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Everyone knows what everyone else should do

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Everyone knows what everyone else should do

Scott Miker

When it comes to self-improvement most people struggle. They know where their weaknesses lie but don’t address them. They come to terms with them.

They know their strengths and are happy to leave them at the level they currently reside. Why bother improving if it is a strength?

But what is funny is that almost everyone I know seems to easily form an opinion about someone else that needs to improve. For some reason being a critic is far easier than doing the hard work to change one’s self.

In fact, this seems to get ingrained in us from when we are young. We give our opinion of our sports heroes and explain what others need to do in order to be successful.

We see mistakes that others make and instantly can tell you what they should do. Yet our own mistakes often get ignored. We push the blame to something external.

The reason is that we all want to protect our fragile internal view of our self. Many people refer to this is the ego. This isn’t the ego of some extravagant celebrity, but the ego all of us have. This is the driving force in most people’s lives.

When we are successful this ego tells us that all the success was due to our own abilities. When we fail, this ego tells us that it isn’t our fault and we did everything right. Someone or something else must be to blame, since we can’t imagine a wrong decision being made by us.

While the ego protects us in some ways, it really becomes a bias that blocks us from seeing our true selves. It prevents an accurate assessment to determine our own responsibility.

But with others, we don’t take into account this bias, this ego. It doesn’t exist. So it is easy to judge others’ actions and then have, in our mind, the perfect way for them to fix the situation.

But put us in that same exact situation and we would instead have all sorts of excuses and justifications for continuing to do what we always have.

We have to learn to break away from this ego in order to improve. We have to realize that it is up to us to create the life we desire. We have to correct for weaknesses and grow our strengths.

We can do this and significantly improve but our ego will try to hold us back. It will try to protect our fragile sense of self by telling us that we are right and everyone else is wrong.

In the long term this is a horrible strategy. By not taking corrective action we will continue to make mistakes. We will continue to need our ego to jump in and protect us by blinding us to our faults and highlighting things we did correctly.

In the long term, the better approach is to take this as feedback and change from what we experience. When we make a mistake, we should look to see what role we played in creating the situation.

In other words, it is helpful if we could instead see ourselves as an outsider who asks us for our opinion. Then we can quickly look at the situation and give advice of what they (aka we) should do.

In order to keep improving in life we have to be aware of the ego’s influence. We have to address this by taking responsibility, even when we can find reasons why it isn’t our fault.

As we improve, we can then start to take those reasons into account because they won’t blind us to the truth. They will, instead, help us see what control we have over situations and what control lies outside of us. But until we know how our ego influences us, we aren’t seeing things accurately.