As discussed in my previous article (ACT on the Gridiron: A New Approach to Sport Performance Enhancement in Football), my next few posts will be dedicated to illustrating the six core principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999) using real-world examples from the sport that takes over on the weekends in the United States: football. This article will focus on the ideas of values-driven behavior and committed action.
Values-driven behavior refers to the ability of an individual to choose to act in ways that are in line with the individual’s chosen set of goals of values (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 2012). Underlying values-driven behavior is the conscious effort of an individual to purposefully define what values he or she believes are important in self-development and living a meaningful life, as well as outlining goals that can be reached to ensure that one is acting in accordance with chosen values.
To make this concept more relatable, think about an example I referred to in my previous article, concerning the linebacker who wants to be known as the head of the defense. Immediately, some of the top linebackers to play in the NFL come to the forefront of the mind, players you know have worked day after day to become better players: Ray Lewis, Junior Seau, Mike Singletary, Lawrence Taylor. One of the top linebackers of today, Luke Kuechly, is a current prime example of a player who engages in values-driven behavior. Fellow teammates and coaches, as well as many other players and coaches around the league, have expressed admiration for Kuechly’s tireless work ethic and dedication to self-improvement. Many would especially point to his discipline off of the field as the reason for his success. Stories have been told of people seeing Kuechly go to strength and conditioning workouts in the early hours on Saturday mornings, even in the offseason. Clearly, Kuechly has imagined who he wants to be a player, and is putting in the work to get there day after day.
Building off of the principle of values-driven behavior is the idea of committed action. Committed action occurs when an individual consistently demonstrates the specific behaviors needed to result in optimal performance, even when faced with difficult situations (Gardner & Moore, 2007). Undesirable or negative thoughts, emotions, and events are a natural part of sport and life, and committed action is a result of acting in service of personal values despite these occurrences.
Injury in sport provides a great opportunity to practice committed action. When athletes face injury, they have a choice: attack their rehabilitation with discipline and enthusiasm, or let their injury hinder their performance or even prevent them from continuing to play. One of the most resilient players in returning from injury in the NFL is Thomas Davis, a fellow linebacker and teammate of the aforementioned Luke Kuechly. Davis has suffered three ACL injuries in his career. Many players would have not demonstrated the poise and strength to come back from even one ACL tear, let alone multiple tears. Davis has not only returned to the field but is one of the best linebackers in the league, and at the time of this article, Davis leads the Carolina Panthers in tackles and is among the top 25 players in all of the NFL.
Although I’ve illustrated the concepts of values-driven behavior and committed action as applied to professional football players, anyone can utilize these ideas in their sport of choice or in life in general. To practice values-driven behavior, it is advised to first write down your personal performance values. Next, think of some short-term and long-term goals that are associated with your values. After creating your goals, think of behaviors in specific situations that will help you achieve your goals. A good idea at this point is to plan your responses when faced with certain obstacles such as negative thoughts, emotions, and influences. This will allow you to remain aware of your values when put in those situations. After planning your goals, behaviors, and responses, seek out situations that will test your ability to engage in committed action. Finally, reflect on your performance and adjust your specific behaviors or goals as need be.
My next article will expound on two further concepts of the ACT paradigm: defusion and acceptance. For more information on values-driven behavior and committed action, refer to the resources listed below in the references or contact me at email@example.com. Ready, set, hike!