The Whole Point in a 3-Word Sentence: Part 3

Venn diagram ABCD RGB

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Pop singer Britney Spears gained her second U....

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

The Whole Point in a 3-Word Sentence: Part 2

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.

Mug shot of Craig, 2007

Image via Wikipedia

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?

The Whole Point part 3


What do I mean by persistence when it comes to a time management system? I don’t mean willpower, because a PDA is an inanimate object. What I mean by persistence is the ability of the system to get in your line of sight and keep reminding you to pay attention to it. As you’ll recall from my last post, I had just gotten the secret government plans, no wait, different blog, I had just gotten a PDA which used the palm operating system, and subsequently my productivity dropped.
An important piece of information to have at this point is that I was replacing a classic sized planner. I carried that planner everywhere. It was full too. I had calendar, contacts, project lists, inserts, and forms I wasn’t even using but thought they looked cool. This thing had measurable effects on the tides.
As such, I never forgot it was there. I felt it when I was carrying it. I saw it when I put it down, because it took up a significant amount of space when open, and I heard the loud thunk made on my desk when I dropped it there.
In effect, it persisted in my attention and reminded me constantly that I needed to do what it wanted me to do.
Why didn’t my PDA do that?
I’ll tell you, because you’ve been so patient up to this point.
My PDA was in my pocket. If I didn’t remember to take it out of my pocket, it would stay there. I couldn’t slam it down on my desk for the obvious reason, and the beeps that it did make were on the pathetic side. There was no heft to it, no presence, no intrusion. It never got in my face to say, “hey, you’ve got something to do.
So how is my iPod different?
Find out next time.

Please, Don’t Tell Me I’m a Good Blogger

“Not to be cheered by praise, not to be grieved by blame, but to know thoroughly one’s own virtues of powers are the characteristics of an excellent man.”

-Satchell Paige

It makes sense to think that someone telling you you’re good at something is going to make you happy.  Who would object to being told they are handsome, smart, witty, a great athlete, etc..?  I know I don’t.  On the face of things, you would think such compliments would validate the effort you put into your appearance, intellect, and physical skills.  In a way, they do.  Someone telling you you’re smart after doing well on a test will make you feel good.  You may even start to believe that you are smart. but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

A very nice and brief summing up of the new literature on this subject comes from Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in their book Nurture Shock.  While what they are talking primarily about is how praise affects children, very negatively in certain cases, there is a lesson for adults.

Praise is a reward.  No surprise there.  The surprise comes in when you think about what you are rewarding with praise.  If I praise you for being smart, I am rewarding you for a state of being that most people consider to be static.  The image you have of yourself will be reinforced and become more important to you.  Now you’ll want to protect it, by avoiding situations where that image could be threatened.  You’ll take the easy way out.

If, on the other hand, I praise you for your effort or your decision to risk a particular technique, I am rewarding something different.  You know that sometimes you put in more or less effort than other times, and I am rewarding you for your decision to put in more.  If you fail, you can still reward your effort, or you can justify the failure by saying you should have put in more effort.  You are not your decisions, because you can learn from them.

So, if you like my blog, please say so.  Just don’t tell me I’m awesome.

Lazy is a Loaded Word

The word lazy has negative connotations.  Yes, I know, it’s a judgement word, but it is applied so unadroitly, that it become overgeneralized to anyone who’s not doing what you think they should be doing.

Merriam Webster defines it the following ways:

1 a : disinclined to activity or exertion : not energetic or vigorous b : encouraging inactivity or indolence <a lazy summer day>
2 : moving slowly : sluggish

Reading in the library, not lazy.  Reading while everyone else is playing whiffle ball, lazy.  Playing whiffle ball in the library, not allowed.  I checked.

It is not the activity itself that determines the label lazy, it is the perception of the appropriateness of that activity at that time.  In Psychology, and you’ll learn a bit of Psychology if you follow my blog, behavior is caused by internal and external factors.  The internal factor is your personality, some of which is determined by genetics and some is determined by past experiences impacting your biology.  The external factor is the situation.  Try playing whiffle ball in the library, and you’ll see that the situation often constrains behavior.