We won’t change what we don’t acknowledge

When it comes to my health, I always know what I’m supposed to be doing. I always know what I should be doing. I should be watching what I eat, doing all things in moderation, working out regularly and getting 8 hours of sleep.

Knowing all this stuff isn’t the problem. Never has been. It’s not like I’ve ever been lying in bed at night thinking, “if only I knew how to be healthy…”

My problem has always been acknowledging what I’m doing wrong. Accepting that there’s shit in my life that isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. Taking that on board and owning it.

That means staring down the fact that I like drinking wine, and I’m prone to doing it more often than I should. It means staring down the fact that I spend too many nights lying in bed till the early hours of the morning watching Netflix instead of shutting down and trying to sleep.

It means owning up to a lot of things that are pretty much on me. Which is difficult to do. Because it’s admitting where I’m wrong.

But health is just one area where this happens. It pops up in my marketing work. It pops up in my entrepreneurship, in my art, in my music, in my writing. I struggle to acknowledge what I’m doing wrong.

And the sad thing is, no matter how many good intentions I have, I am never going to improve in anything I do if I can’t acknowledge what has to change. When I do own up to things, it is immensely moving, and it makes me so motivated. When I don’t, I’m caught in stasis.

The most powerful words I’ve ever said to myself, are:

“This can’t go on.”

I’ve said those four words only three times in my life.

Once when I was at law school, hating my life and myself and slowly drinking everything into oblivion.

Once when I was living next door to a McDonalds’ and eating there almost every day.

And once when I spent six months without creating, making , writing or building a damn thing.

When I’ve reached that point, every time I’ve reached that point, it’s had a profound impact. I’ve admitted that where I’m going, and what I’m doing is going to fuck me up, and in acknowledging it, I’ve been able to effect a huge change.

I talked about this recently with a tech founder. She’s building an app, and she’s a solo entrepreneur, and she’s struggling to get the work finished. We walked through her process, and her workflow, and her project management, and everything was pretty much in order.

Where she was falling down was she didn’t want to finish the app. Sounds weird right? She hadn’t acknowledged the fact that the entire purpose of what she was building was completely wrong, and it was approaching the problem she’d intended to solve in the wrong way.

She knew that. But she hadn’t acknowledged it. She was putting off finishing the work, delaying it, procrastinating, because everything was wrong and she hadn’t admitted it and owned it.

The only reason I was able to recognize that truth, was because I do this shit all the time. This past week, it hit me that the reason I’ve been delaying working on a new blog that I’ve wanted to establish is because I liked the idea of it way more than the reality.

Last month, it was acknowledging that the reason something always happened to come up when I was booked for a boxing class at the gym was that I can’t stand being in a fitness class — largely because when people yell instructions to me, my rebellious nature makes me want to lie down on the floor in protest.

Everyone does this. You. Me. Them. Everybody.

Nobody changes what they don’t acknowledge. This is a statement of absolute truth that extends from your health to your startup to the government.

You know how I enjoy sleeping in on my gym days when I know I should be working out? I don’t acknowledge that I forgot to set my alarm on purpose.

You know how to avoid that confrontation with your developer who won’t follow instructions and builds features you didn’t fucking ask for? Don’t acknowledge it.

You know the easiest way to avoid dealing with climate change if you’re a politician? Don’t acknowledge it.

But when a change has to occur, when you reach the point where you’re saying to yourself, “This can’t go on” — your first step is going to be owning, admitting and acknowledging.

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I’m a writer, a speaker, and a social media entrepreneur. Appeared and published in Business Insider, Inc.com, TIME & others.

Email: jon@jonwestenberg.com

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