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February 19, 2016

Walking Your Path

Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.”
-Morpheus

Pardon me if I’m repeating myself (my family has gotten used to it), but I need to speak up about a lie we all believe: If we just knew better, we’d do better.

This is the lie of education, and it actually undercuts the true power of education whenever we believe it. I have known for awhile now, for instance, that yoga is the best exercise possible for me. Given my multiple back and knee surgeries, there is no need to put my body through heavy impact, or underneath heavy weights. I understand this intellectually, and I have even tasted its truth experientially several times over the last 15 years. I feel stronger, and calmer, every time I practice yoga.

So why don’t I do it more often?

Unless you’re one of those self-disciplined gods we mere mortals can only envy, you’ve got areas in your life where your knowledge is not translating into action. Eating habits, possibly. Or like me, exercise. Perhaps it’s even your efforts to relate better with your kids (or your employees)—you know better than to bark commands at them, but you still find yourself frustrated at your lack of progress. Maybe you’re even dreading your next interaction with them because of it.

As Morpheus from “The Matrix” reminds us, “Knowing the path is not the same as walking the path.” So why don’t we walk the path more often? Lots of great people have offered lots of great reasons. But there’s one reason I don’t hear often enough:

Just because we know the path doesn’t mean it’s our path.

See, often we don’t walk the path because it feels too uncomfortable, and too foreign. Or it feels too rigid, and too narrow. Suddenly drinking 1.5 gallons water per day, ‘cause I know I’m supposed to hydrate, will not a new habit create. For whatever reason, that’s not yet my path forward. My path may lead backwards first, experiencing the effects of dehydration. My path may head forward at a different pace, adding one mug of water in the afternoon in between my three cups of coffee. Maybe my path has a serious crisis ahead, adding a jolt I can use to accelerate my progress.

All this is why we at screamfree try to never give specific techniques to use in your conflicts, and in your relationships. Techniques are shortcuts, which usually only work in specific circumstances. Ever have someone blurt in your face, “Well, this is what you need to do—take away the PS4 for a week. That’s what worked with my son.” Ever walk away from that conversation immediately thinking of all the reasons that won’t work in your house? Or, ever go home and try it out, and have it backfire in your face, leaving you feeling more discouraged than before?

The techniques people use to tread their own path should never be confused with the unique path in front of you. No one else is you, and no one will ever know exactly what you should do next. Tips and techniques sound helpful, but in your long journey down your path, they offer little value.

What offers more help, instead, are principles. Principles are truths that can be applied in a number of different ways. Principles offer practical wisdom each of us can listen to, and practice, in our own way and our own pace, when we are ready to walk down our path.

Is it wise to introduce your children to consequences? Yes, in principle. When you are ready, and willing to pause and think about it, you will begin to take steps down that path. These steps will probably be somewhat new and a bit uncomfortable, but when they occur on your path you are much more likely to practice them. There is not one way to do consequences, and thus you need to accommodate to that one way, or else. Instead, think about the principle of introducing your children to the natural, and logical consequences of their actions. Sure, seek out stories and suggestions from others, but pursue what’s most true to you at this time. That way, you’re moving forward, learning along the way, on your path.

I’ve done yoga three times this week. I found a method that feels integrated with me and my life right now. Will it last? I don’t know. All I know is that for now, I’m walking the path that’s right in front of me.

What’s the next step in front of you, on your path?

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