If Do Not Change Direction End Up Where Headed–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON
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This is a great Chinese proverb. Its simplicity and inescapable logic is a powerful way to break us out of inertial thinking. Western civilization and its fixation on rationality (which ironically brings about irrational consequences), walks right into the inescapable logic of this proverb. One of the many dangers in life is being desensitized to the negative aspects of the status quo. Since we tend to rationalize whatever situation or behavior we are experiencing, and, in this respect, reality has a conservative bent, meaning a tendency or a bias towards maintaining what is already in existence and resisting a different course than wherever we happen to be headed. I’m amazed at the powerful force that cognitive dissonance plays in the human psyche. As a former health educator and having some training in human behavior, I was surprised to learn that the seemingly obvious assertion that behavior follows knowledge is actually largely backwards. While knowledge may very well be a necessary component of a particular behavior, it is typically far from sufficient. More typically, we engage in a behavior and then do what is necessary to align our thinking, attitudes and feelings with that behavior. This makes sense if you reflect on the relative difficulty of changing behavior versus thinking. It is usually easier to rationalize than actually make a behavioral change from whatever present course we are on. So, cognitive dissonance serves as a psychic energy-saving mechanism by aligning a less difficult process in the face of a more difficult behavior or situation. Of course, the way we think feeds back into our behavior. Nonetheless, there is some mystical reality to acting on faith, when and where one may sense that a particular behavior may be better than a current one, but one can’t muster the psychic resources to first change one’s larger set of thoughts, attitudes and feelings, before giving the change in behavior a try. I have heard counselors and therapists marvel at clients who struggled with many issues related to their thinking, attitudes and feelings, and found help on this front to be unhelpful, until taking the advice of “fake it till you make it;” then, found that when they changed their behavior everything else just “magically” fell into place (and, of course, the helper often received little credit for what seemed like stupid advice at the beginning). Back to the concept of inertia, I’m reminded of the saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Both of these sayings or proverbs imply that the past present and future are connected – duh! While this may seem oddly oversimplified, it may just remind the reader that we can change the future by changing the present, just as we can assure more of the same by not changing our present course. If you want something different, try something different.
One last reflection on thinking and behavior change. Trying to figure out which comes first, thinking or behavior change, is sort of like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. For example, what needs to change for someone to actually take the advice of “fake it till you make it?” — a hurdle that may reap a quantum leap of change. Of course, this can very well involve thoughts and attitudes. So, maybe you shouldn’t try any of this behavior change mumbo jumbo (that’s reverse psychology by the way…)