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Archive for December, 2009

Self-Improvement Drawbacks

Many of the advantages of “thinking” have been misunderstood. The other day I heard someone say, “You’re thinking too much.”

Perhaps the content of what is concluded by having thought is so often confused with the process that was used to arrive at the result. Content is dazzling; it’s a big appeal that a person can improve. People want to arrive at their goal and don’t see to care much how they get there. It results in not being able to repeat the performance. This focus on expedient content of getting to a fulfilled goal is what leads to the misinformation that there is purely “talent” and not a skill that can be learned. A certain person is merely considered to be “a genius” or has “special talent.”

There are challenges in following a process that may – or may not – result in a discovery. Following a codified process to allow freedom or insight is a not an intuitive combination. Sticking with a new, deliberate process and choosing it over a lifetime of well-worn habit takes a certain willingness to face risk. Paradoxically, doing any practice of these sorts of freeing procedures, (such as learning and using thinking skills,) feels a bit like laughing too often or stretching one’s brain as if it’s a muscle that hasn’t been used in a long time. Giving up outdated mannerisms of thought and action is still a sacrifice – even if the person is certain the old ways no longer work for them.

Not unlike a political or social arena, one’s own sense of self-preservation works a bit like a bureaucracy. Once established, it will react to the possibility of its own demise. It won’t matter that there is a “better” way, because improvements have a cost – the old way.

Reassurance comes from steady, gradual, positive improvement – and sometimes the delight of a leap of insight or the promise of improvement over time. Following a new process or learning the skill of thinking creatively takes some nuts and bolts work – and a learning curve of time invested. It is a challenge to cut some new grooves in a well-habituated brain. In the USA we say: “It’s tricky to teach an old dog new tricks.” In practice, most old dogs are delighted to have something new and interesting to do. Usually, it’s the trainer rather than the dog who acts more unwilling to improve.

The consequences from improving one own ways are many. Those of us who enjoy Alexander Technique have tried to pedal the advantages of it. However, some of these consequences of being able to think and improve are tricky to deal with. They can be personally imposed setbacks that come from an internal fear of jumping forward too fast. Or they can come from how other people react negatively to what happens when people change their ways.

What do you do when you run into these setbacks? Can you describe how you get beyond them?

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