Make an appointment with your saner self

Most peo­ple have had the ex­pe­rience of be­ing able to ar­tic­u­late ad­vice that they them­selves do not fol­low, even though it ap­plies to their situ­a­tion as well. Usu­ally this im­plies that there’s some sort of in­ter­nal con­flict pre­sent—a com­pet­ing com­mit­ment that gets in the way of do­ing the thing that the per­son might con­sider rea­son­able. I have writ­ten much on tran­scend­ing and un­tan­gling in­ter­nal con­flict (see these posts) and I will write much more.

But tran­scend­ing in­ter­nal con­flict can be a lengthy, com­plex, and non-mono­tonic pro­cess, and in the mean­time you’re still sit­ting around with a bunch of great ad­vice you’re not tak­ing. A bunch of un­tapped po­ten­tial.

There’s a re­ally straight­for­ward tech­nique that can help with this:

make an ap­point­ment with your saner self.

Put an event on your cal­en­dar, and treat it with the re­spect you’d give any other ap­point­ment. Which is to say: show up. Or, if for some rea­son it turns out you can’t, then resched­ule for the near­est ap­pro­pri­ate time.

Then, when the time comes, take your own ad­vice. You can do this liter­ally—con­sider what ad­vice you’d give a friend in your situ­a­tion, then do that—or you can just do the ob­vi­ous thing. You can do this with spe­cific ob­ject-level situ­a­tions, eg “I need to get around to sub­mit­ting that ap­pli­ca­tion” or with more ab­stract things like “I re­ally should take more time to re­flect on my life.”

Or per­haps you’ve got a tech­nique that you know re­ally helps you, when­ever you do it, but you never seem to do it. “If I ac­tu­ally used the CFAR tech­niques, my life would be way bet­ter,” said al­most ev­ery CFAR alum­nus ever. Well, make an ap­point­ment with your saner self (the one who does the tech­niques) and then show up and do them.

Ways this can fail (and some sug­ges­tions)

Make sure you’re clear on what the ap­point­ment is. It’s okay to leave it open-ended when you make the ap­point­ment, but once the ap­point­ment starts, don’t take more than 5 min­utes to figure out how you’re go­ing to spend it. Or de­cide “I’m go­ing to spend it pri­ori­tiz­ing”. The key is not to let the time slip by while you won­der what the best way to spend it would be. Which of course you prob­a­bly know on some level. The point of this tech­nique is to tap into what you already know about how you can have a bet­ter life.

If you don’t have enough self-trust to show up for an ap­point­ment if there isn’t some­one else who’ll be left stood-up, then make an ap­point­ment with some­one else. Feel free to ar­range this in the com­ments be­low. I’ve done this with strangers and also old friends I hadn’t talked to in years (which was cool!). I recom­mend just try­ing a half-hour skype call, with a minute or two of “Hi, this is what I’m go­ing to work on,” then a 25-minute fo­cused work pe­riod (aka “po­modoro”) then a minute or two of “Here’s how it went.” Then if both of you want, you can con­tinue for more po­modoros, but you’re not com­mit­ting up front to do­ing it for hours.

Even bet­ter, you can make a cal­en­dar where peo­ple can sched­ule such calls with you, us­ing Cal­endly or you­can­, share it with your friends, and then lit­tle san­ity blocks will just au­to­mat­i­cally ap­pear on your cal­en­dar. I did this for awhile and it was great. Each time a call oc­curred, I just asked “oh, what’s some thing I’ve been putting off?” and I would get started on it.

If you don’t have enough self-trust to show up for an ap­point­ment if there isn’t some­one else who’ll be left stood-up, but you can’t/​won’t sched­ule with some­one else, then you could also try mak­ing a self-trust bet on this. Make sure to set a re­minder so the thing doesn’t just slip by for­got­ten.

If you don’t have a cal­en­dar or any other sys­tem that you can rely on at all… get one? As­sum­ing you have a smart­phone, you can get it to bug you at a time. You then just need to (a) pick a time that you’re likely to be in­ter­rupt­ible, and (b) when the timer goes off, ac­tu­ally shift into do­ing what­ever it was you set out to do.

Let’s go meta: maybe you already knew about this sort of tech­nique. Maybe you’ve done it be­fore, or maybe you’ve sug­gested it to other peo­ple. Do you use it as much as you imag­ine would be op­ti­mal? If not, ap­ply it to it­self! Make an ap­point­ment right now with your saner self, and use the time to try to set up a reg­u­lar event, or a you­can­ like I de­scribed above.

If the thing feels bur­den­some, then… this may not be the tech­nique for you. You want to find a way of think­ing about it so that you feel ex­cited to spend time with (i.e. as) your saner self. If you can’t find a way to feel ex­cited or at least en­gaged about it, then it’s not worth yel­ling at your­self about it. That defeats the point. Go read my post on self-refer­en­tial mo­ti­va­tion in­stead, and see if that helps.

Con­cep­tual scaf­folds and lo­gis­ti­cal scaffolds

The past few years, I’ve been part of a team host­ing an event called the Goal-Craft­ing In­ten­sive. It was a five-hour on­line work­shop on set­ting your goals for the year. Osten­si­bly, the main value of the work­shop was the in­struc­tion: pre­sen­ta­tions I made about goal-set­ting & plan­ning, an 50+ page hand­book, and chat-based coach­ing. Cer­tainly, few peo­ple would have paid money for such an event if all three of those as­pects had been ab­sent.

And yet… I have a sus­pi­cion that the main value of the event was the fact that each par­ti­ci­pant carved out five hours from their sched­ule and then ac­tu­ally spent it fo­cused on set­ting goals for the year.

Which is to say, if I imag­ine two peo­ple...

  • Allie buys the pre­sen­ta­tion videos and the hand­book plus the abil­ity to get some chat-based coach­ing.

  • Barry buys a ticket to “Open Goal Set­ting After­noon” which is just a 5-hour solo-work con­text of some sort.

Who would have a more goal-di­rected year?

My money is on Barry.

Why? Our goal-set­ting con­tent is ac­tu­ally quite good, but Allie would prob­a­bly never ac­tu­ally open the hand­book at all, let alone watch the videos. And even if she did, she would be likely to read it part­way and then say, “Hmm yeah I re­ally should do these ex­er­cises” …but still not ac­tu­ally do them.

Whereas Barry, who only has his own ad­vice to take, is at least tak­ing the time to do the best he knows how to do.

And that’s what counts. That’s why even though the Goal-Craft­ing In­ten­sive is 5 hours long, only about 10-15 min­utes of each hour is pre­sen­ta­tions. Then I mute my micro­phone, to give each par­ti­ci­pant the rest of the hour to fo­cus on what­ever seems most im­por­tant to them—which could be the tech­nique I just de­scribed, or it could be some­thing to­tally differ­ent!

We’re run­ning the Goal-Craft­ing In­ten­sive again this year. So if you think your year could be im­proved by tak­ing 5 hours to set some goals and de­sign some sys­tems, then come join us on Feb 23rd or 24th, and we’ll give you both good ad­vice and time to take it.

And I’d love to hear be­low more tech­niques for tap­ping into ones’ more ra­tio­nal self.

(Cross­posted from mal­col­mo­

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