Practice what you preach, or, do what you say

My motivation for writing this post is two-fold. First, I realized that I’m not practicing what I preach as much as I’d like, so I’m reflecting on that. Second, I see people in many categories doing one thing and saying another, so I’d like to address that so we can reframe what we say to align with what we do.

I wrote this nice, well-read post on turning off notifications. I penned another gem (my thoughts) on automating your life.  I’ve realized, recently, that I’m lying to myself. I am a hypocrite. The worst person you can ever lie to is yourself. If you lie to yourself, who else will you lie to? Yes, I’ve turned off my notifications (except Snapchat, which has somehow cheated the system, wtf Apple?). Yes, I’ve created clothing/workout/food calendars. But I cheat! While I don’t receive notifications (I recently did away with my Apple Watch because its entire purpose is to distract, no thanks), I still check things too often. While I’ve created calendars, and I closely follow at least the clothing calendar, I excuse myself from following the others as strictly as intended.

What will I do?

While it’s a work in progress, and the content becomes more important the longer I don’t write it, I’m writing a massive article (probably in the 10,000-word range) on discipline. Discipline, as you’ll see when I finish it (irony?) is the answer. Turning off notifications and creating calendars is well and good, but we are not robots. At least not yet. And because we are not robots, we still have to execute.

I recently changed my LinkedIn profile header to “Thinker, Strategizer, Doer.” The reason I changed my header (from Educator, Author, Coach) was because I realized that I want (not need) more positive reinforcement. I’m not educating, authoring, or coaching, so why pretend like I am? Today, I’m not disciplined enough to follow my advice nor write a lengthy, important, potentially transformational article on discipline. The logical next question is “what will you do about that, Duane?”

Inspiration

Great question! Throwing my Apple Watch away and buying a dumb watch was step one. I’m experimenting with ways to have my phone on me less often while maintaining touch points with people I care about and projects/contracts I have as step two.

I love talking to people about Cal Newport, who is probably the closest human to a robot that I’ve found. Just read his contact page. He’s NOT GOING TO RESPOND. The man has some discipline, and it is something I admire, but I also wonder about things like how he manages personal relationships, and if his discipline and profession (author, faculty member) are more suited for the kind of deep work that he prescribes.

Could a salesperson live like Cal Newport? No way. No one in the service industry can either. Basically, anyone that lacks autonomy and/or authority in their careers will have a difficult time following his book closely. To his credit, he addresses this shortcoming extensively in his book, Deep Work, a favorite of mine, and it has some great insights. Which brings us back to the first question, what to do.

Walking the walk

I have a newish friend, whom I like a lot. She’s a bundle of energy. She has so much passion and appreciation for what she’s trying to do, and it’s really something. I’ve not seen that type of energy for a long time, and it’s a great thing to see. The first time we got coffee, I was deeply structured and organized. I was living my writing.

But then, a bunch of “stuff” happened. I started a new job, went abroad, the Holidays, etc. Then came the excuses. I stopped writing. My podcast went dormant (though she’s coming back this week!). I looked at my calendars, and thought “next month.” I did all the things that I write about not doing! I failed! But I didn’t fail. Of course, I faltered. And now I’m back.

Ultimately, that’s the key. It’s okay to falter. Just come back. Stick to your core ideals and philosophies. Allow excuses to only last for a few days or weeks. It’s like meditation (I’m becoming more of a fan every time I sit down to do it).

Your mind is constantly going. It’s racing. That’s okay! Let it race. Just acknowledge your thought, catalogue it, and let it go. If we treat our bad habits like busy thoughts, we can reframe them from permanent issues to temporary problems. Give yourself the opportunity to falter, become aware that it’s happening, and let it go. That’s it! And that’s exactly what I did and am doing.

I thought, “how can I get back to my core values and philosophies when I’ve failed for the last two months?” And I remembered that it’s okay to veer off the side of the road, as long as you don’t crash. Just come back. We can always come back; it just takes awareness to acknowledge that we’re off track. As soon as we recognize that we’re off track, we can look at how to get back on track. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. But what about the talkers who aren’t walkers?

The problems

Anytime a sentence starts with a warning, we will take it with a grain of salt. For example, in the next sentence, I will start it with “just being honest.” Just being honest, I find many problems with people, who wield some influence, and do something that misaligns with what they say.

The following examples are over-generalizations. Naturally, most people regress to the mean, so these generalizations do apply most of the time, just not always. Overweight healthcare professional. Dentist with poor dental hygiene. Divorced marriage counselor. Corrupt politician. Pedophilic priest. Salesperson who doesn’t use the product.

These are just a few examples of what some might call hypocrites. From the Greek word for actor, hypocrites are simply pretenders. For whatever reason, the hypocrites of the world like to do one thing and say another thing. But this isn’t about hypocrites; we are all hypocrites to an extent. See, when we say “don’t do that” to our children, only to immediately do exactly what the child does, or when we calmly give someone advice, only to go home and scream about the other person’s problems, we are hypocrites.

Easy to rationalize, many forms of hypocrisy are subtle, sometimes unnoticeable to the untrained eye. But, it’s there. And it’s often there. So, what can we do to overcome hypocrisy?

Overcoming hypocrisy

There are two major things that we can do to overcome hypocrisy. Fix ourselves, and fix how we view others.

Regarding self, the biggest area of hypocrisy comes in the form of context. By context, I mean that we often keep up a moral high ground about a topic until we actually experience it (or someone close to us does). How often do we see something in the news or media, or hear a story, and say to ourselves “I would NEVER do that?”

Often. But then, when we face the same choice in a similar circumstance, we rationalize our actions by telling ourselves it’s either very specific to this context, or that we will only do it this one time. For example, since I love dogs, it’s easy to see a dog owner being mean to the pup, and chastise the actions. But then, I get home and Maia ripped up the cardboard box again, and I treat her the same way that I condemned earlier.

It’s very easy to rationalize these moments, and we have to work hard to avoid that. Critically, contextualizing actions, reserving judgment until you’ve experienced what the other person has, and listening to your own cognitive dissonance will lead to becoming more sincere.

On how we view others, it’s often the crowd mentality. Most people, isolated, would not do many of the things that a crowd does. As we know, a crowd is filled with a bunch of people. And I’m not referring to a crowd in public, even though that also applies. A lot of our hypocrisy comes online, when we don’t have to face individual consequences.

It’s virality. Because of the online disinhibition effect, people just lay it on online. And the same thing happens in crowds with the crowd mentality. Becoming self-aware of our propensity to succumb to these two hypocritical actions is critical in our journey to overcoming hypocrisy. Step one is identification, then doing everything you can to overcome that natural inclination.

Put simply, the path to overcoming hypocrisy revolves around self-awareness. Put everything in context. Understand your own proclivities. And be better. As Marcus Aurelius eloquently puts it:

Hold yourself to a very high standard, and don’t make excuses when you fail to meet it. Meanwhile, leave other people to their standards and make every excuse you can when they fail. Be tough on yourself; be understanding to your fellow citizens.

And if everyone does this, then everyone will be held to a high standard because everyone will hold themselves to a high standard.

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