I’ve always liked one of Werner Erhardt’s aphorisms, “Understanding is the booby prize.” I have spent much of my life working toward understanding. I like understanding things. I’m a lifelong learner, partly in the service of understanding. A lot of my counseling practice is geared toward understanding.
And yet . . . and yet . . . understanding isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
Here’s why: I’m smart. I can understand anything if it’s explained to me properly, but understanding something as valuable as that is doesn’t always help me change it. As I’ve gotten older, the emphasis of my life has changed from a need to understand to a much clearer need to change what I don’t like.
Now don’t misunderstand me. Understanding is helpful, important, and necessary in a lot of arenas, but when I’m dealing with a pattern in my own behavior that I don’t like I probably already understand it. This is why Werner Erhardt called it the booby prize.
I know why I’m doing what I’m doing.
What I want to know instead is how to change what I’m doing.
Understanding something doesn’t mean I can change it.
If you’re caught in a pattern you recognize and don’t like, try this. Speak aloud to the pattern, “As an act of my will, I break this pattern.” Every time you behave according to your learned pattern, consciously, deliberately declare your intention to break it.
You’ll find yourself living into the change you want to see. Another of my favorite aphorisms, this one by Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Change, my dear one, starts at home.