Lessons for Living       
Lesson Six: "How to change."


To change just begin to observe yourself.




Welcome to Lessons for Living.

Today’s lesson is on, "How to change."

Have you ever wanted to change something about yourself?

First, you must identify what to change. Find something about yourself that you don’t like or that causes you problems. It might be that you are too critical of others. Maybe you are too passive and can’t say, "No." Maybe you avoid exercise. Or, it might be that you work too much and won’t slow down.

Once you know what you want to change, you just begin to observe yourself on any ordinary day. Observing yourself is introspection. It is watching what you do and asking why you did it. Introspection is thinking about yourself and catching yourself in action.

It can be risky. You may learn more than you wanted to know. You might learn things about yourself that are distressing. Once you get such an insight into yourself, it is hard to give it up. It will begin to change you. Thomas Mann said that, "Introspection is the first step towards transformation… after knowing himself, nobody can continue being the same."

So, on any ordinary day, pick out a behavior to change and then just watch yourself. Soon that Voice that talks to you, the Voice of Conscience, will speak up and say something like, "Look, you just did it again." You just criticized that person. You said "Yes" when you should have said, "No." You took the elevator when you could have climbed the stairs.

Whenever this Voice speaks up like this, it is good news. It is time to celebrate in fact. You are actually making progress. Before, you always did the same thing but you thought it was fine. You didn’t even realize that it was a problem. Now, you have caught yourself after the fact. You are becoming more aware.

Just keep observing yourself and soon the Voice will say, "Here you go doing it again." As you go ahead and do it. You have caught yourself in action but not soon enough to stop. You are still on automatic, but you are making more progress.

With even more self-observation the Voice now says, "Look out! You are about to do it again." And, once again, you do. You are catching yourself in action sooner and sooner. You are becoming more aware of what you are doing and building the momentum for change.

Eventually, the Voice says, "You are about to do it." But, you don’t. You make another choice. You have learned enough to catch yourself before you act. You no longer respond in an automatic manner but can make a meaningful choice about what to do in this specific situation. You are more in control of yourself and can give up the problem behavior.

Once you understand yourself and your problem behavior you can grow and develop into a more mature person and not fall back into the same old pattern.

Each time you successfully make a change, look for a new problem and just begin to observe yourself again on any ordinary day. Soon that Voice will speak up again and guide you towards more change.

1999 Daniel H. Johnston. All Rights Reserved.

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