Becoming a Psychologically Flexible Leader with ACT

Dr. Relly Nadler: I’m excited to talk about acceptance and commitment therapy. How do you become psychologically flexible? Especially in this time as we are coming out of the pandemic. Only about a third of people are going back to work.

There are a lot of things around dealing with adversity. We have been talking about this VUCA environment – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

As a leader, what are some of the ways that you can help people deal with adversity, ambiguity, and uncertainty? I’m really excited that we are going to be talking with Dr. Diana Hill, today, who’s an expert, and a psychologist. I’ll give you a little bit more of her background in a moment.

But really unpacking what this acceptance and commitment therapy is. How do we use this as a leader, as a coach, to help people get a better sense of how to be flexible, how to be resilient?

The title of this is “Becoming a Psychologically Flexible Leader with ACT,” acceptance commitment therapy.

So, Dr. Diana Hill is a clinical psychologist. She’s an expert in acceptance commitment therapy. Which is a cutting-edge, evidence-based form of psychotherapy that helps people develop psychological flexibility.

We have a series of questions that we’re going to dive deep to get a better sense of what that’s like.

Diana is on the other side of the microphone now because she cohosts a podcast, Psychologists Off the Clock, which I’ve listened to. She’s interviewed many leaders in the field of psychology, mindfulness, and wellness.

She has a new book which we are going to delve into with her co-author, Dr. Debbie Sorensen. It’s called ACT Daily Journal: Get Unstuck and Live Fully with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, where she teaches about the importance of being psychologically flexible.

How do we untangle ourselves from these unhealthy patterns that can leave us battling ourselves and the present moment?

So, what I like about the journal – it’s for eight weeks – but we know each week has seven days. So, there are basically fifty-six different tools, and activities, that can help you take a deep dive into being the best that you can be.

Diana, thank you so much for being a part of the show today, and welcome. I’ve got a series of questions I want to ask you.

Dr. Diana Hill: Well, thank you. It’s such a treat to be here.

I really love talking about ACT. You mentioned it being acceptance and commitment therapy but, in the workplace, in organizations, sometimes we call it acceptance and commitment training because it’s not just therapy, it’s actually training. A series of processes that can help you live more fully in your life as well as increase your performance at work.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Oh, that’s great! I like that. I noticed your psychologist in private practice and also doing coaching.

In the past, I had a private practice as a psychologist but really for the last twenty-five years or, so I’ve just been doing more coaching. But very similar crossover from some of the tools that we’ve used with individuals but also in the corporate world.

So, before we jump into ACT, tell us a little bit of your history. We always like to find out who has been most influential in your life and brought you to where you are today.

Dr. Diana Hill: Yeah. You know, thinking about that in terms of my work clinically, probably the most influential people have been, one, Kelly Wilson, who you and I talked about. He’s one of the co-founders of ACT. I went to one of his workshops early on when I was in training to become a psychologist. He really blew my mind because here I was in a very cognitive, behavioral training program passing worksheets to people and feeling very separate from my clients.

Deep inside I knew that I struggle with some of the same stuff my clients did. We are all humans, right? Kelly Wilson, when I went to a workshop with him, talked about the processes of psychological flexibility but also how he uses them in his own life. He recovered from an addiction. Here he is a very successful professional but also has his own personal struggles that he’s using these practices with.

So, he really opened my eyes to the fact that I can be human as well as be a coach and therapist at the same time.

One of the other folks that have really influenced me is more of a spiritual teacher which is Thich Nhat Hanh. When I was in my twenties, I went to Plum Village which is in France to study with Thich Nhat Hanh, who I would say is probably one of the most influential folks to bring mindfulness to the west. Folks that know Kabat-Zinn and some of his work with mindfulness-based stress reduction or other sorts of mindfulness practices.

A lot of them trace back to the teachings of the Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. I had an opportunity to study directly with him, in Plum Village, and learn mindfulness really from that master.

That has been something that has stayed with me forever –

Dr. Relly Nadler: Wow.

Dr. Diana Hill: And influences a lot of my work, currently.

So, those two.

And then I would say the third, of course, as many people would say is my mom. She’s an inspiration. She’s a painter, she’s a writer. Really living her values out, fully. She’s fully engaged in her life and does what she loves. Has been through a lot in her life. Lived in Peru for much of it.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Really?

Dr. Diana Hill: Yeah!

How to live more fully and engaged.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Oh, that’s great.

I know that you’ve passed some of this wisdom on to the people that you deal with.

You have two kids, is that right?

Dr. Diana Hill: Yeah. I have two boys that are school-age. They are in the easy ages; they are eight and eleven. But I am also a mom, I’m a homesteader. We keep bees and have a big organic vegetable garden here in Santa Barbara. I wear lots of different hats.

You can listen to the entire interview above by clicking on the play button.

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