What Am I Doing Wrong?

Some advice for the new year.
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Knowing something is an important step. It’s the key that opens the possibility of doing something. But it’s the doing that’s the hard part. Anyone can know something, just try doing something sometime and let me know how it goes.

Open your mind to being truly objective.

We all know diet and exercise are integral to a fit and healthy life but how many of us do something about it? We all know there’s poverty, hunger, and corruption in the world – how many of us do something about it? Knowing is cute and all, but doing is everything.

Sometimes knowing is easy. Let’s say you weigh twice as much as you should. You can feel it. You can see it. But what happens when knowing isn’t so obvious. For example, how do you know when your thinking is toxic? And why is that important?

It’s important because undiscovered bad behavior is unmanaged and therefore uncontrolled behavior. Uncontrolled behavior snowballs over time into a grotesque compound. Into something you can never hope to control. Maybe you implode. Maybe you explode. Either way, it ain’t pretty.

To put a finer point on it: if you don’t know you have a problem, you can’t solve the problem. Problems tend to get more complicated the less you control them, until they are too big to solve. Here are three tips to learning “if it’s you.”

1. Quiet your mind

First things first, you have to quiet the noise upstairs. The mind is filled with frustrations and pressures, facts and figures, bad news and fake news,  assumptions and recollections. Opening your mind to being truly objective is probably impossible, but you have to get as close to it as you can. You must be so objective that if someone stated that “the sun is a square” you would hear them out before making a final judgement. Like I said, it’s not easy to get there, and that’s one of the reasons humans meditate. But you can quiet the mind in other ways, too. Do something exhausting like laps in the pool. Concentrate on something easy but complex, like cleaning that dusty chandelier. Take a long hot shower or listen to music while driving. Whatever it takes. Fill your life with these things until you can more easily identity those moments when your mind isn’t racing. It’s much easier to be self reflective when you quiet the mind. You’ll be less prone to self-deprecation as well, which is just another way our brains force status quo. Status quo is the arch-enemy of change.

…undiscovered bad behavior is unmanaged and therefore uncontrolled behavior.

2. Ask direct questions 

Find someone you trust and ask them direct questions. Tell them you need them to be 100% honest. That lying to you will not help. That no matter how they answer, you promise to not get angry. That you’re creating a safe space for honesty.

Then ask your questions. If you have any sinking suspicions, go ahead and ask directly. Do I have anger issues? Do I have a nervous tic? Am I shrill? How bad is my breath? Do I drink too much? I don’t smell funny to you, do I? What about here?

Knowing is cute and all, but doing is everything.

If you’re brave, you can throw out a wider net and ask something like “Is there something about me no one wants to say to my face?” The answers may not always be helpful, but the possibility for teaching moments are many. At the very least you’ll learn who you can trust for honesty and maybe a little something about how you are perceived.

Feel free to get the feedback of more than one person. In fact, that’s how you should do it. Extra points if one of those people is a psychologist.

3. Emulate researched behavior

Research humans that have their act together and examine their behavior. Then use that quiet mind we talked about to make comparisons to your own choices. Emulate some of the best behavior you see, especially from those that know what it’s like to re-right the ship. Maybe some are friends and family. Maybe some are strangers. Writers, artists, athletes. There’s nothing but opinions and commentary on the internet, and plenty in libraries and bookstores if that’s more your thing. So many folks that have done the hard work of becoming happy and healthy have blogs you can read, podcasts you can listen to, or books you can buy. Absorb it all, find something that strikes a note of truth in you, then apply what you’ve learned to change your thinking and ultimately your behavior.

All change requires commitment. That one sit-up I did a month ago didn’t benefit me at all. Had I done 30 every morning since then, I bet I’d be feeling the benefits now, and probably be eager to add more repetitions to my regimen. Doing fosters more doing. Doing is everything.

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