We consume books, podcasts, articles, workshops. We distill what we learn and try to apply it to our lives. We also share it with others – as parents, partners, leaders, friends. Sometimes we get paid to teach what we learn.
The efficacy of all of this knowledge consumption is fairly low. For example, Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk has almost 49 million views – plus hundreds of thousands that have read his “Start with Why” book. Yet most businesses still start with WHAT in their marketing, culture, product offerings. This low efficacy applies to all aspects of life and business: health, personal development, psychology, leadership, business growth, finances, spirituality.
I’m not saying to stop consuming content. Hell, I’m reading 5 different books right now and subscribe to a multitude of daily and weekly emails from thought-leaders. What I am saying is this … what are you teaching you?
Our minds, bodies and souls are tremendous teachers. Yet we often go looking for that outside guru or formula. What if we first turned to ourselves to learn?
The mind mostly teaches through negative examples. Meaning, we learn what NOT to do from our minds. Things like distraction, habit slippage, obsession, mental noise. When we sit in the seat of the observer, we can see that the mind teaches us something every day. For example, I observed a continuum of my day. I start out contemplative, then creative and/or productive, but by 5p or so, I become quite consumptive. I will eat three tacos instead of two. I will watch multiple episodes of something on Netflix when one will suffice. I increase my screen time in the evening when I should be winding my mind down. Unto themselves, these are not necessarily “bad” things. But every unconscious behavior is teaching us where our mind is controlling us instead of the other way around.
The body is also a terrific teacher, if we listen. It will tell us exactly what it needs – either through positive or negative reinforcement. We westerners tend to treat our bodies as inanimate machinery. This makes our bodies become an abstract. Which then leads to all kinds of cravings. Recent science affirms the intelligence of the body: our hearts and our stomaches contain brain cells, somatic responses are often tied to untreated trauma, allergies and other non-pathological ailments are connected to emotional well-being. My body is teaching me – the hard way. Since mid-January, I’ve had my third flair up of gout in less than 18 months. This one has been the most severe. It’s forcing me to eat much more clean, focus on improving my sleep patterns and recalibrating my relationship with pain. My left big toe is literally teaching me to be aware, choose what’s best for me and do what I can with what I have to work with.
Then there is the soul – the mightiest, wisest teacher of them all. To understand that the soul is a teacher will require either: a) some level of rational faith or b) at least some suspension of show-me-the-science. If the mind is the seat of consciousness and the body is the seat of matter, then the soul is the seat of Wisdom. Just as the mind and body use instincts to teach us, the soul uses intuition. This inner Knowing teaches us what to prioritize, when to rest, who to connect with, where to go. The soul has no biases, no filters, no need for form. It simply is the truth. This means when it teaches, it does so simply, concisely and directly. My soul has been teaching me that soul/self-care is my highest priority. This is very difficult for my mind to grasp. I went through a time of great selfishness and hardness towards others. I remember that and mistake putting myself first as a returning to that dark place. My soul teaches me this is not true. That I must put my soul/self first so that I can do the work I’ve been sent to do.
The best part of learning from ourselves is that each day contains lessons, tests, resources from and for mind, body and soul. We don’t need to wait until that mythical tomorrow or next week. Or the next book, podcast or webinar. We can learn from ourselves right now. We just need to be good students.