(1) You use religion as a salve for your conscience.
You go to church. You worship your God. You tell people “I’ll pray for you.” You pass along the dreaded e-mail prayer chain. Beyond that, however, you lead the same self-centered, hypocritical life you’ve always lead. But since you go to church, it’s fine. After all, you’re forgiven. Or you’re saved.
You allow the construct of religion to keep you from being an authentic person. Even more problematic, you use religious beliefs as a means to support your pettiness, your prejudices, your political preferences, your agenda.
(2) You believe watching/talking about something is the same as doing something.
Did you see the beautiful video of the dog that was rescued from the garbage dump? How about the one of the soldier who was reunited with his family? Those made you feel great, maybe even brought a tear to your eye.
Here’s the problem. You didn’t participate in that. You just watched it. But you triggered the emotional response in your brain that makes you feel as though you did something altruistic.
I told my family I was going to write a novel. They thought it was a great idea and applauded this endeavor. That was a year ago. Still no novel. Same problem as above. By telling people my goal I triggered the same emotional response as actually accomplishing my goal. This, in turn, diminished my desire to follow through. I already received the emotional reward.
(3) You believe you need validation to act.
You know what you can do. But you are reluctant to do so because you haven’t been granted “permission”. After my last article for Thought Catalog I was contacted by a young man who was knowledgeable about computers but was stuck. He was waiting to accumulate enough hours to receive his technical degree before applying for a job. “Screw that” I told him. Start knocking on doors right away. Don’t wait for a paper that says you are qualified to do something.
(4) You believe being against everything is the same as being for something.
Here’s an interesting exercise. Make a list of everything you are “against.” Then make a list of everything you are “for.” I would wager that the list of things you are against is much longer than the list of things you are for. Find a cause-something you can really get behind. Focused energy on one positive endeavor is better than dispersed energy on an array of negative things. Instead of protesting a certain issue, champion the opposite of that issue.
(5) You develop hard opinions on issues/people/events you know very little about.
I don’t know shit about global warming. But I have a position on it. I know damn little about welfare reform or Lady Gaga or immigration or trickle-down economics or juice cleanses or Bill Belichick. This hasn’t stopped me from spouting an opinion about each of them.
And most of what I know I learn from my preferred news sources. I have contrived my own personal echo chamber. You have too. The challenge is to constantly doubt these beliefs and test them.
(BONUS): You don’t believe any of these apply to you but you can’t wait to share them with someone you think would benefit.