October 12, 2023

Tips vs. Tools: What Really Helps you Make Change?

Ever struggle to implement tips on how to change your life? This article explores the difference between tips and tools, and how each plays a unique role in helping you take action on your goals.

Christina Mengert

Tips versus Tools: What Really Helps You Make Change in Your Life?

One thing many of us have in common—complement of the human condition—is the awareness that something in our lives needs to change.

But how does that happen? It’s one thing to think about changing; it’s a whole other thing to actually change (as Spinoza famously said, “good will is not enough”). And as we all know, some aspects of ourselves and our lives are easier to change than others.

The first law of thermodynamics tells us that the motion and trajectory of an object will stay the same unless acted on by a force. So when we discover this desire for change within ourselves, where do we find the necessary force for change? And why are our efforts so constantly frustrated?

When I type “tips for well-being” into my internet browser, it returns more than three billion results. That’s a lot of tips! So clearly, we have tons of ideas for how we might change to become happier and healthier. And of course, these tips are generally reasonable: eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and spend time with people you care about. Nobody’s going to argue that these things aren’t conducive to well-being. And a tip can be helpful. For example, one tip to help people sleep better is to keep electronics out of the bedroom. It’s a really good tip, if you can find a way to make yourself do it. So why is a tip often so difficult to realize in one’s life?

A tool, on the other hand, is generally understood to be something we use to carry out a particular function. A pencil, for example, is a tool to help carry out the function of writing, with the ultimate goal of communication. So in order to change, it’s helpful to:

a) Have an idea of what the goal is (i.e., what you’d like to happen)

b) Have a sense of the functions that may be involved

c) Understand what tools will be needed to carry out that particular function

This is a little abstract, I know. So let’s take one simple example to illustrate the difference between a tip and a tool.

One of the most common tips for well-being is to “eat healthy.” Cool. Great idea. I mean, I really want to eat a cupcake tonight, and I’m kind of in this habit of eating take-out lunch with my coworkers twice a week, and next week is my sister’s birthday and we’re planning on a big family dinner, so… but yep, I’m going to eat healthy. I may even make a chart of my food intake, or read some diet books. But what function might be involved in that change I want to make?

Well, one function associated with change might be growing in awareness. So if I’m working with a well-being coach, and one of my goals is to eat healthier, my coach might suggest a tool to help me grow in awareness.

I might do some journaling around my eating habits so that I can become more aware of my unconscious motivations; I might contemplate my relationship with my body, or the relationship of my body with our global ecology.

These are all tools designed to foster awareness, so that function can operate more fully within me. That awareness then acts as a force (to return to the first law of thermodynamics) that then helps move the object (in this case, me!) into a different direction.

There are other functions, and many other tools, that Anthropedia clients and coaches use as they do the dynamic work of change and growth in well-being. The Know Yourself series that coaches work through with clients allows us to look at the deeper engines driving behavior (psychological, physiological, spiritual) so that we can utilize the natural and helpful tools of well-being.

One interesting aspect of Anthropedia’s approach is that tools are built into the structure of Know Yourself, so whatever changes we might want to make, there are useful and effective tools to help us grow in awareness and take meaningful action.

It’s not always easy, of course—but it’s comforting to know that at least we’re not trying to build a house (the house of our lives!) without a toolbox—and a solid foundation.  

Whether as a client or a as a coach, see how Anthropedia coaching can help you find the right tools.

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