I have a sign on my wall that says, ‘Practice what you know.” It sounds simple. Over the years I have decided that character development is less about acquiring more knowledge and more about practicing what you already know. Let’s face it, we all know junk food, fast food and soda are bad for us, but how many of us are still buying it? We all know we should exercise but how many of us, still aren’t? We all know we need to be kinder, watch our language, put the shopping cart back, or pick up the paper towel that missed the restroom wastebasket but don’t. The truth is, we don’t need to read more self-help books, watch more videos or go to more seminars. We just need to practice what we already know.
We can all agree that change is hard, and quite frankly it is hard for everyone. However, to evolve and grow as human beings, we need to put into practice the things that we know as our universal truths. What do you already know in regards to health, finances, or relationships that should be implementing?
Here are six ways to help you direct your insight into action.
Make a list of 5 things you know you should be doing.
Maybe you need to stop leaving your dirty clothes on the floor, cut out sugar, withhold judgment or speak kindly to people, etc. We all have those things that cause us a pang of guilt or disappointment when we don’t do them.
Understand the point and benefits of change.
Whatever you are trying to achieve, make sure you have it clear in your mind what the point of that change is. Are you trying to make a point of picking up your dirty clothes because it causes less stress? Maybe you want to be more responsible in the care of your purchases, or you are embarrassed when friends come over because they have to step over the mess?
Consider the benefits of that change also. What will happen if you cut out the sugar that you know is bad for you? The benefits can be an improved appearance, better health, fewer cavities, and sounder sleep. You might even be able to get off your diabetic medication. Benefits are the motivation for change, which is why it is important to remind ourselves why we need to keep them at the forefront of our minds.
To be present means to be constantly mindful of the change you are making. You can’t say you want to want to speak more kindly and then file that in the back of your mind while you go about your day. Every day we are presented with moments to make better choices. Seize those moments as an opportunity to practice what you already know. Tell someone they have a beautiful smile or that you appreciated the accuracy of your order. Go out of your way to move over the hump by taking the “thing” you already know and pursuing it with active intention.
Make it accessible.
If your goal is to be able to walk 5 miles a day because your doctor said you need to exercise, you are going to need a place to walk. Make sure that the area you want to walk is physical accessibility. Set yourself up for success and give yourself all of the tools you need to make the change.
If you are trying to get in the habit of picking up your room, then make sure you have a laundry basket handy. If you are trying to cut out sugar, don’t buy sugary snacks or bake a cake. It seems like common sense, but if it were that easy, we wouldn’t still be struggling to practice the things we know we should be doing!
Renew your resolve daily.
When committing to practicing what you know, translate your long-term goals into a short-term ones. “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time. Building good habits takes time. If your goal is to stop using your credit card because your spending is out of hand, then resolve not to use your credit card today. Don’t worry about tomorrow. If your goal is to become healthier, then only concern yourself with one choice at a time. Go for the unsweetened ice tea, instead of the soda. Be kind, be forgiving but be tenacious; building new habits can take up to 66 days or more.
Just do it.
You’ve made the list of practices you want to implement. You already understand the reasons for making a change. You are making a conscious effort to be present. You’ve set yourself up for success by making the change accessible. You are determined to renew your resolve daily or even hourly if needed. Now all you have to do is… just do it. Pick up that shirt on the floor, pass on the candy bar, withhold judgment and offer a kind word. I have a daily goal of complimenting five random strangers a day. I have told someone what a pretty shirt they have on, or how much I appreciate their thoughtfulness in holding the door. The compliment doesn’t have to be a big ordeal, but it does have to be genuine.
Unlock your storehouse of knowledge. Dust off your morals, ethics, and lifestyle choices. Practice the things you already know. Implementing the wealth of knowledge you already have will create and refine your character. What you might want to change, incorporate or refine maybe wholly different from what someone else wants to change incorporate or refine. It’s not a race or a competition; this is about practicing what you already know.
I am still a work in progress. Every day I have to remind myself to do better, and with each effort, I am becoming the person I want to be. “Who is that?” you might ask. I want to be someone who makes the world a better place by being the best person I can be. What about you?
Tell us about your experiences in the comments below. What habits are you trying to change? What things do you already know that you are to implement?