In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), the concept of workability refers to whether a particular behavior or strategy is effective in helping an individual to move toward their valued goals and live a meaningful life. A behavior or strategy is considered “workable” if it leads to positive outcomes and is consistent with an individual’s values, even if it is uncomfortable or difficult in the short-term.
The concept of workability is closely related to the idea of psychological flexibility, which is a central goal of ACT. Psychological flexibility involves being able to adapt to changing circumstances and respond to internal experiences (such as thoughts, feelings, and sensations) in a way that is consistent with one’s values and goals.
In ACT, workability is evaluated in the context of the individual’s values and goals, rather than external standards or norms. For example, a behavior that might be considered “maladaptive” or “pathological” in a clinical setting (such as avoidance or substance use) might be seen as “workable” in the context of the person’s life circumstances and values. Alternatively, a behavior that might be seen as “adaptive” or “successful” in the short-term (such as overworking or people-pleasing) might be seen as “unworkable” if it prevents the individual from pursuing their values or leads to negative consequences in the long-term.
By focusing on workability, ACT encourages individuals to be flexible and open to experimenting with different behaviors and strategies in pursuit of their values and goals, rather than rigidly adhering to a particular way of thinking or acting. This can help individuals to break free from unhelpful patterns of behavior and make meaningful changes in their lives.