A Journey of Eighteen Inches

by Evan on 2011/02/07

A journey of eighteen inches can take a lifetime. The journey I refer to is from our head to our heart.

This is the journey that we often need to make in self development. It is usually the journey we need to make when we want the changes we have made in our lives to stick long term.

I know that I have found myself saying things along the lines of, “I know it in my head . . ., I know I should but . . ., I know that it isn’t good for me when I . . .”. And yet I persist in doing these things.

We Are More Than Our Thoughts
I think these moments show us that we are more than our thinking. To make a major change involves other dimensions of our lives.

For instance it may mean changing a physical habit – the way our brains are wired. It may mean a change in our feelings. In some way it means that we finally ‘get it’ – that we knew it in our heads but now we really know it.

Making the Journey

One way we make the journey is seeing ourselves or our past differently. This can include everything from pretending that we had grown up in a different culture or family to years of work with a good therapist.

Talking to others about how they grew up – and what they thought was good and bad in their upbringing – can give us a useful perspective on what is distinctive about ourselves and our past. (Reading autobiographies can do this too.)

One way you can do this now is to imagine a scene from your past that you remember vividly. And then bring your adult self in to observe what is going on. Perhaps to give support or set appropriate limits for your younger self.

Another is by making a decision to behave differently. This can include developing a new habit.

If you find dealing with thoughts and feeling confusing then you can use action. For instance if you feel that you are stuck in a bit of a rut then you can decided to go for a slightly different walk to your usual, or, shop in a different direction at the supermarket (yes, I do usually go down the aisles in the same order, maybe it is just me).

Knowing that we have actually done something differently can help something ‘hit home’ for us.

Another is to see our future differently.
This is easiest with smaller changes that we need to make. With bigger changes it can be harder to know that our future can be different.

We can do this rationally – by planning, prioritising and scheduling. If you want to go this way then it is important for the change you want to make to be observable and measurable. “Feeling different about [X]” doesn’t work with this way of doing things. Nor does, “Knowing I can do [X]”. It has to be something like: I have jumped out of a plane with a parachute, walked around the block each day for 30 days, had six conversations where I have listened to others this week.

We can also use our imagination. Imagine a preferred future and then backcast from this preferred future. We can organise our way, by planned change, to this future; or, we can compare our present to the preferred future and just decide on one small change that we wish to make.

Finally, (which is kind of all of these ways in one sense) is to see that we contribute to our experience. People have different likes and dislikes and respond to the same situation in different ways.

If someone was in my situation at the moment they would have different thoughts and feelings about it to me. They would be having a different experience to some extent.

[I don’t mean that they would be finding an awful experience to be pleasant or a delightful experience to be horrible. I think this is rarely the case. What I mean is that we each have our own particular ways of experience delight and misery.]

This is a way of seeing that we do have some control over our experience. That the way we approach others has some effect on how they respond to us (usually); that there are things that we can do to bring more joy into our lives.

When we see that we are involved in creating our experience we can really ‘get’ what we know only in our heads.

I hope that one or more of these four ways of moving from our head to our heart are useful to you. If you have found other ways helpful I would love to hear about them in the comments.

On a personal note: I am no longer writing for the Philosophy, Psychology and Real Life blog. All my posts (apart from the occasional guest post on other blogs) will now be hosted here.

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I'm Evan Hadkins. I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don’t hesitate to get in touch. There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave a question anonymously if you wish, or you can email me, use the contact page, or comment on this post.


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