‘I’m a fool but I know I’m a fool and that makes me smarter than you’ said Socrates.
He was making a point that in knowing ourselves we know more than someone who doesn’t know themselves at all. In knowing ourselves we see where we are strong, weak, resilient and fragile. We do our SWOT ( strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis as though we were preparing a business plan.
At this time of year we tend to make resolutions, promises to change ourselves, our waistlines, our habits and our circumstances, looking to the end of the year with goals in mind to improve ourselves.
The most basic flaw with this is we’re asking the person who hasn’t ever managed to get to this new level, this better circumstance, to get us there! Even a surgeon doesn’t do surgery on themselves!
Before we set our bar so high maybe we need to look at where we are, ‘who’ we are and why we feel the need to make transformative goals. We spend time looking ‘out there’ for answers, into the future for the promise of a better me tomorrow without working out who it is I’m supposed to be better than.
Let’s lower the bar of expectation and get to know ourselves. Certainly, identify what we would like to change, write it down and then ask questions. Why do I want to change this? Why haven't I changed this before? Why do I do this in the first place? What habits do I have that contribute to this part that I want to change.
You’re a jigsaw, made up of many pieces and to change one piece means seeing how it connects with all the pieces around it. For example if you want to lose weight it’s as simple as changing eating habits, isn't it? Well it might be, but why do you eat as you do? Are you very busy, snatching food on the go? Are you a comfort eater and if so why do you need comfort? Do you drink wine every evening? If you do is that to unwind or to feel better about the day? There are so many variables to consider in just one small decision.
Once we begin connecting the pieces we see that no one piece exists in isolation. To change our habits means learning the ‘why’ behind them and that means learning more about who we are.
This may be the most fundamental resolution for each of us as we set off into 2022. Learn more about who I am and why I do what I do, learn about my habits, behaviours and mental end emotional processes, learn more about my triggers and the ways in which I behave as the self saboteur, the agent provocateur in my own life to keep me where I am. After all, it’s easier to stay where I am. It’s safe and if I never try to change I can’t ever fail.
We have to trick ourselves into thinking that nothing is happening. We have to do the thing we want to do without focusing on it. We have to let it become a reality by moving other pieces around it until they align with the goal. If we want to lose weight we don’t just eat less. We walk more, look at how this life can be tweaked to enjoy living, getting out to go dancing, taking up yoga, joining a club, not with weight loss in mind but with personal development and increased mental and physical activity instead.
Read more, watch TV less, talk more, listen more, feed your soul not your stomach and eventually come to see weight as nothing to worry about. As our habits change it will change too. Then we do some direct work, see a personal trainer, try eating different foods and amounts, integrating that into our lives, rather than building life around it.
That’s one simple example of how to get to know ourselves because we have to look at the whole of our lifestyle to see how to make changes. Everything is built on understanding ourselves and our motivations, the ‘why’ of us. Once we begin to understand our triggers and our sneaky tendency to undermine ourselves in favour of maintaining the status quo, then we can effect real change which will affect how we live and ultimately who we are. By knowing ourselves we lose the weight of ignorance.
Sun Tzu said ‘Know the enemy and know yourself and in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.’
I’d like to change that for the purposes of our conversation. Know the enemy ‘is’ yourself. The greatest stumbling block to achieving any goal is not knowing yourself. If you don’t know why you behave as you do, how can you ever hope to change anything. Everything you do will be built on what you already do. Your subconscious actions and habits will preserve your current state and trying something new will fail, not because you didn't try but because you didn't understand what you were trying to do in the first place. Trial and error may get you there in the end but you'll waste a lot of time and energy first. Better to look clearly at every habit and behaviour, seeing where it fits and if it needs to be thrown out. What you are left with is less pieces that all fit perfectly to make a really beautiful you.
Spend the first few months of each year getting to know yourself before resolving to do or be anything. Do this for the other months too while deciding what to change and eventually realise that nothing needs changing about you, just habits you’ve carried that maybe no longer benefit you. If you make a resolution it’s as valid to do it on April 17 at 3pm as on the January 1 at 12am.
It’s not a new year, new you, it’s a new moment, new opportunity to be you. Learning to accept that you don’t know yourself is the first step to self awareness. Learning self awareness leads us to knowing what we might let go and letting go of the weight makes us lighter, enlightened even!
When the Zen master was asked what being enlightened felt like he said ‘it’s just like normal life but floating six inches off the ground.’ Now that’s weight loss!
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