Enemy
As I’ve come to learn, when people are feeling stuck, ambiguity is the enemy.
That’s why this is such a powerful tool.
The global community that sits around psychological flexibility and the ACT framework really make an effort to keep the science accessible to everyone.
Jason and I see this as a small way to make our own contribution.
So whether it’s you, a friend or a colleague that feels stuck, my hope is that you might find this as useful as I did.
I’d love to hear from you if you do.