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Part two of this series kept me up late finishing it. As a result I had it in my mind when I went to bed, and I ended up having an interesting dream about it. In it, I was a psychic detective who was trying to determine the connection all of these people had to making it rain. What I realized in the dream was that if I collapsed all of the places it rained (everyone lived in a different place), it rained every day. What this dream made me…understand?/realize? about the ideal self concept is that each of these different selves is responsible for behavior at different times, and if we collapse our behavior across these selves, we get who we are in total. Of utmost importance, then, is that we know which of our selves is driving the car and when. So, on to the next installment…
Attend your ideal.
It’s easy for me to say that you need to personalize your ideal self and your goals. That’s kind of a throwaway statement, like “do your best.” It doesn’t tell you where to go from here or how truly important it is to your productivity to know yourself as well as you possibly can. I’ll keep coming back to this topic in the future, but for now I’ll mention two different areas that you really need to focus on.
First, you need to get an accurate picture of your strengths and weaknesses. To do this, you need to do more than just sit on your butt and think about it. What you need to do is sit on your butt and go to Marty Seligman’s website. Marty, if I may call him that, is one of the biggest names in the field of Positive Psychology and has put his Strengths test online at the remarkably low price of free. From personal experience, I can tell you it’s remarkably accurate. My profile ranked modesty and humility very low. Uncanny.
In addition to strengths, you can get a measure of your optimism, happiness, grit (perseverence), and some relationship stuff as well. Yes, that is the scientific term.
The reason you need to know your strengths and weaknesses is that, while it is important to know what you should be doing, it’s more important to know what you should not be doing. There are a few things, maybe a good number, that you are good at, while there are an almost infinite number of things that you are not. It’s important to know to what you should be saying no, because sometimes it’s not easy to tell. An economics example will make it all clear. Ha ha, I used economics and clear in the same sentence.
This is an example I read once, don’t remember where, and am too lazy to track down. Oh, all right! Give me a minute…nope. Let’s consider Alan Greenspan and Britney Spears. Let’s say Alan can produce 150 points of economic shepherd goodness and 100 of singing goodness, and Britney can produce 50 for economics and 80 for singing. By these measures, Alan can sing better than Britney, which may be true for all I know.
Not the best economist in the world
But just because Alan can sing better than Britney, doesn’t mean that he should have stopped being Chairman of the Federal Reserve. He should have stopped that, because he was bad at it. If they both do what they are best at, it creates 230 productivity units. If they switch jobs, they create only 150, although we are robbed of a likely humorous and ironic version of “Ooops, I did it again,” from the man who helped give us the housing bubble.
When we consider just ourselves, we have individual strengths competing with each other. We need to let the strongest one win, and we need to stay away from the weaker ones. It doesn’t make sense to work on those weaknesses, because that just takes time away from using your strengths.
The second area you need to consider is what motivates you. Human beings are motivated by some very similar things at the most basic level of our needs. None of us wants to be hungry. None of us wants to not have shelter when the weather is bad. What makes us animals is that we make efforts to address these needs. What makes us human individuals is how we address them, and what needs we have beyond them.
There have been several “higher” needs described in the field of psychology. Need for achievement, need for affiliation, and need for power are among the more popular ones, and they’ve been studied quite a bit. If you’d like to take tests to measure yourself on these go right ahead. I’m sure you can find them online.
There is, however, a shortcut for learning what your needs are. That shortcut is to figure out what motivates you. If what gets you off the couch is a chance to be with you friends, you likely have a need for affiliation. If someone tells you aren’t allowed to do something and that makes you want to do it even more, you are probably high in need for power.
The biggest advantage in knowing what motivates you, what needs you need to fill, is that you can use it as a carrot or a stick to complete the tasks that don’t motivate you. Not everyone is motivated to finish school assignments for the purpose of a good grade, or approval from friends, or recognition from their teachers. Some people are motivated to action to be able to be around people, some are motivated to escape. Use who you are to become what you want to be.
So two down and one word to go. This next one is a biggie too. Attention is the very thing that creates our world. Our senses take in everything, but it is attention that decides what we notice. This may be more than one post.
Good luck, feel free to comment, and make sure you sign up for my RSS feed to be notified when my next bon mots arrive.
The Whole Point part 4