One of the things you learn being in the military, is that one of the easiest ways to lose the respect of the people around you is to fail to practise what you preach. Everyone around you, whether the commanders above or the soldiers you are leading, is expecting you to not just talk the talk but to absolutely walk the walk.
It makes a lot of sense.
If you know the best way to do something, it’s hard to understand why you would choose not to do it. Practising what you preach is a way of demonstrating integrity. It shows that you really believe in what you say. In a world full of internet ‘experts’ and ‘influencers’, someone who lives and breathes their truth shines out.
Just as an aside, does anyone else hate the use of the term ‘influencers’?
Influence, true influence, is something you earn slowly and something you use carefully. Influence is only meaningful and valuable if it leads to positive outcomes for the person you are influencing, as well as for achieving the goals you are setting out to fulfil. Or am I just being a grumpy old man?
Maybe that’s a thought for another post!
Practising what you preach, walking the walk, or however you like to think about it, is easier said than done. Sometimes it’s hard to do the thing that you know is right. Sometimes the dietician really, really wants a donut. Sometimes, the fitness instructor wants to spend the day playing Mario Cart. Whatever it is that causes you to struggle to live as well as you know you can, there will be days where the temptation is just too strong.
Here’s where I like to add a second half to that old saying.
Preach what you practise. If practising what you preach can sometimes feel like obligation and struggle, preaching what you practise is about joy and sharing. Rather than starting from the position that you should decide what the right course of action is and then teach it to others, preaching what you practise is about working out how you fulfil your own needs, how you make life easy for yourself and how you solve the problems life throws in your way, and then sharing those skills.
When you preach what you practise, you start to build trust and to form a community.
The compassion you extend to others, you will have to extend to yourself and vice versa. Accepting that there are exceptions to best practise, accepting that there are times when having that cookie can be completely justified, gives you flexibility. There is an honesty to this, which is the antithesis of the impersonal dogmatic approach.
Being upfront, honest and enthusiastic about the way you live your life encourages you to live the life you want to live, but it does so through joy and enthusiasm, rather than guilt or obligation. To be able to do this and to share it with those around is a gift.
As is that extra cookie!