Vapid – offering no stimulation or challenge, insipid, flat, dull or tedious.
Vacuous – lacking in ideas or intelligence, mindless, stupid, inane or empty.
Vague – having uncertain, indefinite or unclear meaning, imprecise, inexact or unfocused.
Be Yourself – a catchcry of the self-help and life coaching industries.
Which ‘v’ word would you apply to the catchcry ‘Be Yourself’? You might consider ‘Be Yourself’ in more directly positive terms – valid, valuable, venturesome or virtuous. Actually, ‘tis nobler thinks one of the first three – vapid, vacuous and vague – is positive, fundamentally and inescapably positive.
And that word is vague. Vague isn’t vaguely positive, it’s very positive.
It can be good sometimes to know exactly how you’re going – whether learning or changing – but do you really need to know exactly? There is a body of evidence that indicates that precision of feedback can have negative consequences; knowing exactly leaves you little room to ‘be yourself’ as a learner or changer, leading to motivational and/or attitudinal problems. It’s also another argument against ‘spoon-feeding’ for your (perhaps) messy contribution to your own learning is supplanted by a more defined yet less effective contribution from an outsider. The traditional teaching and training model sees vagueness as an enemy, replacing it with concise definitions and clear prescriptions. This model replaces your vagueness with its clarity to the detriment of your learning.
Can you see how vagueness relates to effort? From the fuzzy logic of the real world, you create and validate patterns through your own efforts and these patterns guide your behaviour. The fuzziness, though, is never eliminated. This is where the real value of ‘being yourself’ can be demonstrated, just as Audioslave do in these lyrics;
And even when you’ve paid enough, been pulled apart or been held up, With every single memory of the good or bad faces of luck, Don’t lose any sleep tonight, I’m sure everything will end up alright, You may win or lose, But to be yourself is all that you can do ……
If you think it through, ‘be yourself’ is positively vague and therefore very positive. If you don’t think it through, then ‘be yourself’ is vaguely positive and therefore very irrelevant (just like most other things are when you’re a passive recipient).
The only way to deal with vagueness is to find your own way, not once, twice or occasionally but each and every time. There is nothing vague about that.