Some of the best work in television is done during commercials. The extraneous is cut away and the essence remains as the sponsor strives to get the message across in a minute or less. Recently, just such an ad caught my attention. The leader of an investigative team was surrounded by walls filled with evidence. She spoke of identifying patterns in order to get at the truth.
Not everyone appreciates the genius of this advice. What we throw away or ignore can be very telling when it forces us to reconcile the patterns of our behavior with the principles we claim to embrace.
Decades ago, I learned that self-awareness comes from stepping outside the moment and looking for the “Ground Hog’s Day” experiences in life. Humans seem wired with repetition compulsions. What we find ourselves doing over and over again can be traced back to a belief that is at the root of a thought and the source of an action. There is truth in the saying:
Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap your character; sow your character, reap your destiny.
Stephen Covey has stated: We can only achieve quantum improvements in our lives as we quit hacking at the leaves of attitude & behavior and get to work on the root, the paradigms (beliefs,worldviews) from which our attitude and behaviors flow.
If we want to change the way we behave, it follows that we must take time to correct the way we think. More surprising, however, is the possibility that what we may really think may be hidden amidst the ideas and actions we cast off without a moment’s consideration.
There are powerful forces that oppose self awareness. Cultivating the habit of identifying patterns in one’s life is a tricky business given the human penchant for self deception. Truth can hurt. As with trash, we sometimes tell ourselves we simply want to put nasty stuff far away from us rather than admit we don’t want to deal with it. We can be careless. It is precisely because we believe trash is worthless that we may get cavalier about where it goes or what it says. So too, we can be just as offhand in how we assess a situation and choose to respond to someone or a situation. We can believe lies–lies WE sometimes tell ourselves.
Faulty principles can foster hypocrisy as it discourages us from seeking and seeing uncomfortable truths. We can be lazy. The reality is that rummaging through our beliefs and behavior is hard work. It requires that we take time and step away from our endeavors and involvements with a measure of objectivity that either routine or relentless activity does not permit. (Workaholism serves a dark purpose folks.) Considering all this, is it really any wonder people walk through life unaware of how their walk and talk do not line up?