What happens when our actions are misaligned with our intentions and our values?

Before I dive in, a brief aside. The way I started working on designing myself included (surprise!) a framework. I positioned it as three parts of my self: the drivers, the mind, and the body. Now that I've sat with this talk and philosophy for a while, I feel “drivers” could be updated to better account for the heart and the gut. These two parts are similar, but distinct.

My heart is a source of compassion and care. It is empathic. It focuses on feeling and emotion. My gut, in slight contrast, draws on my heart but also pulls on my experience, knowledge, and immediate, deep reactions to things. It's the part of me that “knows” if something is right or wrong, generally in the here and now; my heart is the part that knows how I will feel about that decision over time.

Got it? Great. Now then. Misalignment.

On a very cerebral level, misalignment occurs when your heart, gut, body, and mind are unable to make an idea, a concept, into something else. It may be due to attachment to a specific desired outcome. It may be due to fear. It may be due to anxiety. It might be all of these things.

Root cause analysis for my feelings

Lately, I've been quite misaligned: my mind has been in the driver's seat. Longtime readers and listeners know that for me, that's a common place to be; I've been seeking to actively change it over the past few years. But, as they say, old habits die hard and there is a comfort and familiarity when my mind is in charge that remains tough to resist.

When my mind is in the driver's seat I notice it in my body first. I've felt increasingly disconnected from it for the past few months. There's a lot less of the, “Wow! I can run a 5K!” type of feeling and more of the, “Huh, I don't feel much about my body” notion floating around my head. That's curious to me so I sit with these feelings and track them down. It's like a root cause analysis for my feelings, but way less analytical. I try to relax my inner critic and just listen. When it comes to matters of the body, the first thing I check is how my activity level has been. And I know that it's been low – I know it in my gut, and in my heart. I also check in and see how else I've been treating my body.

Once I've listened to what's going on, I quiet the desire to fix it immediately and consider how it all happened and how I feel about it all. That puts my mind at ease, and satisfies my curiosity... and also lets me address intentions: the things I know and feel in my heart and gut. In the case of low activity, it's a combo of (again) old habits and also new roadblocks I've put up in front of myself: I won't go out for a run today because... I'm getting used to a new schedule. I need time to adjust to all of these big life changes lately. And the classic, But there's so much other stuff to do on your to do list! Then, other parts of me pile on. It gets pretty noisy.

But bringing in the heart and the gut here is key. Because they know what's going on and they also know how I feel about the misalignment. They also help me realize that right now, it seems like my intentions and my actions are on two different planets. Because if I'm doing something or not doing something, and I can't connect it to something of importance to me, it becomes very difficult for me to proceed. I start to resist it. I fall back into old patterns and habits.

Are your habits valuable to you right now?

So, then, once a disconnection is identified and understood at some level, that's when I start to address it. This is tough because there's a reason I fell into the old habits, right? They're comfortable. They're known. They're valuable, for some reason. But I need to ask myself if they're valuable to me right now. And if they are, well, then that leads to further questioning. But if they are not – again, drawing on my intentions and my heart – it's like an action plan springs up before my very eyes. I start to feel like the parts of me that love to plan can start to do it. It gets more exciting.

That doesn't mean the changes are easy, and some are bigger than others for sure. But knowing why and how these habits return, understanding what they're doing for me, and ensuring they align with my intentions help me turn ideas into something more substantial – actions and plans.