Going From The “What To Do” To “How To Do It” Level Of Self Growth
Bill Cottringer

“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience.” ~anonymous.

The common purpose of life for us all seems to be to learn, grow and improve into our best selves. Why is this? It is because this road gets us all the things we want—wealth, health, influence, meaning, happiness, success, contentment, peace of heart and sense of accomplishment in making a difference. To achieve this purpose we are challenged to learn: (a) what to do and (b) how to do it. While there are an over-abundance of available resources to cover a, b still comes up very short.

The $10 billion self-help mega-industry is full of religious, spiritual, psychological, physical, vocational, and financial “what to do” ideal models from the Bible Be-Attitudes, to mystical enlightenment philosophies, guaranteed get rich quick programs to self-actualization prescriptions to virtuous behavior lists. But the problem is, how does the ordinary person with an average degree of optimism and personal assets get past survival and into the thriving mode and learn the “how to do this” well enough to do it? Intriguing promises and alluring gimmicks of magic bullets have always been plentiful, but they all seem to fizzle out after some initial short range success is achieved.

It is no secret that genuine success and authentic happiness do not come quickly or easily from reading great inspirational books or even taking years of self-development seminars, but rather through years of dedicated commitment to and painful effort in consistently practicing a lifestyle that leads to and supports true happiness and real success, despite the roller coaster ride of life with all the desirable Yins and undesirable Yangs. Impatience and the immediate need gratification syndrome are very formidable obstacles hiding this un-debatable reality from us all.

So the real question of the day in self-growth, is how do you get past the bad habits of impatience and instantaneous-mania? The truth is you don’t until you finally learn why. And lots of people can tell you this truth, but it won’t ever sink in until you are ready to let it. We have all perpetuated a little game we play, hidden away very successfully in a paradoxical drive we have, called wanting our cake and eating it too—wanting success and happiness, but not necessarily wanting to do the difficult things or make the gut-wrenching sacrifices that the few people who make the shadows are willing to commit to. One of the problems is that quick short cuts are sometimes very successful in the short term and quite tempting and reinforcing.

“In the meantime,” which is a very valuable philosophy of patience, there are some in-between thinking changes that can help you take the “what to do” aspects of the lifelong self-growth journey, to the land of “how to do it.” Seven of these are:

1. “Either-or” thinking, although it is the easiest trap with which to be held hostage, simply limits the success and happiness prize in half, whereas, “and-and” thinking doubles it. This reality is easily provable after just one try and that should satisfy the most impatient of folks.

2. We make choices based on our expectations, which are usually based on our experiences. This process is pretty much set in concrete by the time you sense that it might not be working very well in getting you from where you are to where you want to be. But changing that habit is nearly impervious to change until you can gradually teach yourself to slow down long enough to notice the connection between your thoughts, feelings, expectations and the results you get with them. You can try to hurry this process along, but that doesn’t work; it is merely a matter of gradually becoming more aware of what your priorities are by patiently dealing with impatience in finding them.

3. We all form very strong beliefs from our experiences that are guarded by powerful visual metaphors and self-growth that sustains success and happiness requires diligent metaphor management. This starts with the slow and painful inner journey to discover the gift and curse nature of the most important metaphors that rule you life, especially the ones that inhibit your own success and happiness. The goal is to decrease the negative impact of the negative metaphors and increase the positive impact of the positive metaphors. That takes lots of focus and disciplined thinking that can’t be learned overnight, but slowing down and letting the priories rise to the surface sure helps.

4. Fortunately there is one simple, easy and very cheap cure to all problems and that is humor. I think that no matter how bad things get, it is not that hard to find something that is funny enough to laugh at and buy some breathing time to figure out what to do to make things a little better right now on the way to bigger better. I can remember living in an old rundown farm house when it was so cold I could see my breath inside. We couldn’t afford a high heat bill on a student’s salary. In looking up the attic stairway, there was our resident rat looking down and asking, “Well what am I supposed to do?” I replied, “at least heat rises.”

5. Somewhere in time and space someone is able to see that everyone is making progress towards their goals, just at different speeds. It is a very good idea to do regular reality checks and appreciate yourself for what you have accomplished. Sure there is no end to possibilities, but whoever said any one person had to do anything more than was in his or her heart at any given time?

6. Time itself is a very powerfully controlling metaphor that can perpetuate impatience and the insatiable need to get it all now. As such, time is a thing you may want to study more and see how it is really more unpredictable than predictable and more psychological than mechanical. Here again, this is very easy to prove and one try will get results that will give you permission to give up a false belief about time, if you want to.

7. Even though books, training programs and other people can’t really tell you how to do what you may need to do to be as successful and happy as you dream of being, that doesn’t mean they can’t inspire you to look for and find your own “how to” answers. Nobody has to re-invent the whole wheel all over again.

Consider how you can explore and practice some of these critical transformational realizations to take all the “what” knowledge you have accumulated to the “how to” realm of self-growth.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA and also a business and personal success coach, sport psychologist, photographer and writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Passwords to The Prosperity Zone, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, “P” Point Management, Reality Repair Rx and Reality Repair coming shortly from Global Vision Press. He can be contacted with comments or questions at 425 454-5011 or bcottringer@pssp.net