When Sally did this exercise, she realized that she'd married for legitimate reasons. Financial security is not an insane thing to want (have you seen the Dow Jones average lately?), but compared with a more artistic lifestyle, her original choice seemed false. The marriage ended when she embraced her bohemian side, and Sally began to know passion—in romance, work, learning, and living—for the first time.
You can end your internal arm wrestles by (a) discovering your competing ideas and (b) identifying the ones that feel untrue or stultifying. If part of you thinks homemaking is a lowly and servile occupation, you won't beautify your home until you flip that thought. If you fear you're not good enough for love, the part of you that loves will always smash into this competing belief. Find the erroneous thoughts, turn them over, and watch yourself finally begin to do what you know.
Don't Track The Wrong Things
According to Pfeffer and Sutton, companies with huge knowing-doing gaps tend to measure things that don't really matter, such as hours worked rather than overall customer satisfaction. We have similar problems. For instance, my client Jessie comes back from her vacations desperately needing a vacation, because she grimly measures the "success" of a trip by sights seen and recreational activities accomplished. Another client, Mollie, often complains, "I practically killed myself to give my kids a good life, and now they're in therapy saying God knows what about me." Here's what Mollie's kids are processing with their therapists: the guilt and despair that comes from being raised by a mom who used her own suffering as the yardstick of her mothering.
Before you do anything, consider what you're really trying to accomplish and determine how you'll chart your progress. Sounds like yet another exercise—except you've likely already done it. Go back and look at the plan of attack you made in Step 4. If you need to find a place to live, don't count the number of hours you've logged sighing over fabulous floor plans online. Track how many realtors you've contacted, apartments you've seen, letters of reference you've gathered. If you want your children to be happy, spend more time teaching them joy by embodying it. If relaxation is your goal, don't force yourself to go sightseeing when lying in bed watching a dozen Dr. Greene–era episodes of ER is the only thing that will recharge your fried self. Whatever it is you really want, count movement toward that, and only that, as your measure of success.
If Rose, Linda, and Barb could stop substituting talk for action, make a plan that doesn't depend on acts of God, calm themselves, eliminate competing ideas, and measure what really matters, their next lunch could be their best ever—healthy, smoke-free, filled with mutual congratulation rather than shared worry and stress. In fact, having written a few hundred words on this topic, I'm feeling motivated to close the knowing-doing gap myself. I'm launching myself into a new era of productivity, here and now! Just as soon as I figure out how to open this minibar.
More Martha Beck Advice
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