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An exercise to increase conscientiousness & goal-oriented behavior

Sep 12, 2019 | Posted by Cristina in Newsletters

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The text below was first sent to our newsletter subscribers, in August 2019. If you enjoy it and want more, subscribe here.

How do you want your life to look like in 3 to 5 years down the road?

How would you define success in each area of your life? What do you want from your career? What about family, intimate relationships, friends? Mental and physical health?

And the same questions in reverse: what would failure look like in those areas? In what ways would your life be insufficient?

What are the steps that will take you closer to your reality (or further away)? Why will it be good for you if you did those things? How will you keep yourself on track? What obstacles might come up and how would you overcome those?

This is part of an exercise called “Self Authoring” that I learned from Jordan Peterson – one of those authors that seem at the borderline of crazy and genius, provoking so many mixed feelings that you can’t decide if you’d recommend his book or not. Anyways, since I did find this exercise really helpful, here are more details about it:

1. Write your auto-biography (past authoring).

2. Write your plan for the future (future authoring) and articulate how you want your life to look like in 3-5 years.

Yeah, I know, it sounds simple, but it isn’t easy.

Why should you take your time and do this exercise? Because you need to know where you are, and where you’re aiming towards.

The first part of this exercise is important cause we can’t plot a plan unless we know yourselves. We have to be aware of the events that are important to us, those that shaped who we are. And we need to deal with past issues.

We all have skeletons in the closet, memories that surface negative emotions. That’s what happens when our brain still feels threatened by past events because we haven’t solved them. Experiencing negative emotions is our brain’s way of saying that we still feel threatened and, until we take apart and deal with those past issues, we won’t be able to free ourselves. They’ll come back and haunt us.

And we also need to know where we’re heading. Otherwise how will we know we’re on the right track? How will we measure our life and progress?

We need to be clear about what we want, and verbalize what we don’t want, what would failure look like.

Some people (and, for too long, this included myself – at least in some areas) are afraid to articulate what they want and what their goals are. I was afraid to clarify where I’m heading, perhaps thinking that I have more freedom this way, only focusing on the short term and healthy habits that are part of my daily routine. I think I wrote before about how I don’t enjoy setting New Years Resolutions.

That’s born out of a fear of failure: if we don’t define what success looks like, we can’t fail 🙂 We might be fooled to think it’s a form of freedom, but it’s a trap, cause at the same time it also means that we aren’t able to tell if we’re succeeding, if there’s any forward momentum.

Not defining what our goals are is a way of not taking ownership for our own future and it has negative consequences: it leads to being disorganized, impulsive, relaxed about time-keeping, quitting easily, and so on.

As Mark Manson was saying: while you may not be to blame for your situation, you are always responsible for your situation. And nobody else will rescue you. You need to deal with your own sh*t, you need to take responsibility and you need to fix it.

So take your time for this exercise. Just take a piece of paper (handwriting instead of typing will force you to slow down your thinking) and write without interruptions for 15 minutes what your life looks like right now, and what you want in 3-5 years from now. Completely disregard any spelling or grammar, it only needs to make sense to you.

You can also try to see yourself from the outside: treat yourself like someone you care about and comes to you for advice and you’re trying to help them figure out what they want.

Books to dig deeper:

1. Anything from the stoics 🙂 Stoicism is an ancient philosophy based on the principle that we don’t control everything that happens to us in our life, but we do control how we respond (it’s a framework that’s extremely practical in coping with stress and chaos).

2. Jordan Peterson’s bestseller: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos; Peterson is an author, clinical psychologist and psychology professor. In this book, he combined ancient tradition, faith and scientific research on human nature. You can also check out this video where he explains part of the Self Authoring exercise (it’s part of an online writing program he co-created).

3. A great book on how to lead and take ownership, written by a former navy SEAL, with lessons learned in combat and how they can be applied in…well, normal life. Most of you will probably hate it, cause you don’t want to hear those things that he talks about, you don’t want to hear that you’re responsible for whatever happens, and you’ll reject this book right from its first pages. That’s fine. Not everyone has to be a leader.

Extra food for thought: One of the best articles I read in a long time comes from Derek Sivers (an entrepreneur, writer and artist, author of a little gem of a book called Anything You Want). This is his article: My old clothes don’t fit (I connected probably because I see myself in a similar situation?).

End note: if these emails have a positive contribution to your life and you want to support our mission, you can contribute through a Patreon donation. It would be much appreciated!

Have a fulfilling weekend,

– Cristina

The text above was first sent to our newsletter subscribers, in August 2019. If you enjoyed it and want more, subscribe here.

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