You Know Yourself Better Than That

I've had my 2002 Honda CR-V for almost 12 years. She's a beautiful old machine and has survived the winters of South Dakota and made half a dozen treks cross country. But she is old. Almost 230,000 miles and no air conditioning. I grew up in a Dave Ramsey household so I take pride in having no car payment and driving that baby into the ground.

But summer is coming.

A few afternoons here of late as I'm driving around town enjoying the sunshine, this familiar thought occurs to me: I'm about to really wish I had air conditioning.

Something else is also about to happen: I'm going to have a really tan left arm and a really pink left thigh (sorry, that's weird) from having the window down in an attempt to draw some sort of comfort from toasty triple digit breezes across my sweat slicked skin.

Because I’ll forget to carry around sunscreen - again.

Often I'll find myself in a moment I've experienced before, learning a lesson I've already learned. It seems much of our lives and our work is spent re-learning things about ourselves we already know.

Sometimes the resulting effect of my forgetfulness is something as minimal as a pink thigh because I forgot to keep sunscreen in my automobile, other times I'll realize I've wasted hours and hours of my week because of my selective ignorance when it comes to how well I should know myself, my tendencies, and the situations making up my life.

So much of our lives are in flux and require us to change and be adaptable, yet there are also themes about who we are that are worth paying attention to. These truths about ourselves can help us both put good decisions on autopilot, and avoid situations that historically drive us into bad places.

Here's what I'm talking about:

  • I know when I come home if I don't unpack that evening, my week will be a disaster because I'm one of those people who needs a tidy home to have a tidy mind.

  • Staying with the travel theme - I know it's best not to book travel that gets me in late when I have things to do the morning after. I need time to slow down, recalibrate and refocus. So, I either book travel that allows me to arrive in the afternoon the day prior to a big engagement, or if I'm to arrive late, I don't book anything the following day.

  • I know drinking just isn't a good idea for me.

  • I recognize I have a hard time starting something. There are strong internal barriers for me to begin. But, like clockwork, after I start I get invested in the work and enjoy the momentum.

  • I need to get out of the house. It feels cozy and safe, but I've learned I’m not productive at home. Left to my own devices, I'll clip my toenails, pluck my unibrow and dust until paint is coming off the cabinets - anything to avoid doing real work.

  • I'm a morning person, not a night person. How many times will I need to experience the joy of being up early when I can be alone and reflective before I’m willing to protect mornings at all costs? Even when it means missing out on fun things in the evenings.

  • I forget I like people. Sometimes I’m too focused on being productive and I miss the importance of collaboration. When lonely I can fall into negative thought spirals and patterns of self-doubt. Being with others fixes this - I need to schedule community.

  • I often say yes to obligations too quickly because I get excited when people want to engage with me. Before making decisions it’s best when I pause and give more thought to the things I agree to spend my time and resources doing.

  • I value the acquisition of ideas and learning more than I do the execution of ideas and action. I should put a limit on my intake and have a bias toward output.

  • I learn in groups and by hearing others explain something, not by reading. I should stop trying to digest big reports or slide decks and just schedule a meeting to have something explained to me.

What about you? What are the life scenarios you feel like you repeat over an over? What are the lessons from your past regular reflection might teach you?

We know ourselves better than we think. Were we to take stock of all our mindsets, predispositions and quirks, and color our decisions with that wisdom, I'm betting we could skip common pitfalls we generally fall into, and create default decisions or mindsets for scenarios we frequently encounter. We've got useful data buried in our past experiences and I'm learning to trust the numbers in a few key areas that really matter.

It’s easy to become obsessed with the illusion we're going to find the answers we're looking for out in the world and we distract ourselves with the potential of the next shiny task, but we often fail to consider what we've already learned about ourselves and the way we move through our lives. Though the past isn't a place to live, it can be a great source of wisdom for us humans who strangely enjoy learning the same lesson thousands of times.

Hello, SPF 100.