Our environment influences who we become. Yes, we have agency. Yes, we can choose how to respond to any situation. But our environment affects us, whether we like it or not.
Take me as an example. I’ve had at least twenty different jobs. And I can tell which ones were the worst. How? Because of how they made me feel. Because of the person they made me temporarily become.
The worst jobs were ones with a negative error culture. Where mistakes and feedback were not only discouraged, but punished. Where everybody said nothing about the problems witnessed and left them to fester. Where the way to rise was to kiss ass, stab people in the back and manipulate the metrics that determined “success.”
The worst jobs were the ones that, after two or three months, had me feeling cynical and angry. I wasn’t a different person. It was just that the toxicity of some of these environments got to me. In these cases, I took action. I left and found something new.
But a lot of the time, when confronted with a problem, I don’t do anything.
Take the adage that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Most of the time, I think it’s true. Sometimes I don’t. But if that’s the case, I should be busting my ass trying to surround myself with people I admire and want to be like. Except I’m not. Because that means doing things that I find hard. Reaching out to people. Putting myself in alien environments. Telling people what I do, what I want to do, and why.
See, like most people, I like the idea of challenge, but prefer the feeling of comfort. I need feedback, but seek affirmation. I nod my head when I hear wise words, but don’t make their wisdom a part of my life or character.
Some other examples of the contradictory nature of us human beings?
We understand that it’s essential that we’re told what we’re doing wrong. That’s how we get better right? Through unbiased feedback. But we don’t like being told we’re not doing something right. It feels like an attack on our identity, an assault on our very being.
We recognise that time is our most precious resource. But we refuse to admit that we don’t know how to leverage and use it effectively. Then, after squandering it, we mourn it’s loss.
We agree that junk food, booze and drugs degrade our body and mind. That such behaviour is selfish and weak. But we continue to engage in it anyway. It feels too good to abstain from.
The difference between intellectual agreement and actual implementation is large. It’s a great chasm, a gaping void. Crossing that gap is hard. And it’s only possible when we allow ourselves to be honest. When we actively seek out the contradictions between our beliefs and our behaviour.
It’s like cancer. If you don’t know you have a cancer growing inside of you, how can you combat it? Only by testing or screening regularly can you catch such an ailment. Only once it’s discovered can you assign every available resource to fight it.
That’s what we must do to battle and defeat our contradictions. We must frequently assess the alignment between the things we believe and the decisions we make. Between what we think and how we act. Between our understanding and our conduct.
If we detect a mismatch? Then our number one priority should be correcting it. And there are only two ways we can do that. We can modify our belief, or we can change our behaviour.
Which remedy you choose is your decision.