To edify means to increase one’s capacity to be good. That can be achieved by increasing one’s capacity to consistently do good. Demonstrated below is what I will refer to as ‘the outer continuum of being’. If you ever want to become something you’re not, or to stop being something you are, all you theoretically need to do, is dial the consistency up or down in the desired direction. One can travel the road from ‘am not’ to ‘am’ or vice versa, one step at at time.
subconsciously do not
habitually do not
consistently do not
consciously do not
If you want to stop being a smoker, you can set red flags for yourself to ensure even when you’re habitually smoking, it’s no longer subconscious. You can then further decrease frequency and if you’re able to get to “do not smoke” stage, the mental will-power required to increase the consistency of not smoking, can eventually form habits within you to the point that ‘not smoking’ can become beyond even subconsciously you.
If you want to be a runner but never run, start running. Increase the frequency of running until you’re doing it consistently, then habitually until you’ve been doing it subconsciously for so long it’s an undeniable part of who you are. Now if you want to become a world-class runner, you can’t just run, you need to ‘do’ what world-class runners do, which undoubtedly involves a lot more than just running.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant
Yes you might run into troubles when you’re addressing issues that are genuinely world-class or world-firsts but the reality is that for MOST of us, MOST of our problems aren’t unique at all. They’re ones that millions of people have already been through before. The answers exist, can often be common knowledge and perhaps most importantly we don’t have to learn solely from painful personal experience. We can learn from other’s mistakes.
“One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.” – Unknown
I’m well aware that we humans are very complicated things and in many ways this is an oversimplification of the oft-times very complicated processes of change. However just because individual steps can be complicated, doesn’t mean the headline path needs to be, and whether we’re aware of it at the time or not, we can’t travel in either direction without going through each step to one degree or another.
Now, at those times when we are genuinely struggling to step through any of the stages mentioned above or change the consistency of any particular action, perhaps it’s time to start looking at the consistency within. The next continuum I want to address is what I will refer to as the ‘the inner continuum of being’ but I also sometimes refer to it as the inner circles of stewardship. This tries to look at the varying and often conflicting areas one needs to address within themselves whenever trying to change completely. When one struggles to progress along the outer continuum, it’s likely due to omitted stages or conflict amongst the inner continuum.
Think about it for a moment. Usually before actioning anything new, we talk to people about it first. Before talking to people we usually mull it over ourselves. It’s like the only reason we’re mulling it over in the first place is because there’s something entertaining or rewarding in the idea and that doesn’t usually occur until after we’ve heard/discovered the concept and begun believing there’s something there. Things we genuinely believe to be impossible or utterly unrewarding, we don’t usually entertain, but the moment we believe there’s a slither of hope it might work, that seed can begin to grow.
Each can also act like a floodgate, whereby filling any one section can produce a flow-on effect to the next, increasing the likelihood or effectiveness of filling subsequent sections with the momentum of the last. For example, the person who intentionally spends all day every day thinking about being more patient, is much more likely to then also talk about being patient, and if he also talks about it all day every day he can become more likely to enact the principle of patience.
If we’re trying to change our actions alone, but don’t bother addressing our language, our default ways of thinking, our more important wants or our own perceived capacity for change, we’re unlikely to change much at all. If we’re prepared to address all of these things however, it’s much more likely the changes that do occur are going to be more thorough and therefore more permanent. There’s a benefit to the authenticity of continuity when each section of the inner continuum aligns to the principle or virtue one is trying to embody.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny”. – Mahatma Gandhi
To be honest these continuums aren’t something I consider myself expert on. Simply something I’ve learned over time and I’ve seen and heard a great many variations of them. The one’s I’ve illustrated are those that I understand to date and as I understand them. Meaning there’s a very real possibility that I will want to change or improve upon them in future, as my understanding increases. I’m simply putting forward the best model as I understand thus far.
You’ll note in Gandhi’s quote above, that he refers to habits becoming our values, which I can appreciate as a concept as it certainly occurs but I don’t use it here as I personally believe that primarily occurs subconsciously and more often dis-favourably so. These are often the ‘values’ we may demonstrate but when consciously discussed, might not necessarily agree with. The values we call our own, however, are usually one’s we have tested through each stage (belief->action). I’ve also heard the add-on “your virtues become your character” which I’m fond of however I also consider one’s character indistinguishable from what “one is” therefore unnecessary here.
As I pointed out in circles of stewardship, edification usually works from the inside out. Just as there’s a benefit gained by addressing your stewardships in the appropriate order, there too is a benefit gained by addressing the inner continuum in order. When we start in the middle we can begin small enough to get started which allows us to also quickly build the momentum required to change to bigger/higher gears with ease and steadily increase output as we continue to grow outwards. Seen below is a very rough version of a compilation I’ve done of the two continuums.
Actions are the outer layer that evidence what’s within but they don’t tell the whole story of who we are.
- When what we want to do doesn’t align with what we want to be there resides internal conflict.
- Whenever any layer is unaligned there’s going to be some dishonesty due to inconsistency.
- When we’re truly honest in a belief, it should be self-evident in what we want, think, say and do.
- We are the most empowered to act when each previous layer is aligned from within.
There’s another concept I desire to mention briefly here but that I intend on writing another whole book about which discusses the benefits of enacting things symbolically. Simply put, there’s a benefit gained in getting used to and getting good at ‘casting your line’, kind of like a fisherman, from your beliefs through each stage up to your actions. Even if certain stages are imperfectly aligned there tends to be a ‘connecting thread’ between belief and action that when reinforced can help keep all stages align more thoroughly and permanently.
I desire to further delve into the many ways one can ‘exercise’ each of the inner continuum stages, such ‘Actions’ including teaching one’s hands, and feet, and fingers, and eyes etc. to each all align with the desired concept/truth. For example teaching your fingers to stop flicking to the Facebook app on your phone, teaching your eyes to look for good, teaching your feet to take you to helpful places. These all may sound silly when analysed individually, but to any person trying to honestly and completely embody a concept, these can be very helpful exercises. Words, thoughts, desires and even beliefs are all areas that can be broken down, segmented and mastered through stages. I will not however address these here, but intend to do so at a later time.
The main point being, if one wants to change the nature of their being, they can simply walk this continuum of being, with the intentional change of consistency being the primary factor of progress. If done so honestly, you can experience meaningful and powerful change. Now the next point I wish to discuss is what truths, virtues or attributes should we first be focusing on implementing into our natures with this model, to maximise potential change and progress.
“As it is not one swallow or a fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.”