Dear Why Team member,
I hope this week’s message finds you well and encouraged.
This week we consider the question:
Why Did I Do That?
Several months ago, a friend shared a book with me that has since become a daily devotional. The book is titled “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman. A recent reading from the book included this quote:
“But what does Socrates say? ‘Just as one person delights in improving his farm, and another his horse, so I delight in attending to my own improvement day by day.’”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.5.14”
Why attend to improvement day by day? For Socrates, it was a delight, an enjoyment, a means for betterment. Of course there are other motivations for self improvement; I first became a parent over 17 years ago. I remember thinking back then that maybe the best way to become the best parent I could be, would be to become the best person I could be. If it’s true that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, how might I improve the tree that is me? This begs the approach that when we get what we need, we become more of what others need. Now, 17 years later, with two sons and a daughter, experience has revealed more of my growing as the parent than of the child.
Consider this powerful line:
“What you do, speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
So many of us seek what to do, rather than who to become. Consider taking Gandhi's good advice and “Be the change you want to see”; working harder at your own improvement towards the person you want to become.
Let’s consider our actions! In any given moment, most are largely the result of our genetics (hardware) and our up-to-date conditioning (software). Most of us think that the majority of human behaviors are born from reasoned choice, but most of our daily choices are really made quickly and without a lot of reasoned thought. Our minds jump to conclusions quickly, and we behave accordingly. When we expect reasonable behavior, unreasonable behavior can be met with harsh criticism and judgement - both toward ourselves and others.
If our actions speak louder than our words, asking, “Why did I do that?”
may be one of the most powerful questions you can pose to yourself for self-improvement. Asking why can help bring you to a place of greater patience and compassion toward yourself and ultimately for others.
Meaningful change in behavior rarely comes from any particular thought or insight - it comes over time and is born from new, thoughtful up-to-date conditioning.
In a recent post I referred to the Why Team as a kind of mental gym for creating and strengthening new synapses in the mind. Research of the brain has shown how new thoughts can lay a new foot path in the brain. But only by traveling that new path often, do we create a new road, a primary path taken in the heat of any given moment. The thoughts that tend to win out so often in our lives are the old hard-paved habitual paths taken over most of our lives, that were, if you think about it, generated from our understanding of how life was back then. This explains why we still behave in old patterns, especially during stressful times, despite our new understandings. It’s not enough to learn, we must become what we learn.
Feelings drive behavior. To effect a change in behavior, it’s not uncommon for people to focus on their feelings, rather than the thoughts behind the feelings.
Certainly, pleasant feelings produce pleasant and desirable behaviors. But with the “Feelings First” model, we can come to live a life that is fearful and anxious of negative feelings; a life afraid of environments and/or people who may give rise to feelings that produce in us behaviors we don’t like; often leading to the blame of others and/or situations for how we feel and behave.
Upon deeper inspection, however, and to be more empowered and less a victim to the world around us, we can apply the power of thought.
The “Thinking First” model can help produce new paths of thought, paved in the mind over time with repetition, driving new ways of thinking, which produces new ways of feeling - about any situation or person - leading to new and empowering behaviors.
Asking “Why did I do that?” Or “Why did he or she do that?” with a deeper understanding regarding up-to-date conditioning - can be an invitation for us all to continue our own conditioning to be more of what we want to see in the world. Everyone reacts at times to certain situations or people in ways we are not proud, but these moments can be among our greatest gifts, if we have the courage to own our own behavior and ask “Why did I do that?” thus providing us with our greatest opportunities for personal growth and development.
Continue to entertain, practice and condition your mind to think in new and empowering ways - about people, situations and circumstances; Glass half full versus half empty!
Daily entries to the gratitude list!
Life happening for us, not to us!
Applying new perspectives to any-and-all situations over time, can pave new thoughts- producing more empowering feelings- producing more beneficial behaviors.
When you think the thoughts you need, the ones that regularly produce the feelings and behaviors you want - you’ll become more of what others need.
Keep thinking your way to becoming the change you want to see. And along the way, be more lovingly patient with yourself and others.
Make it a great week!