Stop. Examine. Reconsider.

The first time a recovering addict thinks about relapsing and outsmarts the impulse, they’ve formed a additional layer of consciousness: a constant examination of why they might be driven to do something.

Most of us lack this. It’s strange that in our most formative period we were not taught to think this way. Remember back to when you were a teenager. It was almost exclusively a matter of whether some was or was not allowed. Never: “why are you doing this?” “tell me what compels you to get so wasted?” “have you ever wondered why you want a 26 year old boyfriend?

There is no prompting to question the desires themselves – only to check them against the posted rules and guidelines. This creates addicts. Addicts, losers, constant wall-crashers, the people who just can’t seem to function like the rest of us. It strips you have the ability to notice patterns in your own behavior – to catch what strikes impartial observers as being obviously reactions or connections. Most importantly, you learn to make a habit of trusting “the little voice inside you” long before its developed a track record of success.

As a child, parents often recognize this duality. Excuse him, he’s just upset because he hasn’t had his nap yet. And later, in adulthood, we tacitly acknowledge it all the time. The serial single are supposed to recognize what causes them to submarine relationships and men are expected to resist the humorous temptations of their mid-life crisis. But where are these skills taught?

Certainly nowhere I’ve ever been. In fact, we pay lip service to the opposite all the time. Go with your gut. Do what feels right. Follow your own path. But we are the problem.

By definition, what addicts leave with is an ability that transcends the “self” in self-awareness. It is calling the credentials of your instincts into question – auditing them, forcing them to stand up under scrutiny. So while this might not technically be self-awareness, I think it is certainly a kind of self-respect. And do you really believe it’s available only to people who have hit bottom?

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.