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Find five faults

If somebody comes to me complaining about their life, I like to say that they'll have to take a look at what, who and where. More specifically, there are five aspects of their life they can try to change, namely their home, work, family, friends, and leisure.

Now, I'm an engineer. I systematise, categorise, and compartmentalise. Naturally, these five aspects are not independent of each other - if you change jobs you might have to move to a new home, and you might get new friends. Maybe a new hobby in your leisure time can lead to new friends, or vice versa. But it's still a useful enumeration of what shapes your life.

It's a tool to help you analyse your situation. You can sit down in peace and quiet and write a list of all you like and dislike in these five categories. And you might find that your job, for instance, isn't really that bad, but you pour all your existensial frustration into it. If you pick up lacemaking, you might find yourself more content with your job.

It needn't be anything dramatic. Often, a small change is enough to make things better. If you're fed up with everything - move your furniture around. Try listening to a new kind of music, see a new kind of film, read a new kind of book, eat a new kind of food. Go to see an amateur icehockey match, or the theatre, or a lecture on butterflies in the Alps.

Whatever. As long as you do it with a reasonably open mind. It's refreshing, something new.

Of course, this isn't the whole truth.

These five aspects are external. They describe what you do, who you do things with, where you do them.

But the operative words aren't what, who or where, but you do.

We're creatures of habit. We do what we're used to, feel what we're used to, think what we're used to. External changes makes us afraid or curious. We as ourselves "How will this affect my habits?"

We ask ourselves the most dramatic question of all - "Will I have to change?"

For what is a person? A collection of habits. Prejudices, opinions, taste and preferences are habits, showing how we're used to think, used to feel, used to react. And we tend to follow the tracks laid down by our habits.

That why we don't go and do something new - we're used to not do that. We don't go to the theatre or ice hockey game because we're used to thinking about things like that as something uninteresting.

If we should go to the theatre and make an effort to see it without prejudice, and then found that it was interesting... Would we then go and try all the other things we had dismissed, like the opera, or art exhibitions, or football matches?

Probably not. Because it's easier to change a behaviour, which is what we're used to do, than it is to change an attitude, which is how we're used to think and feel.

My behaviour doesn't define me as much as my attitudes to. I can be the same person, but do other things. If I began to think in a different way, however...

Ah, well.

Before we finish today's lesson, take out those lists of what you like and dislike in the five external aspects of your life. Have a good look. Think about them. How much of your likes and dislikes depends on the actual circumstances in the category, and how much depends on your habits and attitudes?


What do you think?
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