Change The World By Practicing What You Know!

Cathy Cassani AdamsYou believe in self-awareness, compassion, joy, love.  You understand the importance of self-care, you adore reading (insert any teacher or self-help author’s) books, and you love a great inspirational quote.

You can analyze yourself, even offer up observations to explain why you do what you do, but you keep doing the same thing – making the same choices, dealing with the same issues, going round and round the same wheel.

So the question is: are you practicing what you know, or are you just knowing what you know?

You read an inspiring book or article, feel like you “got” it, and then proceed to tell others all you have learned.  Or you have a life altering experience, feel like you “got” it, and proceed to tell others why they should do what you do, or what you did or what you are going to do.

The bad news (or good news) is there is no “got” it.  There are no absolutes and there are no perfect plans.  There is only moment by moment living, and within these moments you make choices.

You notice your ego, you notice your need to be right, you notice your need to win – but instead of identifying with these “needs”, you step away and you choose differently.

You know it’s important to be generous, but do you practice generosity (with your time, patience, love)?

You know it’s helpful to meditate or do yoga, but do you take your meditation/yoga off the mat and practice balance in your everyday life?

You know it’s wise to love and forgive, but do you act loving toward your husband when he is late or your wife when she forgets something? Do you forgive your children or your parents for their mistakes or do you constantly remind them?

We cognitively know what feels good and what makes life inspiring, but too often we think it instead of practice it.

But to practice it, we have to be conscious of our choices – if you live on autopilot or move from thing to thing with no presence of being, it is difficult to be loving, generous or compassionate. Living on autopilot recycles the same story, the same defensiveness, the same challenges and the same outcomes.

And before you say, “I can’t, that’s too hard, I can’t be expected to be conscious all the time!” Let go of  “all the time” and just try now.

Quit making a “plan” to be different and just know there is no right time or perfect way. Let go of your most recent not-so-great choice and choose differently here.

Just as important, let go of the need to tell everybody else how to do it.  It’s great to support, share stories, ideas, suggestions, but then let go and trust that others will find their way.

They can’t and shouldn’t do it just like you, because they aren’t you. Only you are you, and only you know what is best for you.  The way to teach others is to practice being you so others are inspired to be them.

Reread the quote on your fridge or your Facebook page and live it.  Don’t look to others to live it, you live it.  And when you don’t live it, forgive yourself and move forward.  You have plenty more choices ahead.

And when you think you “got” it, remember that life is not an academic or thought-based experience, it’s a real-time experience.  A great quote, story, or book can direct you to a path of greater contentment, but it’s the practice in the moment that actually changes the world.




Cathy Cassani Adams, LCSW, CPC, is the author of The Self-Aware Parent, the host of Zen Parenting Radio, a columnist for Chicago Parent Magazine, and a blogger for Chicago Now.  She’s a self awareness teacher and yoga instructor in her community, and she teaches in the Sociology Department at Dominican University. Find Cathy on Facebook (The Self-Aware Parent or Zen Parenting Radio) and on Twitter (@selfawareparent or @zenparenting) and on her website

  • Andreamandy

    Great article, thank you so much for it. I just realized reading it, I have lately so much wanted to share (and I do) with others what I learned, and I do practice it as well. I can let go of the meditation for a day or the yoga mat to actually be out there and help and teach and do what is needed. The one thing I haven’t thought about was, tell others and then let it go. Don’t say it over and over, they have to find their way. But that is how we learn, by being a student and teacher, day by day. 

    • Cathy

      Agreed – the hardest part is sharing and then detaching or “letting go with love” – this kind of work is an individual, inside job – our job is to work on ourselves and allow others to do the same. thanks for your comment!

  • Marymock

    This was a great blog. My Spiritual Journey is leading me on the paths where I’m applying more being and living now to my life than before. This blog is a great inspirational pep-talk to be reminded to use in my life what I have become more aware of to benefit and help others. Today, my daughter and I are helping a friend at school with her tea party for mothers and daughters to promote literacy. Now that I know to live in the moment and make better choices, there are so many positive and beautiful outcomes on the horizon than I ever imagined. Thank for this post! – <3 Mary

    • Cathy

      As you said Mary, it’s the moment – not the “plan” or what we will do tomorrow, but what we do right now that matters.  Thank you!

  • tedge

    AMAZING Article!!! Thank You!!!!!!!!!

    • Cathy

      thank you, Tedge! 

  • Aniaram

    Thank you Cathy. This is exactly what I needed to hear.

    • Cathy

      so glad Aniaram – sometimes I need to reread it and remind myself….it’s a work in progress. 🙂

  • Didijoy

    Love this: A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step: :-))))))))))
    actions become your destiny. This makes it do-able thx!!!!

    • Cathy

      so true!!

  • Bethie

    Thank you for this!!! Perfect for what I needed to hear today 🙂

    • Cathy

      yay! Hope you have a great day Bethie.

  • Ehinsd

    Cathy, I do continue to do the same thing and get stuck. I know that living moment by moment is the key, and oh, I got it. The cycle continues. How do you practice it too remain in the moment? This is my work.

    • Cathy

      just awareness – whenever I feel frustrated or sad, just noticing, being aware, really noticing, breathing, letting it go.  And even more important, taking in the good moments instead of pushing them away or not acknowledging them –  I want to feel them as fully as possible, even when it feels really vulnerable.  Thanks for asking!

  • Georgia

    You rock, Cathy!

    • Cathy

      your rock, too Georgia!

  • Craig

    Nice! Knowing “it” versus living it means moving from the head to the heart.

  • Ksenia

    Oh, thank you so much, I really needed that today!

    • Cathy

      so glad Ksenia – thanks for reading!

  • Liz

    So very true.  This applies to all of us who are trying to evolve and grow into a healthy, balanced, loving life experience.  Thank you Cathy.

    • Cathy

      I agree – it’s “walking the talk”.  Thanks for your comment!

  • Angie

    This post really hits home for me today. Thank you.

  • I love it: “Let go of all the time, and just try now.”  

    This post reminds me of my blog post… I thought I learned so much from a relationship I was in when I was 23.  I wrote all about it in my journal at the time.  It was through reading it now, that I saw that I’m still doing the same things in relationships at the age of 34!  I THOUGHT I learned, but I’m still doing the same stuff.  Still expecting others to be who I WANT them to be and not necessarily who they ARE. 

    I also loved the part about “letting go of the need to tell everyone else how to do it.”  Admittedly, I do that more than I wish I did.  I think “I know best” so why don’t others listen to me?  Quite the arrogant attitude, I know.  I’m reminding myself that others are on their own path and have their own purpose.  They choose to do what they do for their own reasons…ones I won’t always understand.  And that’s ok. 

    As you said, I need to focus on me and living what I believe in.  🙂
    Thanks for the great post!  🙂


    • Cathy

      Sarah – I agree – sometimes I think I “got” something and then it shows up (in a completely different way) once again – it’s just awareness and practice, practice, practice.  And I have also had to learn that everyone is on their own path – as a therapist/coach I initially believed that I should be “fixing” people, when really my job was to support, encourage, love, and then let go – that’s their path, their responsibility, and they should get full credit for all of their hard work.  Thanks for your comment!

  • Anonymous

    I have been pondering this for a while now and this article was very insightful. Thanks!

  • Faith

    oh my gosh, this is so perfect for me right now!  I had a session with my spiritual life coach over the weekend and what surfaced was my belief that I am a hypocrite and therefore unable to inspire others and therefore not moving forward in my career or in life!  What I mean by being a hypocrite is exactly what you are talking about here.  I can talk the talk to others all day long but I so often am not Living it! The choices I am making are not in alignment with what I say I believe and the beliefs/values I say I live by.  So then I judge myself and feel ashame which keeps me stuck on this hamster wheel. In my session, we made a list of new choices I can start making NOW to walk my talk.  My list is 1. take risks 2. have faith in myself  (” I am and I can”)3. allow myself to be human 4. BE,  present in the moment

    thank you for driving this lesson home to me, so perfect =)

    • Cathy

      Faith – love the coincidence, and I love your list – especially #4 – that’s the key to all of it… 🙂