One axiom of behavior is that we tend to enjoy doing things that we perceive we are good at, and not enjoy things that we perceive we aren’t good at.
And we do more of the things we enjoy.
This principle often explains why we avoid doing new things: if it’s new, we may not be “good” at it yet. So we avoid it. Then we don’t get better, so we still avoid it. And because we perceive ourselves to be not good at it, we don’t enjoy it, which makes us avoid it more.
Here’s the question: how do you even know if you’re good at something?
Seems like a pretty crucial question to ask, right?
Typically, we assess this in two ways: by looking at process or results.
We may consider ourselves good at something if we are able to do the process the “right way.”
The “right way” may be an issue of technique: following a method that someone else outlined.
We might feel that it’s something we do with ease; it comes naturally to us.
Perhaps we judge the process based on the result: we know we’re doing it the “right way” if we get the result we expect.
This opens more questions, which we’ll get to in a moment.
- How do you know if you’re doing it the “right way”?
- Who is responsible for determining the “right way”?
- What makes that person the authority on the “right way”?
- What if there is not a “right way”?
- Is it possible there might be more than one way?
In school, in our family units, and from thousands of things we absorb throughout our lives, we often absorb the message that there’s a “right” way to do things.
Consider: What if there isn’t just one “right way”?
We may consider ourselves “good” at something if we are able to get the result we expect.
Also, as noted above, we may judge ourselves as doing something the “right way” if we get the result we expect.
For purposes of this inquiry, “result” can mean the “final” result or “progress.”
- What (or who) is informing our belief about the result we’re expecting?
- What does the result (or progress) look like?
- If the result (or progress) is more of a feeling than a tangible thing, how do we know what it will feel like if we haven’t experienced it?
- What’s our expectation about the timeline in which we expect to achieve that result?
Questions About Results Are Often Questions About Timing in Disguise
If I plant a seed today for a flower, and I return tomorrow and the flower hasn’t materialized, does that mean I’m not good at planting?
Does it mean I’m not planting the seed in the right way?
Only time will tell.
Flowers take time to grow; the only issue is with my expectation about the time-frame of the results I’m expecting.
Often, a belief about whether we have achieved certain results or made progress is really a belief about the timing of the results or progress.
There’s a long road from initial action to results. This is true if you’re planting trees, making wine, developing a meditation practice, creating a body of work, raising a child, or anything else worth creating.
- What if the results you’re expecting aren’t realistic for your time frame?
- What if the results you’re expecting are based on someone else’s experience, and not realistic for you?
How Do You Know If You’re Good At Something?
This takes us back to our initial question: How do you know if you’re good at something?
What if you don’t know? What if there’s no way to judge it?
What if there’s no such thing as being “good at” something?
How would you determine whether you enjoy it?
This emerged from a conversation about meditation, but it applies to so many areas of life. I’d love to hear what comes up for you. Please share in the comments.