You only live once - so make it count

3 March 2020

You Only Live Once (YOLO) so make it count!

This is exactly what UQ PhD student Shelley Viskovich and UQ Professor Ken Pakenham have done in developing their new program YOLO! YOLO is a free online program and the brain-child of Shelley and Ken, based on the latest research in positive psychology and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The program consists of four short 30-40 minute modules over four weeks and is available to all UQ students for free.

“YOLO teaches a set of skills that every human being needs to flourish. It also discusses all the things that we share in common as humans, such as suffering, and how to best manage and flourish regardless. Personally, I found these were the skills that clients were coming to me needing at all stages of their life. When I embarked on my PhD journey and considered working with university students, the biggest incentive was to be able to provide the skills that I so desperately needed at that same stage of my life. Many people do not learn these skills unless they specifically seek them out, yet they are beneficial to everyone” says Shelley.

In the randomised control trial (RCT) of YOLO, it was identified that participating in YOLO helped students clarify and connect with their values around their education and career.

“During the RCT we found improvements in the areas of valued living, life satisfaction, academic performance behaviours, well-being, and self-compassion, as well as lowered depression, anxiety, and stress. We also found program use was associated with the development of essential skills for flourishing, such as psychological flexibility, creating distance from thoughts by watching them, and present moment awareness” stated Shelley.

As part of her PhD, Shelley began developing YOLO. Her background of creating client programs whilst working as a therapist paired with Ken’s passion for ACT and student well-being made the perfect match and sparked the development of the program.

“At the end of my honours year, I had this budding idea about applying for a PhD. It was a terrifying prospect as it challenged all the ways I thought about myself and what I was capable of. I was reviewing potential supervisors and realised that Professor Ken Pakenham was at UQ and I had been quoting him when writing my honours thesis. I reached out and he responded quickly indicating our interests were aligned and we should meet up. From there YOLO was born” explained Shelley.

The program, developed from the latest research in positive psychology, focuses on the notion that people want to lead meaningful lives. Something that Shelley and Ken have sought throughout their lives.

“There is a lot of commentary around the strengths people have, how we can become more satisfied with life, and how we increase well-being and be compassionate to ourselves. To me, these are important topics that are essential for flourishing in life.” says Shelley.

Throughout Shelley’s life, she has continued to persevere and seek new things, which aligns with the key teachings of YOLO. She began her career as a Personal Assistant in a law firm and quickly progressed to running an office. During this time, at the age of 21 and in the prime of her life, she realised that she wasn’t happy and had developed drinking and smoking problems. During a quiet moment whilst sitting in the carpark of her old workplace she thought “What is wrong with me”? This quiet moment turned into a major turning point and launched Shelley onto a new career path. She quit her law firm job and began working at her parents’ sandwich shop where she went on to study counselling and psychotherapy. From here, Shelley completed her undergraduate degree, PhD and is currently completing her clinical masters here at UQ.

“I certainly used the skills explored in YOLO during my PhD, which at various times was physically and emotionally challenging. These skills gave me the strength to persevere. Today, I continue to be intensely values focused and am willing to do what it takes to reach my full potential in all areas of life. My hope is that it will start you on this path also” says Shelley.

As a kid I used to say “everyone needs someone to talk to about their problems”. I hope to one day be that someone for people” says Shelley.

Interested in signing up for YOLO?

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