The difference between You and Them.

What is the difference between what works (according to what “they” say you should do) and what works for you?

It might be the feeling you have about doing something, or the results that you get when you do it for a while.

That means it comes down to your experience, right, That, and your individuality. Someone could say “take this shortcut” but today, for you, it’s a detour.

Things like that happen to most of us, for our whole lives. UNTIL, we recognize the difference between Them and Us.

Perspective is Everything

We all get a lot of advice. Even when we don’t ask for it, we pick up on the experiences and opinions of others all the time. Your parents or neighbors or teachers or friends or kids have had something to say about the decisions you’ve made over the years, right?

That’s not even counting doctors or universities or town halls. Because we seek advice, too. How can it be that the very same people that try to act on your behalf (most of them mean well) are so often confusing issues, sending you down less than useful paths, and perhaps even distracting you from getting what you want?

That sort of thing happens to us, our whole lives. Until we recognize the difference between Them and Us. Which is mostly about perspective.

And since perspective is everything, it’s super important that we understand (and remember) the difference between your perspective (which hopefully includes a close-up view of how things are working for you) and others’ perspective (which probably is more about what works for them, or about what they believe).

Here’s how that works: you wonder what to do, and as you’re deciding, you look for input. How often is the input geared toward you, as the individual you are, versus generalizations, or the personal experiences of others?

The answer is: not very often. They can report how they researched and found drinking coffee (or wine, two of my favorites) provides these risks and these benefits. Only YOU can say if that’s how it works for you. They can say this is the best time to get married or the worst time to take a vacation… once again, are they living your life, do they have your goals or your tastes or your fears? No.

Look through your four windows.

A long time ago, I learned a theory about how we experience everything in life. It’s through our world view and our knowledge of ourselves and others. It’s based on an analogy using four windows.

I wanted to share this because it helps us understand our motivations, and draw some boundaries for our relationships and emotions, Especially when it comes to making decisions. It seems to me we all live much happier when we make what turns out to be good decisions. That work for us.

But defining what is “good” is so personal—we have so many choices, yet we don’t always have all the information we’d like to pick our path or actions. So, when I remember what window I’m looking through, and what window I’m being seen through by others, decisions get a bit clearer. I can know myself, and go from there.

Here’s how Know Thyself windows work:

Imagine seeing the world through four windows arranged two high and two wide, like there’s a + in the middle. The top two windows represent what you know about yourself/your situation, and the bottom two represent what you don’t know about yourself/your situation.

Layered over that, the left vertical stack of represents what others know, and the right stack what others don’t know. It might help to draw it out, so you have:

Top Left Window #1 = What you know about yourself that others also know
Top Right Window #2= What you know about your yourself that others don’t know
Bottom Left Window #3 = What others know, but you don’t know about yourself
Bottom Right Window #4 = What no one knows about you/your situation, including yourself

Draw your windows, and then put in specifics to help clear your view.

Typically, you can promptly fill out the first two windows. But do take the time to gauge whether you are working hard to keep something secret in your view through Window #2. And for # 3, are you overlooking something important about what others know? For that, you have to do research. “Knock on windows,” so to speak, and ask honest people who care, or find a few experts.

As for window #4, well, there’s usually no way to know that without looking very deep for what you might have been in denial about. We tend to get this #4 view a lot clearer by looking back. Which makes it easier to see, but potentially harder to deal with.

Window #4

You see, everyone might make requests of you, give advice to you, express opinions about you, and have expectations for you, based on their view through their own set of windows. But most of us rarely look down through the bottom right corner.

And this is where “Know Thyself” comes into play. That advice is credited to Socrates and engraved on the Temple of Delphi, where the ancient oracle made predictions. The Oracle (like all seers) would make predictions based on a view through the fourth window. She was willing to look where others were not.

You can be your own Oracle, if you know yourself. Because that puts everything into the first two windows, which give you the clearer perspective, and a more comfortable view for making your decisions, not based on what “They” say, but based upon what you make the effort to know.

The one where I’m the guinea pig.

Let’s use my decision several years ago to close my fitness studio and take a full time job writer for a health club company, as an example. I chose this path because my new full time job would pay me twice the money I was making in my business. Plus I was getting worn out doing both. It was a tough decision—I wish I would have taken a bit more time with it, and applied this view through the windows.

Window #1: I know, and others know, I lead a great community of clients at the studio, and I enjoy it
Window #2: I know I’m in a lot of debt, and I feel bad about it, like I could and should be earning more
Window #3: I inspire others, and in fact, many might not replace the exercise I offer (learned later)
Window #4: No one (not even me) that I was repeating a pattern: chasing income vs following my heart

I’m going to cut to the chase here. NO ONE could have knowingly advised me to stay my course and forgo the money, NOR to make a material choice and go for the security of the income, That decision was best made with information others didn’t have, and that I wasn’t looking at.

How could any of us know that the company I went to work for would close down in less than a year, and I would be jobless, and broker than I was when I had my studio?

Well, I might have seen that as a possibility, had I gotten a better look through Window #3… or if i’d been brave enough to clear the view through Window #4,

But I didn’t. And I do have regrets. However, it turned out okay. At least, that’s my perspective now. 🙂

I’m just saying: the difference between what others thought I should do, and what I really would have been smart to do, was always a matter of perspective. The peace is (and would have been) in knowing myself.

These days, I know one thing for sure: I am always learning.

If you’d like to learn along with me, you can get Permission Slips free to your inbox for a year. It’s another window to your potential.