Insights Aren't Enough Life changes demand more than knowledge BY: Troy Murphy |February 2017
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The heavens open, a voice cuts through the icy air, and our hearts melt. Blessed with a momentary charge of clearness, we courageously move forward again. We may have a few of these moments. But the clarity soon is clogged with uncertainty. The feelings of enlightenment fail to translate into words. We scratch our heads and fight off the approaching confusions. Change doesn’t automatically follow insight. Driven by the glory of the hunt, we gobble up the new information, desiring enlightenment, believing the discovery will transform our lives. When change doesn’t follow, we jump back into the hunt for clearer insight. Our chase for understanding continues indefinitely and may never grant the real change we seek.
Insights contribute but don’t cause change. Deeply engrained behavioral patterns need more than an insight—life’s too complex. “In a moment of anger, I can cause a life time of regret," the quote may provide momentary insights, a glimmering hope of change; but not relieve us from future angry impulses. The impulses continue to spark emotions—the same environmental triggers still ignite the same fiery response.
Insight broadens understanding that becomes a valuable tool. The actual change comes from skilled use of the tool. We eventually must face the demon and make a different choice, not take that drug, wait to make the purchase, study diligently for the test, or calmly consider our spouses point of view. The action, done over and over again, creates the change. Attentive efforts redirecting automatic impulses done repeatedly eventually creates the habit—change. If angry responses continually disrupt meaningful intentions, we must find strength to intervene; a quote may soothe my soul, giving an additional charge of strength. Addictions usually require a sponsor willing to share the burden.
Knowledge is wonderful but the painstaking work of change remains to be done. Insights illuminate old patterns but don’t eliminate them.
"Insight broadens understanding that becomes a valuable tool. The actual change comes from skilled use of the tool."
The waves of emotions flow from triggers in the environment, internal reactions to real and imagined events. Understanding this process helps interrupt the unhealthy cycles leading to undesirable consequences—broken relationships, criminal records, hurt feelings, and lost employment. By identifying errant beliefs, exposing deceptions, and fervently employing better behaviors, we transform futures.
We discover enlightenment not by reading but by living. Through living, we implement fragments of knowledge, forcing words to enter the world of feelings—where disciplines, impulses, and ego protection exist. Through mindful attention, behaviors, emotions, and sensitivities become clear, unobscured by the blinding biases. Unhealthy patterns become evident. At first, when unaccustomed to mindful living, only a few crumbs fall from the table of knowledge; with persistence, guidance and courage, we see the patterns materialize, catch them before they run their destructive course, and can intervene.
Insight provides momentary waves of positive feelings—a good place to start; but only by the sweat, blisters, and sore muscles of active engagement will we change the trajectory of our life.