self auditing
July 13, 2006 8:32 PM   Subscribe

How do you audit yourself?

We all have personal quirks, foibles and hypocrisies. How do you go about catching them? And what methods can be used to effectively change such behaviors, if you wanted to change them?

(I'm asking this as a fairly introspective and self-critical dude. I still struggle to change my bad habits. Am curious about how other people deal with this.)
posted by slipperywhenwet to Human Relations (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If you're Ben Franklin, you write copious diaries every day and rate yourself on a scorecard once a week.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:57 PM on July 13, 2006

It's an ongoing process, not a fix. Recognize first you'll never fully succeed, and that's ok. Don't try--strive.

The process includes always observing yourself as rationally as possible. This doesn't mean critiquing. Think more in terms of how your actions cause reactions in people and your environment, and go from there.

Stop applying an emotional bias and attachment to everything. I'm not saying be a robot, but don't let your emotions run you around to the point of a loss of sentience.

I'm not sure if these short statement totally mesh with it, but I find Stoicism to be the most appealing to my brain. You may as well.
posted by cellphone at 9:04 PM on July 13, 2006

Here's a game I like to play:

Sit anywhere and watch people walking by. Notice that each of them betrays a host of obvious traits that they're probably not aware of. Now imagine what about yourself is painfully obvious to everyone in the world except for you.

The buddhists would refer to this as "watching the watcher". Dangerously close to becoming overly self-concious, but a very useful exercise.

To be honest, simply noticing is, in my opinion, the most powerful exercise there is. Just taking stock, which few really seem to do can be a form of meditation. The asking of the question is the exercise. I quit smoking this way: I noticed everytime I smoked how it felt, and discovered that most of the time it was fucking disgusting, and eventually smoking became untenable.

Keep questioning.
posted by asavage at 10:19 PM on July 13, 2006 [5 favorites]

I think I'd start with one category -- one that seemed like an easy-ish one. Work, relationships... those would be too much for me, as a beginner getting a handle on the process. Food/eating? Too political. Health and fitness? Ugh, guilt. How about driving, as in driving a car?

What's a good driver, and what is not? How do I measure up to my own standards? And then, what do I think of my standards, now that I realize I fall significantly short? And what do I intend to do about my driving quirks, foibles, and hypocrisies? (I ought to pay some attention to what I'm doing right, I guess.)

Now that I'm thinking about it, even the 'driving' thing might bring too many faults to light. But it does seem that a narrower focus might be more manageable, and more useful, than a general examination of one's way of doing everything.

Thanks for bringing it up. I'm going to try it. I'll start really, really small.
posted by wryly at 10:30 PM on July 13, 2006

Make a list of what it is you like in people you know, and what you dislike about people you know. And then try to find ones that you either do, and wish you don't, or vice versa. I find myself exhibiting a lot of the traits that, in others, really irritate me. (And once you've identified ones to watch, it's a simple matter of thinking, "Oh no, I'm acting like Bob here!")

Perhaps not quite what you're asking, but I've found that just videotaping myself doing normal stuff shows that things like my posture, facial expressions, and even the way I talk is sometimes entirely different from how I thought I was coming across.

Not really an answer: I've long thought that it would be a neat idea to get a group of people (who already know each other) together and ask them to (perhaps anonymously) describe what they think of the others. Because you have no way of knowing how others view you, short of what they say.
posted by fogster at 11:28 PM on July 13, 2006

We all have personal quirks, foibles and hypocrisies. How do you go about catching them? And what methods can be used to effectively change such behaviors, if you wanted to change them?

I found mindfulness most useful in this regard. In a sense, the practice of mindfulness is both a method to catch, and to change behaviour. Here's what wikipedia says
Mindfulness is the practice whereby a person is intentionally aware of his or her thoughts and actions in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Mindfulness is applied to both bodily actions and the mind's own thoughts and feelings... Mindfulness is an activity that can be done at any time. It does not require sitting, or even focusing on the breath, but rather is done by bringing the mind to focus on what is happening in the present moment, while simply noticing the mind's usual "commentary"... Any activity done mindfully is a form of meditation.
This all sounds good, but I've found over-thinking it can be self-defeating. For me the key is to relax.

When relaxed, you become more aware of your actions, environment, and thought patterns. Moreover, by being relaxed, you have more time to notice lapses into bad habits, and so avoid them. Furthermore, you may find that not being relaxed is the cause of a lot of bad habits, and simply being more relaxed reduces the recurrence of such foibles.

I'm no expert in mindfulness, but it seems to me relaxation is easy to comprehend, not so elusive or unattainable a concept as focus, meditation or awareness. Not only do you not have to work to practice it, the practice itself is kinda the opposite of work. Just relax!
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:50 PM on July 13, 2006

One thing I've found that I've really been trying to do lately (and obviously failing, since I'm on MeFi) is live deliberately, in the Thoreau sense. If you do an action that doesn't have a purpose, decide why you did that action, and if you want to do it again. wryly's suggestion of picking something small at first is great - for driving, lets say, if you speed up to pass someone slow, & cut them off as you merge back in, why did you do it? Did you gain anything by doing that? Did you gain anything by honking at the guy in front of you who's 10 seconds slow starting up again in stop & go traffic? Whatever you don't gain by, or whatever seems empty (a lot of things will have trivial immediate satisfaction, but it gets easier & easier to look past that), think about not doing those again.
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:06 AM on July 14, 2006

Meh. MetaMonkey beat me to the punch. Damn preview, why do I never use it?
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:07 AM on July 14, 2006

This is pretty close to what I meant to ask here.
posted by salvia at 12:24 AM on July 14, 2006

Numbers. Measurement.

If you can't measure it, you can't change it.

Goals. If you don't set them, you won't make progress toward them.
posted by ewkpates at 3:45 AM on July 14, 2006

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