What I do, I teach
What I do, I teach
A while ago I wrote about making (a request for miracles and discovering A course in miracles
I started reading the coursebook and doing the lessons—one lesson a day for 365 days. Then I got distracted, at about lesson 10.
Recently I went back to it and started reading it more regularly and thoughtfully. I plan to restart the course soon.
But I’ve learned some worthwhile lessons from it already.
Here are two:
What we teach, we learn
What we do, we teach.
What we teach, we learn
I’ve known that for a while.
The old school rule for medical training: see one, do one, teach one.
There’s no better way to learn something than to teach it to others.
That’s part of why I write.
By putting something that I’ve learned (or half-learned) in a teachable format, I force myself to clarify my understanding and eliminate my misunderstandings so that I share knowledge, not ignorance.
What we do we, teach
The second is obvious, but I’ve never thought about it the way that the book reminds me.
Humans are hard-wired to mimic the people around them. It’s one of the two ways that babies learn. One is reward and punishment (the environment punishes, even if parents don’t.) The other is imitation.
We know this happens both on the neurological level and behavioral level.
Humans understand the emotional states of others by unconscious mimicry. We copy the facial expressions we see and then read our body language. If the process is interrupted by drugs or paralysis or otherwise, ability drops measurably.
So everyone, all the time, intentionally or unintentionally, is teaching everyone around them by what they do.
What do I teach?
That prompts me to ask: “Who am I teaching? What am I teaching? What do I want to teach?”
Alone in my house, as I am right now, I’m only teaching Future Me. Whatever I do, I teach myself.
A while ago, I wrote one of my favorite posts, Thank you random stranger in which I explained how I’d revised my attitude toward my past and future selves.
I decided to be grateful for what Past Me had given me instead of resentful; for what I hadn’t been given. (Thank you, again, Past Me). And I decided to improve what I’d been given and pay it forward.
But the idea that “What I do, I teach” tells me that I can do more than that.
What do I want to teach Future Me?
Here’s an example.
On my kitchen counter, I have a sheet of paper with my task list. I’ve been making progress on the list, but there are some tasks that I put off day after day.
Because I’m a procrastinator.
I have been accepting that explanation. And I’ve been accepting that behavior. Accepting it is better than beating myself up for it—which I’ve done from time to time.
But with new knowledge, I can do better.
I’m have been willing to do procrastination.
Now that I know I’ve been teaching it, I’m not willing to keep teaching it.
And I don’t want to keep learning it.
What do we teach ourselves?
We are always teaching ourselves. It’s called reinforcement. Every time we perform a behavior that we’ve learned, we strengthen the neural connections for that behavior. We are teaching ourselves to do that same thing, more skillfully, with less effort.
Sometimes procrastination is rationally a good idea. Some problems go away by themselves. But most of the things I procrastinate doing will not go away.
So I’d like to teach myself to get those things done and not procrastinate.
I know that’s what I’d like to learn.
Why did I start?
So why did I start to procrastinate?
And why haven’t I stopped?
The answer to why I started must be this: I was taught to procrastinate, and when if I inadvertently procrastinated, I was rewarded. So I started.
And then I taught myself to procrastinate more often by practicing procrastination and being rewarded. I got good at it.
What I do, I teach.## Why haven’t I stopped?
If I don’t like procrastination (at least sometimes), why haven’t I stopped?
When I do a task that I’ve put off repeatedly, I may be relieved when I finally do it and get it done, but there’s little joy in it.
Most often, I start because someone or something has forced me. It may have been circumstances, or some nagging other, or my nagging self.
But in every case, I am forced. And I don’t like it.
Whatever else I might feel when I overcome procrastination, my feelings also include resentment.
When I am the one who changes my behavior, I’m at war with myself. One part of me is sick and tired of procrastination, and sick and tired of the parts of me that are procrastinating.
But other parts have been well-rewarded for procrastinating, want to keep doing it and resent being forced to stop.
The part of my mind that makes me stop procrastinating uses force, and guilt, and hostility to overcome the other part.
The other part responds with resentment.
What I do to overcome procrastination I teach
What I do, I teach.
I have overcome moments of procrastination with force, and guilt, and hostility, and to respond with resentment.
And that’s what I’ve taught myself to do next time.
Fuck all of that. (And the NYTs, besides)
What I intend to teach
I want to teach Future Me to have a better life than the one that Past Me passed on to me.
I want to teach Present Me, as well.
So instead of forcing myself NOT to do something that I’ve learned to do (and done well and been successful at doing), I intend to teach myself to do what I would aspire to learn.
Bobbi and I think that our kids are better than we were, and we believe that’s because we taught them the best that we knew (and hid our worst teachings, when we could.)
We did not just tell them what was right, we modeled the behavior for them. What we did, we taught.
We both were hard-working—and taught them to be hard working. And at least one of us (hint: not me) taught them to be organized and not procrastinate. And they learned.
What I do, I teach
What I teach, I learn.
Let’s see what I do with that, and what I learn.
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