Attend your ideal.
As I said in part one, the most important aspects of successful productivity can be encapsulated in one, three-word sentence. “Attend your ideal.” This time I’ll be starting with the last word, ideal, because it’s better to know where you are going before you start the trip.
The concept of the ideal self comes from the work of E. Troy Higgins in his hot and steamy, at least to psychologists, Self-Discrepancy: A Theory Relating Self and Affect. Higgins, when not siccing his Dobermans on Magnum, built a theory for how we view ourselves. We have an idea of whom we actually are, whom we believe others think we are, whom we think we should be, and, among others, whom we want to be. We have an ideal self that is the person we want to be more than anything else.
When there is conflict between the different selves, that is when we have a problem. If whom we know ourselves to be is different from whom. we think others want us to be, a la Larry Craig, one of those selves has to win out. Usually, the actual self wins out, because the pressure to be whom you are is always with you. You are always there to remind you of whom you are. The other people in your life are not. Which brings us to the self that we want to win this little contest, the ideal self.
Now you may be saying, “but wait. Don’t we want to accept ourselves and be whom we are and have our actual self win the psychological cage match going on in our skulls?” To which I say, “no.” Although I would hasten to add, “maybe.”
Some people are happy with themselves, their lives, their jobs, how much they make, who their friends are, and whom they are. Those people have actual and ideal selves that overlap to a greater degree than most. The question for you becomes, “to what degree do your actual and ideal selves overlap?” It is the non-overlapped part of your ideal self that you want to focus on, because that is whom you want to be that you aren’t.
The best way to illustrate why it is important to focus on the ideal self is to give you an example. I want to be a professional writer. Currently, my actual self does not believe that I am a writer. My ideal self is that I am. Writers write. If I focus on my ideal self I will write…which I obviously am right now. If I focus on my actual self I will be eating chips and salsa. My actual self seems to be hungry.
Another way to look at the ideal self is to consider it the personal manifestation of all of your goals in every area of your life. I want to write a book. That goal’s manifestation in my ideal self is that I am a writer. I want to lose 10 more pounds, and that is manifested in my ideal self as me weighing 165.
Which brings me to the point where I tell you what I told you. To be someone else, you actually have to behave as that person you want to be. You must find out what that person does and do those things. If that person exercises three times a week you must exercise three times a week. If that person is a web designer, you have to design websites. You must tell yourself you are that person, and then keep telling yourself until you believe it. You have to let your ideal become your actual.
Which brings me to the second word, “your.” Next time I’ll talk about how to prevent your ought self from creeping in and sabotaging the process. You know you should be moving toward your ideal self, but what is it?