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Dealing with yourself

Image / SparkCBC. Creative Commons Licence - CC BY-SA 2.0
In the final post on 'tools for the whole person’s success', Ande Schurr delves into the most complex subject - how to deal with yourself!


In the final post on 'tools for the whole person’s success', Ande Schurr delves into the most complex subject - how to deal with yourself!

In this series we've already discussed how to save time and deal with clients, and friends and family. This last post is based on a talk by Ande's mentor, David Samuel, on how to deal with ourselves to become high performers.

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Human potential is limitless. Those who walk the path of seeking perfection in their work and life embark on a journey of discovery that, theoretically, is infinite.

It’s just a concept though. We’ll never be perfect but it provides a goal far enough away to keep life interesting. Life should and must be stimulating and enjoyable. If it has become boring or exhausting, we are not dealing with ourselves correctly. 

This can mean different things to each person. Perhaps you fail to act when problems are small so they become big crises; late to work, miss deadlines, gloss over important details, continually distracted and don’t put in the attention or preparation needed, miss opportunities or forget your manners or hospitality.

So it comes down to: Can you exact from yourself your best performance - everyday.

The Best Freelance Practices Auckland group had a Skype chat with ‘entrepreneur monk’ David Samuel who answered three questions we posed:

  • How can we know ourselves like a close friend would?
  • How can we be decisive and confident when making decisions?
  • How can we become a totally reliable person?

His answers were insightful and practical.

Here are nine ways to become a decisive, confident and reliable person:

1. Become Your Closest Friend

You accept your friend - flaws and all - because you know what they’re going through in life. Furthermore, if you care about them, you’ll help them overcome their flaws.

David’s example: It’s like saying “look, I love you anyway, but please wash more often because you have bad body odour”. It’s objective feedback and any good friend would take it objectively too without emotionalism.

This is precisely the way we need to deal with ourselves: without stress, justification and certainly no beating ourselves up. Just objectively being there for ourselves, when we stuff up as much as when we succeed.

2. Study Yourself Carefully

Know Thyself - inscribed on the once-standing Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

Studying ourselves is very important. Like the trawl of a search engine web-crawler, we need to gather as much information as possible so the end user (ourselves) can search for the right content.

Consider these questions:

  • Do you want to know yourself and what you really are?
  • What is the self that is defined in ‘self’-study?

The person we are each day - we might call the ego-personality - is born, lives and dies, but what of that other part of us that knows things we cannot explain.

David’s example: I had a dream of an old friend whom I haven’t seen for months. I dreamed that they emailed me. When I woke up, there was an email from them in my inbox.

We don’t have to try to label it. The point is there is a lot about ourselves that we do not know. We have to start learning about ourselves - as they say, the good, the bad and the ugly! The more we know through objectively documenting our patterns and habits, the more we see the truth about ourselves.

Because we would rather believe a lie about ourselves than see our defects - just part of being human - this self-knowledge is all the more important to get. We have quite a bit of catching up to do!

Marketers exploit this human tendency to believe the lie that we are better than we really are as shown in a recent corporate campaign. To encourage us to see every minuscule event towards our goal as a major breakthrough they coined the phrase - “you may think no biggie, but I say yes biggie!” - when in reality it was a small event hardly worth mentioning. When you hold up small events in life as big breakthroughs, your sense of right-proportion disappears creating a vacuum for mediocrity to rush in.

To begin your self-study, try this exercise:

David’s Exercise 1: The Five Questions

We need to observe ourselves to see all our defects and negative qualities in the same light as we would our closest friend. Then we can see what we really are, which allows us to work on what we want to change.
Ask yourself these at the end of each day without fail:

What did I do WELL today: e.g. My sister called and I was very calm this time when normally very angry.
What did I do that I SHOULDN’T have done: e.g. Stole pen from the bank; I lost my temper needlessly at someone.
What DIDN’T I do that I should have done: e.g. While walking in parking lot I saw old lady struggling with bags, I thought I should help but couldn’t be bothered.
What did I do that I could’ve done BETTER: e.g. I meditated but only 5 min instead of 20 min. When working at restaurant, customer arrived so I cleaned table quickly instead of putting more effort and doing a thorough job.
What do I want to do TOMORROW: e.g. Meditate 20 min tomorrow, or spend entire day without being rude or snapping at anyone; or to be fully aware of my physical sensations [NB: Give yourself some goal, then that makes you become more attentive - even if impossible or difficult to do].

3. Don’t Hide Anything From Yourself

A dog doesn’t like a stick, a human doesn’t like the truth. ~ old Tibetan saying

In order to get along with everyone you will believe a few lies. However this ability to ‘turn a blind eye’ requires great mental effort in order to maintain the illusion that nothing is wrong with this person or situation.

Don’t be scared to know the truth. Yes, it is much easier to live in a fairytale land where we are always right but there’s nothing solid in that world. The real world might be harsh but if we can learn to handle it, we can handle anything.

The fairytale land makes us always right so we never have to fix our mistakes or keep our word. The fact that you may actually be hurting another person is totally missed. This is the thing behind the ego-personality - it is self-centred; only does things for its own benefit and disregards how it effects anybody else.

However for the person who wants to sleep well at night - feeling less ashamed and more proud of who they are - only the reality interests them.

This comfort with reality, by objectively looking at oneself, can open up capacities of a deeper and more intuitive nature. Our increased awareness will then eliminate the negative qualities we are currently ignoring and that society is saying are so wonderful.

4. Realise Nothing About You is Real

A human being can be transformed into something else IF they are willing to put in the effort. ~ David Samuel

Of course you are real in the common usage of the word. You exist, you have a life and people know you. The point however is that you are not permanent.

We define real in terms of values and opinions being unchanging and reliable over a long time. Yet in general, a human being is in the dark about so many things in their lives that their opinions and values are liable to change at any given moment.

David’s example: When flying a small aeroplane, you don’t have all the instruments that big jets have and you get lost. The thing to do is you pick a point and circle around that landmark until you know where you are. When you have your bearings you continue.

We stop imagining where we might be and start actually looking and basing our sense of direction around fixed, objective data.

It means we can let go of every other opinion that we have about ourselves. Instead of copying the thinking from influential people and news sources, we can form opinions objectively using information we have experienced and ‘tasted’.

5. Get all the Data Before Making Decisions

It takes humility and a willingness to not know something, so accept the truth that you do not know whatever it is in its entirety, and then find out ~ David Samuel

There is no penalty for keeping your mouth shut when you don’t have all the information. If you can’t help your friend because you don’t have all the necessary bits - like how they are feeling and thinking - then be patient until you know.

Be content to wait until you are capable of making a wiser decision. Hold back from having to have an answer to everything immediately.

That being said, don’t beat yourself up if you are forced to make a decision before you have all the facts and it turns out wrong. Just accept the reality that you needed more time.

David’s Exercise 2: Changing Opinions

Exercise: Observe how quickly your opinions change.
Everyone will be different in how easily their opinions can change.
The best thing anyone can do is:
Never believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see.
No matter what you hear, don’t trust it, don’t believe it, even what you see - it could be a David Copperfield; just an illusion. Elephants don’t disappear into thin air.

6. Increase Your Curiosity

Curiosity has its own reason for existence ~ Einstein

David says - “You must never believe anything until you have personally touched it, tasted it, verified it’s true through your own experience and study.”

Contrary to what one may think, this thorough checking of all details does not make you negative and doubting. Rather, it makes you inquisitive.

Einstein said that ‘curiosity has its own reason for existence’ because the very presence of curiosity is making your mind inquisitive. So it transforms the mind into one that is open and objective.

If you’re not curious it means you already know everything there is to know on the subject and if you already know then you’ve got a fixed opinion so your mind is closed.

If your mind is closed then you can’t be a caring friend - it’s like a toy you can squeeze which always says the same thing no matter who elicits your opinion.

Curiosity says: “I don’t really know, I want to learn more”.
Its very existence cultivates a mind that is open and receptive at all times.

So whether it’s learning a language or studying any topic that fascinates you, your mind will be kept agile. In order to make great decisions in life, we need objective information. We can’t be objective if we think we know already what people are going to say and do.

Curiosity encourages accurate thinking and kills mindless assumptions.

7. Become an Optimistic Pessimist

I’m an optimistic pessimist. Everything will work out but I look for anything that can go wrong so that I’m ready ~ David Samuel

The poem IF by Rudyard Kipling is about dealing with the events of life. If ‘this’ calamity happens then I’ll keep on going unfazed. Yet I will still allow doubt in case I got it wrong.

We need to have the mindset of: I’ll be ready at any moment to totally change my opinion if I’m proven wrong.

David’s example: If I’m driving and you ask me if I know where I’m going I will say “yes - this is the road” and then you say “but look at the map David - you missed a turn” then immediately I’ll stop, turn around and get on the right road. I’m not arguing even though I’m so certain. You show me I’m wrong and I’ll change instantly.

It’s this mixture of real confidence with humility that is the key to remaining positive.

What can we do? We have to deal with the information we have, until proven wrong and then - if proven wrong - without a moment thought, change. We cut our losses and move forwards. In so doing, we eliminate the fear of being wrong.

At the back of the mind of an overly confident person is a thread of doubt because they know deep inside that no-one can know for sure how the future will play out. Anything can happen. It’s that thread of doubt that causes you to waiver in your decisions.

David says - “With this attitude you have no fear and you can progress with tremendous confidence since you’ll change if you are wrong without worrying about hurting the delicate ego.”

8. Try Not to Beat Yourself Up

Reduce the self-hatred, self-pity and feeling useless. As you reduce that your capacity to make decisions will increase automatically ~ David Samuel

It’s the feeling stupid when we make mistakes that is like friendly-fire, only the friend we are shooting is ourselves.

We simply have to get it into our heads that the mistake itself is insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. Sure, correct it, pay for the damage, take it on the chin like a mature adult but the point is you don’t feel down and depressed.

It’s the beating yourself up and general morbidness at the repeated mistakes we make that ruin our positivity and progress.

Don’t loose faith in your own ability to develop as a person. When you give-up hope in yourself then even the smallest mistake will depress you. Even walking into a door that is closed. You’ll be thinking what an idiot I am - just when will I wake up already! But that is the thing, you just have to document it. Make a note of it in the 5 questions (David’s Exercise #1) and watch your awareness increase so you do it less next time.

Learn to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake, like forgetting something important or putting your foot in your mouth with a faux pas . Whatever it is, thank goodness you caught it. It’s the catching it that matters. This is the data gathering we speak of. Now at least you have the chance to never repeat it again.

Read David’s article: Who Is Really Out To Get You to help you eliminate ‘beating yourself up’ and other negative emotions so you can increase confidence.

9. Honour Every Commitment

I believe that being totally reliable - even if you lose money at the time - builds a reputation that gives you more back than you have lost ~ David Samuel

The number of companies and trades-people who guarantee their work then want to charge you for it when something goes wrong is a joke. If you promise a service you have to deliver to the word. If something goes wrong - your equipment fails, the products you use caused another problem, you pass on wrong information, then you have to correct it 100% until the harm you caused has been nullified. Nothing makes a person more successful than a reputation of total reliability to their word, it is unique and you’ll be rewarded for it long term.

David’s Exercise #3: What Do You Really Want

Ask yourself what you really want:
Do I want a better life, money, possessions or do I want to transform my being into someone I am proud to be.

There is not right or wrong answer. It will just help you put your energy into the right direction without fooling yourself. Get clarity on yourself, do not just think who you are, you must KNOW who you are. Honesty is what matters.

Written by

Ande Schurr

7 Oct 2015

Corporate video producer and production sound recordist now based in Singapore after a 15-year career in New Zealand. Video clients incl. universities, tech startups, medical clinics and business consulting agencies. Sound clients incl. Netflix, Discovery, BBC, National Geo.