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November 23rd, 2019
Perhaps the most salient feature of any person is whether or not they keep their word.
This simply means that a person’s actions are in harmony with the things they say.
It goes without saying that people who do not strive to achieve this harmony are less trustworthy.
This gulf between words and actions determines to a huge degree our reputation. The larger that gulf, the harder time we will have maintaining a useful reputation among people.
This can all go south in two ways. Either our words do not accurately describe the actions we will take, or our actions fail to follow the description we have given.
Both stem from emotion.
We describe ourselves and our plans in a way that is both pleasing to ourselves and –we imagine- pleasing or impressive to others. This is one aspect of what drives our individual language. The other potential emotion to drive our language is a deep knowledge and understanding about what emotions will actually propel our future actions. If these two things are the same then it’s likely we are honest and trustworthy. However, it’s possible to be unintentionally dishonest in this respect because we are not in touch with this deeper understanding regarding the fundamental drives and emotions that power our actions for tomorrow and next week. We may speak only in a way that pleases our idea of ourselves and our idea of ourselves in the minds of others. If this description has no correlation with who we turn out to be as evidenced by our actions, then our ‘dishonesty’ becomes evident over time.
Problems can arise in a slightly different version of this gulf.
We can describe our hopes and plans for action, and genuinely wish for ourselves to take these actions and then when push comes to shove, there turns out to be little to no emotion to make that push.
We must wonder, is our desire for this course of action merely intellectual? Do we just like the idea of being seen as the person we describe when in reality there’s no real drive to become this person?
This is a troubling situation that seems to befall many people in the form of procrastination.
We must wonder, if something is really that important, would we procrastinate?
Perhaps, but where is that emotional impetus we need to get going?
This is the $64 Million dollar question of self-help.
All of this boils down to accurate description and emotional regulation. We can be the sort of person who has no emotional regulation, but be perfectly honest about the way we know we will behave, or we can speak about a different person we hope to be, and then do the difficult work of regulating and manipulating our own emotional environment in order to make the actions come about that will fulfill our words.
We bridge this gulf through both methods. By both being more accurate and honest with how we actually behave, and then looking under the hood of that behavior and tinkering with the emotions that drive those actions.
More honest accuracy with ourselves about who we find ourselves to be allows for an easier exploration of the emotions that power such a person. And inevitably, we gain more agency over our behavior through this symbiotic relationship of honest reflection and emotional tooling.
The first step, of course, is looking hard and long at the words we use. If they don’t reflect the way we act, then it’s the first and easiest step to take. Changing language is faster, easier and far more straight forward than figuring out how to sculpt the arc of emotion. And of course, this change in language is the first step when it comes to sculpting the emotions that will create the person we strive to be.