I spend a lot of time thinking about questions such as, "How do we change?" "Why is it so hard to make ourselves do things that we want to do?" (For instance, why is it so hard to make myself go to bed?) and "How can we stick to our resolutions?")
I realize now that a big challenge is clarity. Often, if there's something that I want to do, but somehow can't get myself to do, it's because I don't have clarity. This lack of clarity often arises from a feeling of ambivalence--I want to do something, but I don't want to do it; or I want one thing, but I also want something else that conflicts with it.
Here's a conflict: It's nice when my older daughter is around while she does her homework; on the other hand, it's good for her to be in her room without the distractions of family noise. So do I nudge her to go to her room, or do I let her stay in the kitchen? I can never decide.
These days, when I'm trying to get myself to pursue some course of action, I work hard to make sure I know exactly what I expect from myself, and why, and what value I'm choosing to serve.
I don't think I'm the only one who struggles with this problem. Lack of clarity, and the paralysis that ensues, seems to be common. Here's a list of aims in conflict that I've heard. Do any ring a bell for you?
I want to eat healthfully. It’s wrong to waste any food.
I want to give 110% to work. I want to give 110% to my family.
I want to work on my novel. I want to exercise.
I want to get more sleep. I want some time each day to talk to my sweetheart, watch TV, and goof around.
I want to spend less time in the car. I want my children to participate in many after-school activities.
Making money is not important. Making money is important.
I want to be very accessible to other people. I want time alone to think and work.
I want to be a polite guest. I want to avoid sugar.
I want to be frugal. I want to join a gym.
I want leisure time when I come home from work. I want to live in a house that’s clean and well-run.
I want to meet new people and see my friends. I want more solitude.
I want to stop nagging you. I want you to help me.
Have you experienced this—a paralysis that comes from conflicting values?
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