Want to really change how you think? Try this coaching tip from ACT

At times the focus on thought-work revolves around changing thoughts. However this can be difficult and tricky, especially as some thoughts are stubborn! Instead, try this approach, taken from ACT, about distancing yourself from your thoughts.


Changing how you think involves a shift. However, that shift might not be in the thought itself but the way that you relate to that particular thought (or feeling, inner sensation, memory, dream!)

This idea of shifting the way we relate to thoughts is one of the ideas under Acceptance & Commitment Coaching; an approach that we cover on our ICF Accredited Coaching Diploma.

By this, we mean that our focus turns not to changing the thought itself but the way that I view it, how rigidly I hold… in essence, my relationship to it.

Now this might sound a bit philosophical, but let’s take an example to put it in practice.

Imagine that you have to do something that is going to challenge you a bit. Perhaps go to a party by yourself where you don’t know a lot of people. Of course, we are all different and some of us might not think twice about this. In fact some might be energised!

But, for the sake of this example, imagine this would be a tricky scenario for you. It might cause you to overthink, ruminate, and let thoughts such as ‘I won’t know anyone!’ or ‘What if I won’t know what to say!’ take up a lot of space in your mind.

In Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) or Coaching we talk about how we might want to notice those thoughts but instead of putting our energy in changing them we focus more on deciding how close or far we hold those thoughts, feelings, memories…

This means that you might notice these thoughts appearing but instead of focusing on changing them you lightly push them away. It’s not avoidance – you’re actively accepting to not focus on those thoughts.

This technique strengthens your psychological flexibility – a state characterised by being in harmony with who you are, what’s happening in your life whilst limiting rigid thinking.

Sounds intriguing right? Give it a try. See if you can spot a thought that you hold really tight. And just give it a bit of room to breathe. See how you feel after. It might surprise you!

Are you looking to become a Professional Coach? 

We have number of ICF Coach Training Certificates including our Diploma in Integrative Coaching. Our Coach Training Programmes involve self-exploration, practical application of concepts and evidence-based psychological frameworks. Our focus is on developing you to be the best transformational coach you can be!

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