Acceptance: How to accept something you want to change

One of the reasons that I wrote my most recent project, HabitualApp, was the work and reading I have been doing over the past two years or so on personal growth.

Of all the ideas and concepts I came across, one of the hardest to really get to grips with, or to “internalise”, is understanding how to accept reality as it is, rather than focusing on what I think it should be (or want it to be). This is often called ‘self acceptance’ when it refers to looking at yourself, who you are right now, and accepting it.

Self Acceptance – Accepting Reality

My difficulty was understanding how I could accept things about me, and yet still have a goal to improve. How could I set a goal to get better at something, and at the same time accept that my current ability is OK? This seemed like a direct conflict.

Eventually I started to differentiate between accepting things as they are, and understanding what I want them to be. I realised that can be distinct concepts. This is a bit abstract, so let me take an example:

I often have ideas that are quite complex and theoretical and I want to share these with my friends. So I write something, or sit down with a friend, and talk them through my latest idea. They don’t understand me, and I get very frustrated. In a few cases, we even end up arguing about it. This was not something that I wanted.

However, I had to accept a simple fact. My communication skills were what they were. They were not great (and maybe still aren’t :-)). Fine OK. This didn’t make me a bad person. This didn’t make me a failure. It is nothing more than a fact. Like my height.

Here is the hard part, the bit that I really struggled to internalise. While it is OK to not be great at communicating, it is ALSO ok to want to change it. They are not mutually exclusive. This was a realisation, and when combined with one additional idea, it became very powerful.

Self Responsibility – Shaping Reality

That idea is “self responsibility”. Once I have accepted that I want to be better at communicating. I take responsibility for it. Personally I think “taking responsibility” consists of two aspects:

  1. I want something to change
  2. I realise it will only change if I make it change.

This leaves me in a state where I am OK saying I’m not a great communicator. I’m OK saying I want to be a better communicator, and I know that I will get better only if I do something to actually get better. After that, I found it impossible to not do something about it. I would actually get uncomfortable if I didn’t spend time working on improving it.

In this case I decided to do a series of conference talks. By pushing myself to present ideas to a group of people I was able to practice different communication styles, and get useful feedback. I was lucky enough to have a colleague I could work closely with, and easy access to a community who were able to give good feedback. However if that had not been the case I would have still found a suitable audience.

Internalising these two concepts into my daily experience has had two noticeable effects. The first is that I am a lot less stressed. When I notice something in my life that is not right, there is no associated feeling of guilt, which means there is no stress. This has allowed me to be more honest with myself about who, and what I am. The second effect I noticed is that I am significantly more successful at actually changing those things in my life I want to change. I have even noticed an improvement in self esteem as a result.

One of the tools that I have been using to explore these changes is 30 day trial habits. This was the reason I wrote HabitualApp.

By |February 12th, 2011|Personal|1 Comment

Why is it so hard to learn?

This is about learning, and learning is hard. Doesn’t matter if its learning  skill, a theory, or anything else what we can bundle into the category of learning

I am learning to be  a latin dancer. I would love to get to the point where I am as good as these guys.

Take posture for example. One of my early teachers taught me about posture, how to keep the shoulders back, which muscles in the back to use for this. This technical way of looking at things works well for me. After I received this information I was able to stand much straighter, for about a week, then it vanished. I was able to use the information, but not make the change permanent.

Sometime later, when doing an intro session as a new gym, the instructor told me to think of opening out my shoulders, so that when my hands were by my side the faced forward. Doing this caused the same muscles in the back to work. I was inspired, realised it was a different way of thinking of the same information, was once again able to hold my shoulders as I wanted. Again just for about a week.

Next my partner tried drawing me a diagram, of how my back looked in comparison to how other guys backs’ looked. This motivated me once again on the final solution. This brought back both previous pieces of information, and again worked – just for a while.

Last week I once again had a lesson with the same teacher from the first paragraph. She explained the same information as before. Along with some other information, which she also gave me in the first time, but that didn’t make sense at the time. However, now it did make sense. Once again I feel I can make progress with holding my posture as I want it.

History says that I won’t manage to hold the improvement this time. But I think otherwise. There is something different. The “other information that didn’t make sense first time round” – and now does. In all the time that had passed I was learning lots of other things. Sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. These built a conceptual framework allowing me to put using back muscles into context (which in this case means generating smoother stepping action and a few other things).

This is why learning is hard. Because the benefits of individual steps are not always clear. All the improvement does it make you ready to accept the next piece of learning, the one that has visible results. When you are making improvements you don’t know, its hard to maintain motivation of self discipline.

By |May 2nd, 2010|Personal|0 Comments

The Cult of Done

I totally stole this from Bre Pettis, but it’s awesome so worth repeating

The Cult of Done Manifesto

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more.
By |March 3rd, 2010|Personal|3 Comments