On Self-Observation


It is 3pm in the afternoon. Today has been an exceptionally unproductive day, as days go by – unproductive in the non-busy meaningful work. I have done quite a bit of work – but most of them can be categorized as busy work – almost mindless, to-do stuff, admin stuff which needs to be done but is not very important in the long term. The kind of work which you do as an excuse to not do the harder, more important work.

And so by afternoon, when almost half a day is gone – I realized this. This is quite a breakthrough.
Almost always, I would go on the way I begin the day. and on a day like this, it is only at bedtime or even worse, the next day that i realize that my day was wasted.

Self observation (or meditating or taking a break from your thoughts and feelings – whatever you might call it) helped me today. I realized that I am feeling lazy, entitled and righteous. ‘I don’t feel like doing that work. Can’t I just get a day off. I work so hard anyways and I deserve to just goof off. I am so tired. But still I am doing so much work. Why are you picking on me?’ says me.

And then I know that it is one part of me, the lazy part of me saying this – especially since there is a whiny quality to this mental complaint. It is not wrong to get a day off, but it is wrong for me, today, because I am just giving in to excuses. And I know this because if I was truly tired, I wouldn’t have enough energy to complain. I would just be asleep.

Observing myself, knowing that I am mentally weak today, showing compassion to my whining brain, deciding to not give in to my complaints and do just one meaningful task today – I can still turn my day around.

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“When we become practiced self-observers we are less likely to trip ourselves up by acting out our hidden feelings, less likely to repeat self-sabotaging patterns and more likely to have compassion for ourselves and therefore for others.”

Philippa Perry in How to Stay Sane (The School of Life)

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