“The Mind That Watches Itself”

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    93 people had breakthroughs this week. Will the next one be you?

    Four things for you to think about

    Albert Camus once said, “An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.”

    In psychology, “meta-cognition” is a person’s ability to be aware of their own thoughts and emotions and have thoughts/emotions about those thoughts and emotions in real time.

    Meta-cognition is more casually known as “self-awareness” and is tied to all sorts of positive outcomes, from better emotional regulation to more focus and discipline and overall happiness and well-being.

    Self-awareness is at the root of all personal improvement. Until you’re aware of your problems, there is little you can do to improve them.

    Reflect: Then consider sharing this thought with others.

    Three things for you to ask yourself

    We generally are good at recognizing certain thoughts and emotions within us and bad at others—i.e., we naturally recognize when we feel sad or guilty but get caught off guard by our anger or are in denial about our anxiety.

    So, ask yourself: In what circumstances are you good at knowing how you are thinking and feeling? What circumstances are you bad at it?

    Another way to think about it: What triggers you?

    Recommended: Use these as journaling prompts for the week.

    Three things for you to try this week

    There are three common ways to develop meta-cognition or better self-awareness.

    The first is meditation. Sit and simply observe what goes on inside your own head.

    The second is journaling. Write about your thoughts and emotions and then go back and read them as if they were somebody else’s. Chances are your own thought process will catch you a bit off guard.

    The third is therapy or deep, honest discussion with a loved one. Talk through your emotions and feelings around a sensitive area in your life. This requires the ability to be vulnerable and can take some work.

    All three practices are useful throughout one’s life. Try them this week and see how it goes.

    Remember: Small changes lead to lasting breakthroughs. Reply to this email and let me know how it went for you.

    Last week’s breakthroughs

    In last week’s email, I asked you to forgive someone for not living up to the metric you’ve established for yourself. This deeply resonated with Ryan, who’s already seeing huge changes at work:

    Oh my god, this email caught me right in the teeth! I’ve recently begun managing someone in a new position, and I’ve forgotten how much I hate “management me.” I’m impatient, and tend to micromanage. It’s a part of me I just really dislike. I’m definitely a perfectionist when I’m at work, and I’ve rationalized this behavior by saying I just hold others to the standards I hold myself. However, the more honest thing to say is that I subject co-workers to the same negative talk and emotions that fill me to the brim every day.

    Today, I decided to relax with this guy, and it’s made all the difference in the world! Not only did the work day go by smoother, but I learned some things about him that I really value. That never would have happened if I’d continued breathing down his back and nitpicking all of his ideas.

    Meanwhile in the personal sphere, Joe’s doing his best not to hold others to the same health standards he holds for himself:

    As someone who exercises regularly, I’ve found that my friends and family regularly praise me for how diligent I am, but simultaneously are upset that they feel pressure from me to “up their game,” even if I’m not saying anything to them. I understand people are in different stages of life and have different body types/health conditions, so I avoid comparison between people and try not to hold anyone to my own standards. That said, I think comparison can serve you in a positive way if leveraged properly.

    With this, I feel that I am often walking a line between encouraging my friends and family to live healthier lifestyles and just minding my own business. I sometimes want to share my fitness milestones/achievements but have recently felt a need to de-emphasize them so that no one feels bad about themselves, which is a strange feeling since I am proud of the work that I’ve done.

    At least for me, it seems generally difficult to hold others to a different standard than you hold yourself, but the alternative of holding everyone to the same standards seems much worse! This is something I’m frequently mindful of, which may be all that needs to be done.

    It’s certainly a difficult balancing act. But your mind seems to already be watching itself, Joe, and that’s a great start.

    As always, send your breakthroughs by simply replying to this email. Let me know if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.

    Until next week,

    Mark Manson

    #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
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