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We’ve all been there. We know we should make time to go to the gym but we get lazy or make some other excuse. We know we should stop eating when we feel satisfied but we allow ourselves to eat thoughtlessly, following instead the cues of pleasure, peer pressure or “the moment”. Setting goals and attaining them is fundamentally about integrity. It’s about walking our talk. But Aristotle recognized that we can often be akratic, akrasia being the ancient Greek concept for knowing what the right thing is and doing something else.
How does one master this dance so that acting to undercut one’s goals and against one’s principles becomes nearly impossible? How does one arrive at such a level of understanding of the relationship between principles and actions that walking the talk becomes second nature?
1. First, find your proper foundation. People don’t always walk their talk because they are often genuinely conflicted about what they believe is true and moral.
a. In order to act consistently with what you profess to believe you need to take stock of your beliefs and weed out the internal contradictions.
b. You need to be mindful of having a philosophy for living that is not only internally consistent but consistent with your being able to thrive in your day to day life.
2. Understand the principle in every action and the action required by every principle.
3. Commit to consistent deliberation and introspection.
4. Think of your choices as if you were writing a movie script for your life. Weed out the things that would communicate a confused message about you as the main character and which would keep you from arriving at the climax you seek for your life.
a. Think deeply about the theme of your life movie- it should be one simple sentence- and allow this to coordinate your short and long range plans, your everyday actions, the kind of people you want to meet in your movie, the relative role that they play versus those you want to make minor characters, the kind of world you want to live in and how you are living day to day.
5. Even when you slip, remember that you are still the author. You get to write whether it will be a “tragic flaw” you choose to live with or an opportunity for catharsis.
6. Focus on what you can make possible with and in your life, rather then contemplating how others fall short of the heights in their lives.