Incongruity and You
I often write about and work with clients to correct, lives that have gotten out of balance. And there are a lot of ways to develop an unbalanced life. These include obvious externally exhibited problems of the “all work and no play” variety, along with the reverse – a bugaboo in retirement. Additionally, there are unproductive lacks in social and recreational activities, as we’ve all learned over the past 14 months.
However, and less obvious, are the internal incongruities we all suffer from to a degree. These are the areas where our beliefs, values, behaviors, and voices do not match up with and reinforce each other. Again, a common example is the admonition to “do as I say, not as I do.”
Yes, we will all suffer from this differential to some degree and it will never be totally fixed. That’s one of life’s evolving problems – nothing is ever permanently fixed. Nonetheless, the closer we get to living congruently the less stress and anxiety and guilt will, to recycle another old phrase, “drive us to drink.”
So how does one arrive at a more balanced and congruent life?
Old ideas often appear disguised in new buzz words. Hence we now have “mindfulness” which is just a variation on “PAY ATTENTION!”
But paying attention isn’t something most of us do in a systematic and helpful way. For the most part, all of us think we know more about how we are living our lives than we actually do. For example, Make a list of your most common activities, write down how much time you think you spend on those, then actually track them for a week. Odds are that what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing will vary wildly.
As usual, you can’t fix or adapt, what you don’t recognize.
Here is a personal, painful example. I have had three major reconstructive surgeries on my left knee over the past 20 months. Each was followed by, essentially, two months of being bedridden then several months of physical therapy. The degree of my recovery – my ability to walk, essentially – will be the result of how motivated I am to do all of the exercise and how faithfully I convert motivation into action.
I learned, early on, motivated to walk normally for the first time in 7 years didn’t necessarily translate to doing the daily routines even though, for 4 days a week, this added up to a mere 30-40 minutes and for 2 days a week, 90 minutes, with one day off. As a result, I pay Emma to show up on Tuesdays and Thursdays so the 90 minute regimens get done.
This is a process of paying attention but also knowing myself.
It is, frankly, similar to when I quit smoking 20 years ago. I knew I would continue to procrastinate as I had been doing for several years. So, I set a date, arranged some accountability, spent some money, gritted my teeth, endured the discomfort (which really wasn’t all that much worse than the discomfort of nagging myself to make a long overdue change), and got through the first days and weeks after which things got a lot easier.
That won’t surprise those of you who are former clients – you remember that you invested in change, we helped with accountability, you succeeded and, as most of you report, the change was nowhere near as difficult as you’d expected.
Coming full circle in the article, pay attention to becoming aware of those areas where what you think and what you do don’t match. Then discover why they don’t. Then see how close you can bring your values, beliefs, and behaviors together. And please note, that in some cases it’s okay to maintain your behaviors and change your beliefs.
As always, need a little help with that? We’ve been there and done that, are continuing to do that as the changes inflicted by age assail us, but we can help you navigate change just as clumsily but effectively as we have learned to do. It’s not about perfection as much as direction, and while my potential in the NFL may be dead, my ability to walk and hike is coming back.
When a “C” is good enough?
Part of wading through adjusting your life is learning that not everything needs to be done to the A+ level – sometimes the “gentleman’s C” is good enough.
Most of the people we work with are rigidly conscientious. A whole lot of “musts” in your “musty thinking,” when the reality is, some things are only worth doing half-assed.
Look at the things you stress out over. How many of them are worth the extra effort? How many of them could be, shudder, skipped over entirely?
Part of managing to not overload yourself to the point where you need respite from a bottle is to reduce the load, not continuously, and perilously, adding ever more straw to your own back. Instead, start off-loading and see what happens. Doing so assertively, but also quietly, usually results in you being more relaxed once you get past the unreasonable guilt. Yes, we can help you with that too.