Sometimes there is nothing more honest than pretend Sometimes the costume peels away the facade At times my natural smile it’s more like makeup And I find that my proper speech is make-believe It is in those moments that I wear the mask of my true countenance That I run home to the privacy of my four walls That I play the role of the person the world asks not to see And so I walk as a fake me in the real world Relegating myself to fantasy
When do we become our own? Hatchlings from Athena’s womb What act of will is free And of what does freedom stitch its fibers? A man awake need not be conscious If in fantasy he suspends the sense No being possesses his action that doesn’t too his thought When do we become our own? Only when we lose our minds?
There’s a history of me being stuck to the same seriesof goals for most of my life. My journal and my blogs suggest this. Having this history really gives direction regarding what I’m really about just by means of consistency. If you haven’t read my previous post about journaling, go read that now. Regardless, it’s kind of an ad hoc way to state what I represent. And I’m trying to really be intentional here. It would be far more appropriate to define where I plan to end up and track my success at arriving there.
I’ve made some very clear outlines of what I want to be like. I’ve taken to identifying my role models and heroes. I’ve created the habit of paying a tribute to my better qualities. And I have creative daily habits to refine my activity to, and never were point closer to my ideal self. Now if I keep going down this path I could fill every waking hour with some self-development activity or another.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a little bit aimless. What I have now is progress for the sake of progress, and that feels just a little bit empty. Instead of taking that course of action, I will establish some of my viewpoints and statements of purpose. There are more than a few good reasons for this. Greg McKeown, the author of essentialism, reminds us that saying yes to something good means saying no to something essential. Without laying out my essentials, I will swim in good and drown in mediocre.
Asking the Tough Questions
I like to ask the question “what do I stand for” because it implies a few specific things to me. I would love to learn my purpose, if I have one, and live up to it but that requires knowing what it all means. I’m not quite clever enough to say with certainty what the meaning of life is. It’s just far too big an answer and also begs the question if the universe has or assigns any meaning at all. I can, however, figure out what I stand for.
It may seem like a much smaller question, something a little bit arbitrary, but that question actually exists on the same scale as what my purpose is. when one thing stands for another, it exists as a symbol, a placeholder, and avatar. If I stand for peace then I am a representative of peace wherever I go. If I stand for knowledge, then whatever I am I carry knowledge with me as a delegate of that grand construct. The question of what I stand for is a question of what ideal concept I am willing and able to represent at all times. Similar to the list of my qualities I intend to accentuate, this thing I represent should be something that comes quite naturally.
Drafting a Mini-Manifesto
What I am going to do is write a mini-manifesto. A manifesto is a document that clarifies and crystalizes a series of goals or personal ideology. A mini-manifesto is like a starter document. It will describe my aims and reasonings in brief as a way for me to reference my own motivations clearly. Often the idea of a manifesto comes off as being something reserved for weird or dangerous extremists, but in reality, it doesn’t need to be either of those. The entire purpose is to put the nebulous opinions, beliefs, and ideals we have in our minds into clear, static words. For this manifesto, I will choose to use strong action words. “I am,” “henceforth,” “unwaveringly” are all strong phrases I might choose to place in there. The document will also be broken into four main sections. A statement of purpose, a list of objectives, what I stand for, and my supporting ideals.
Statement of Purpose
To avoid the rabbit-hole or a flurry of desperate activity, I’m starting off by asking myself why I’m creating this document. The answer is simple enough. “This manifesto exists as a declaration of my will to become and remain my best self. I call this vision of my self my ‘Eidolon’, and I will become a living tribute to the best qualities I possess.” There, that describes the document, but this isn’t really about the mini-manifesto, is it? It’s actually about me. So I’m going to add a bit more language in there to explain why this matters so much to me. “I am doing this in an effort to live for and fulfill my own ideals to the degree that they deserve and the extent that will satisfy my what I demand of myself as a person.”
What I Stand For
In addressing the question of what I stand for, I like to discuss it in a way that sounds most in earnest. I don’t want to be a weak or lukewarm representative of my chosen cause or concept. I want to come 100% and at all times. The point isn’t to become a zealot by any means. The exact effect I am going for is to offer exemplary service to the idea in mind. At all times, it is my priority. Not that I’m obsessed or it makes no room for other thoughts or actions, but I demonstrate with sincere follow-through that this is number one on my list of things to do today (this is a great use for the priorities in the daily journal). This is something I’m devoting a significant amount of my attention to. “I, Devon M Scott, stand for Ethical Understanding. I will act in devoted service to what I stand for, being a representative to the qualities and ideal of what I stand for at all times.”
List of Objectives
I now need to set forth some clear objectives. Luckily I defined several when outlining my Eidolon. “I will live up to the name of the archetype of Warrior Poet. I will play out my role as the hero fulfilling my life’s quest. I will live in joyful appreciation and gratitude. I will seek and accept challenges. I will behave in a way that is disciplined and steadfast. I will avoid unnecessary confrontation, but always be courageous when confronted. I will honor my heroes, role models, and teachers by being a positive example of what they’ve instilled in me.” This list of objectives was luckily already pre-chosen before we began drafting this mini-manifesto. I’m going to add a few more that point to what I said I stand for. “I will seek understanding in others. I will seek an understanding of the world. I will seek an understanding of myself.” This is a good opportunity to really expand on what it means to stand for what I stand for. “I will present myself so as to be understood. I will resolve the conflict of misunderstanding between others.”
Finally, I get the opportunity to write out some of my ideals and create a loose ideology. This will include core values that I can tightly identify with. Personally, I think it’s important to avoid strong convictions. The world has too much gray area to swear by unbendable laws or intractable rules, but again, that’s just a personal preference. This section can get a little bit wordy. It should be strong and confident. Certainly, no one wants to write down adherence to something they only sort of believe in. Also, I’ll be careful to use strong logic. I don’t want to contradict myself, at least not in an overt way.
I’ll begin by stating some of my high-level ethics, “I believe in the sanctity of spirit, and the right of self-actualization. That all things have the right to express what they stand for. I understand the imperfections of an ever-evolving world, and I forgive everything along the way of its actualization for being as such incomplete. I recognize perfection as a horizon, not a destination, and choose to travel that way regardless. I wish to actualize myself, as is my right, and in doing so also pave the way for the perfection of others. I will do so with understanding as my tool and compassion as my guide. Where imperfection impedes the path of actualization for myself or for another, I will navigate the course to provide the least suffering and the most felicity with the fairest sense and sensibility. I will stand up for all things and creatures I find along their path and defend them from degradation.”
The above is my code of ethics in a couple of nutshells. I will add a bit more, maybe with some flowery language to top it off. “I uphold complexity over complication, contentment over contention, and salvation over suffering. I will support the sustainable organization of all things with which I engage in the name of the actualization of organization itself.” That should be sufficient for what I’m going for. This more or less describes something I can authentically try to live by proudly. Further, it gives me direction where a couple of days I didn’t really have much of that.
What To Do Next
A key thing to do now is to live by my mini-manifesto. I’m going to try to memorize it since it’s fairly short, and I will certainly leave it near my personal shrine. Personally, I think it’s key to sign it as well. There’s something symbolic about signing a contract to yourself. In case you want it, I’m going to provide a free template with prompts for the questions above so you can follow along with me and make your own mini-manifesto as well.
Here I am, pretty certain of who I want to be and how I want to be that way. This is a great situation to be in, and is vastly superior to my previous position in experience alone. Following up I will write about how I plan to maintain this sense of self and even refine upon and improve my experience over time. It becomes pretty simply from this point on now that all the hard thinking is done. The rest is action and follow-through, which is difficult in its own right, but now I have instructions to go by. And the best part is that nothing is new here. This is still just me, just with a focus on my favorite parts that were there all along.
The old saying goes that if you fail to plan then you plan to fail. I have created a personal shrine and also an accountability journal. If you haven’t read about those yet, go back and give them a browse. The problem I’m left with is that shrines are meant to be dedicated to something and to be accountable I have to be accountable to something. The next missing piece is a clear goal and a plan for myself. Broadly, the goal is to settle on a strong and confident sense of identity for my own personal development. That isn’t necessarily clear, however. Personal development is like fitness, it really depends on what you’re trying to fit into. Having something to actually do will certainly help.
I have a love/hate relationship with goals. I love them because I’m very good at laying them out and they are the only way I know to attain measurable, achievable success. On the other hand, I also ascribe to the idea that we spend too much time future thinking and not enough time being present and healthily spontaneous. For that reason, I like to remind myself of archery. There’s so much presence in drawing of the string, but so much aiming and visualization at the target. Both of those only come from practice and effort, but simply the effort of doing those things consistently. And once you are ready, you simply let go and trust that you set the shot up to get your arrow where you intended.
Setting Up For Success
I’m going to keep in perspective that my number one goal is to capture and reinforce a sense of my identity that I can “be” consistently. For this, I’m going to use some level of habituation to accomplish this. Habituation, in this context, I will describe as conditioning myself to hold my attitude in a specific state of virtues. For example with the virtue of kindness, a habituated person might seek opportunities to practice kindness to both make the act of kindness natural and to keep the drive to be kind remaining active. Habituation isn’t to create a habit; it’s to condition oneself into actively (not passively) sustaining is disposition. Why is this an important distinction? Habits imply a plateau and even risk fading. Deliberate action meanwhile can continue to improve over time.
There are a number of things I can do to best prepare my identity through habituated conditioning. What I most prefer through my own experience is to create an environment that reinforces the behaviors and experiences you want to have. In a previous post, I described creating a personal shrine. I briefly mentioned treating the space it’s in as a temple. Well, that’s exactly what I’m thinking of this environment as. A temple for myself.
Everything is prone to decay, so the environment itself must be maintained constantly. The benefit, though, is that because engaging with the environment also reinforces your world view, you are doing all the work you need to do on yourself indirectly. This is extremely powerful because working on your mind and behaviors directly is like maintaining an engine while you’re on the highway. You’ve already gotten in your own way. So the goal I will layout is to give and maintain an environment for myself to reinforce what I want and create a strategy to do so.
Outlining a Strategy
I generally create high-level strategies using the same system every time. I’ve used it for business plans, personal projects, family activities, and client consultations. It’s a five-part framework that covers all of the aspects of a project I need to consider and understand to ask informed questions. The five sections that define it are the purpose, the plan, the package, the parts, and the presentation. Each of these addresses a single dimension of a strategy as a compartment so as to keep it easy to think about and discuss. They interconnect but also stand alone in their own way, which makes it fairly easy to make adjustments. I’ll provide a template in this post down below in case you want to follow along.
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As I’ve already stated, the number one goal is creating and reinforcing a sense of cohesive identity. I will do this through designing and maintaining an environment that suits to culture my chosen qualities. I should make it clear at some point that the aspects of this environment are not all physical. Some will be social, others are conceptual. So I can clearly say that the purpose of this strategy is to “set up a series of structures with which I will engage constantly so as to positively influence my self-image, internal narrative, my experience of life, and behaviors.”
Next, I want to develop a very high-level plan. It will be about 7 or so steps. Too detailed and I will be forced into making too many assumptions. I’ll figure those things out later in another post. I also don’t want it to be too vague or loosey-goosey. It needs to be something that can be measurably followed. Each step will be outlined like a SMART goal so that it’s easy to track, but because this is all an experiment I will give myself lots of wiggle room for time. In short, I am going to make a kind of 3-dimensional vision board out of my space.
List activities I will do to advance my goals (at least journaling)
Choose a space to curate (preferably my shrine space)
Remove any objects that distract from what I’m visualizing
Clear space for easy comfortable entry and movement to so my activities
Create motivating reward conditions to associate with the space and accomplished activities
Find accomplices that support me (this can include my heroes)
If the purpose is why and the plan is how then the packages is the what. The package describes what this really looks like. In the end, I am the product here so I need to answer each of these from a very personal perspective. I need to describe what I want myself and my life to look like. Luckily I did that all here. Now I’m using my process to separate each of these into a particular facet of itself.
Problem: I felt a loss of personal identity, cohesive narrative, and purpose. I knew I wasn’t fully satisfied with myself and some failures I experienced so wanted to create a more potent version of myself.
Product: The personal experience of being a Warrior Poet on a quest, living a meaningful and challenging life of discipline, friendliness, and courage.
Price: This is a difficult one, both to figure out and to admit to. I need to change my relationship with shame and self-worth.
Pitch: When I am doing product development I mean this as a market pitch. Today, I’m going to use it as a convincing affirmation, visualization, or mantra. It will be “I am wise and bold enough to move courageously forward”
Point: This is the key value around which I’m doing everything. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that understanding is my core value. Understanding, being understood, and facilitating understanding in others. This is truly and exercise in truly understanding myself and expressing that understanding through life.
This is a list of all of the things I will need to accomplish my goal. Each one categorized by a specific domain. It will be its own goal to gather and organize these items. In practice, these will likely come as our first goal, but we needed to understand the reality of what I’m doing before I could honestly know what all it would take to complete this.
Places: I will need a place to place my shrine and to keep my notebook near my shrine. I will also want a writing surface. For the sake of my good discipline behaviors, I will need a place to meditate and to exercise.
Pieces: besides the shrine, my journal, and a pen to write in the journal, I will also need and offering jar for missed journal days.
Prizes: These are the rewards and motivations that fuel emotional involvement. I’m am progress based when it comes to motivation, so tracking alone will keep me invested.
Pipelines: this pertains to all the pathways from which things move from one place to another. Doors, windows, roads, etc.
People: I still need to identify my role model oh, that is my heroic inspiration. Besides that, I would like a coach to help me maintain my discipline, and an accountability partner, that is a friend who acts as a complement to the personality by trying to culture.
Processes: I will need to augment and maintain several processes in my day as part of my personal narrative. Chief among these will be my writing schedule.
Finally, this is the component that describes how, where, and when we want to complete this strategy. I will arbitrarily target completing this in 1 month (at the time of writing this, that means the start of June 2019). This gives me enough time to do something meaningful and is also short enough to not drag on forever. My area will be in my own den (an appropriate place for me to stage my “temple” space”).
So this lays out everything I need and I need to know to get started. Now all that’s left is to get started. Now that I have all the key points for our strategy written out, I actually work from the bottom up to accomplish it. I start with the presentation to make sure it’s clear and reasonable, which means a little research. After that, I’ll gather all of the parts together. I’m going to constantly re-affirm that the package is being worked towards as I execute each part of the plan with the purpose in mind.
The important thing is that just the act of working on this goal reinforces the identity, actions, and habits I am trying to encourage. To keep up with this I have a few other tricks I’m going to borrow from my consulting practice. I’ll get into that in my next post, but they will involve some key questions and ways to trim the fat on excess activities and objects. Meanwhile, if you’re following along try to create your own goal strategy for your own personal development and habituation.
I once heard the phrase that if you really want to know a person, look at their calendar. Seeing where a person spends their time and attention and which what frequency is a powerful way to learn their character, or at least where they are in life. As I’m currently trying to figure out where I am myself, it makes sense that I should be looking at my calendar. This would give me the opportunity to peer into my own activities and see where I spend my time, and if done right to see if my actions match my intentions.
In the last post, I described the concept of a personal shrine and beginning to have physical structures that reinforce your chosen sense of identity. A personal shrine is a concept I developed that is a type of focal point at which you envision your ideal self based on your favorite qualities. I choose this method over things like vision boards because there isn’t necessarily an actionable follow-up to a vision board. You sort of just leave your subconscious to do its thing. That’s not quite enough for me. A shrine, however, insinuates a type of vision board with a ritual action behind it. This gives both my subconscious and conscious minds something to do in the process of my self-development.
Daily Journal as a Ritual
Now this isn’t a shrine that I pray to or meditate under. While I appropriate a lot of spiritual and religious lingo, my ritual practice will be something that I can both feel and measure. The ritual that is put in place has to be both meaningful and relevant to the process we are trying to accomplish. It can’t be something arbitrary and still carry the same weight that is needed to advance me along my path. The beauty of having a shrine is to externalize my ideals. By returning to the shrine to do this ritual I have to answer to those ideals face to face, so to speak. This is psychologically pertinent, because the ritual will reinforce the “sacredness” of the shrine, and the shrine reinforced the habit of the ritual. The ritual habit I would choose for this is keeping a daily journal.
I have been a fan of journaling for a fairly long time. I have always kept a notebook to jot down thoughts, but in regards to actually planning my day and tracking what I’ve done I started that sincerely when I was 18 years old. As a result, I have a collection of my thoughts and activities going back several years. Every so often I review these notes and learn what changes I have made in my life. one thing that can come out of this is the tendency to find out that I’m more on track for an old goal than I had expected I’d be, or find out that I’m off course either because of circumstances or an intentional decision. This allows me to make very precise and informed alterations in my general direction.
Parts of my Exercise
Because I’ve kept the ritual for sometime, I started developing certain habits in my journal specifically for the purpose of tracking, reviewing, and holding myself accountable. Those habits are to create an hour-by-hour journal entry, a daily note, morning intentions, daily priorities, and a weekly assessment to keep myself on course. All of them together allow me to take and introspective view a vast and dynamic timeline all on a couple of pages. For example, the notes and assessment allow me to review my past. The logging in my journal give me a moment to process the present moment. And my intention and priorities allow me to navigate toward my future.
There are a series of rules I use for each section of my daily note-taking and journaling. These allow me to be consistent and, for the most part, objective. It is important to accomplish both of these to maintain some level of scientific record. That is, I need to be consistent to avoid so that I can compare my notes against themselves, and I need to be objective so I and know what I’m measuring in my progress. There are also certain check-in times I give myself with my journaling so that I can be consistent and take notes when they are fairly fresh in my mind.
I use this daily journal to track my day-to-day activities in a way. I choose to be as objective as possible when I’m making my notes. Wherever I am able I avoid saying statements such as “John said something that made me angry.” Rather I’d say something that describes the event without overwhelming personal bias or victimization. It would be written more like, “John said something. Then I became angry.” I don’t try to spend too much time here writing elaborate stories. Instead, I create a brief hour by hour log of my waking hours.
My notes are similarly short, but potent if I do it correctly. I find a nugget of wisdom in each day. Only one is necessary to consider the day a success or for it to have had a valuable event. Every day I feel I should capture at least one realization, quote, or a good idea. If I can grab it and write it down, then I can in a way condense my day into a single story moral. As a side effect, it’s also a great way to turn each day into a learning opportunity.
Setting a mood for each day in important to me. Intention setting is an effective way to do this, especially if you create a sort of mantra for that intention. I create a daily intention, preferably based on the prior day’s insights. Of course, this could also be the same intention each for a week, month, or year, etc. This is meant to be a broad but actionable mindset or philosophy for the day. Like “I will not become angry at small things,” or “I will do the most impactful work possible.”
I was once given the advice to decide on 3 tasks for each day that all become what I focus on for that day. If I accomplish any or all of them, then that day is a success. I choose 3 tasks that will advance me personal goals and do the most good for your life and what you care about. Also, I make sure they can be completed in a day through reasonable action. An important thing here is to be specific, and not say something too broad “work on my project.” Instead, I try to write down “complete the outline for my book’s chapters.” This means I have to make sure I have a clear idea of what “done” looks like.
At the end of each week, I give myself a simple assessment of my week’s progress, performance, and my personal experience of it. The result of this assessment is that I create an actionable plan for how to address those insights. I ask three simple questions that come out of the Agile methodology of software development. These questions are simply “what worked this week,” “what didn’t work this week,” and “what am I going to do about it?” Not only asking these questions but also acting on them in the following week is key for setting the next week of priorities and intentions.
Daily Journaling In Summary
Journaling is a key part of my day and my life allowing me to record and study my actions, see how well I live up to my priorities and intentions, and directing my actions in a consciously decided along the way. It also acts as a daily habit to do at my Eidolon shrine. Any notebook or blank sheets of paper can work. However, I do best with structure and prompts, so if you’re anything like me you might really want to get a few copies of the daily journal I designed and use every day.
The collection of actions that comprise my daily journaling pay honor to the process of my becoming. I think of them as a tribute to my ideal self, and so return to my shrine space to complete them every day is not only an honor but extremely empowering. Taking up journaling is highly recommended, and while this is my style there are many that you can take up including bullet, diary journaling, and more. There’s a book for those in my collection as well. I hope that my insights are helpful to you on your identity journey. They are definitely serving me well as I dig closer and closer to my sense of identity.
As if it wasn’t already hard enough to know yourself. “Self” alone appears to be an illusion under any real scrutiny. On top of that, anything that you can start defining as “self” is generally nebulous and scattered. We are rarely the same person from one moment to the next, much less from day-to-day. Even our patterns, which seem like they should be consistent, are so easily affected by our environments that it seems we’re much more a product of our outside than our inside sometimes.
This is unfortunate for some of the work I’ve already described putting in to become my better self. Most of it, if not all, have been intellectual efforts. They’ve been theoretical and largely internal. If the internal is at war with the external, it stands to reason that the world, being a huge place, will win against the mind every time. Well, that would be so if the world weren’t actually the mind. Now I’m not suggesting anything esoteric, neither am I playing Morpheus and revealing we’re in The Matrix.
Rather, what I’m reminding myself is that the mind is formed of impressions from external stimulus. Everything we experience is sensory. We don’t actually come face-to-face with the real world per se, so everything we know about the external world is actually mental. This is extremely useful. It means that I can play with the more malleable parts of “experience” to sign a sort of peace treaty in the war between internal and external efforts. It means I can make the world at large play in my favor in reinforcing who I want to be.
Intention Isn’t Enough
In the previous blog post, which if you haven’t read please do so now, I described a series of techniques to outline one’s self and the qualities of one’s self he might care to enhance. For me, I isolated my self-image as a warrior poet, my quality of life as a series of growth challenges, my internal narrative as a life quest, and my behaviors as calm yet ready for confrontation. As I’ve said there are several external influences that are under no obligation to encourage or trigger the experiences or behaviors I described. But, so long as these are qualities that are in some way present in myself, and I described at the beginning of this exercise that they should be, then they can be made more prominent.
Now just picking from the menu doesn’t mean I’ll get my order. What could I do to make sure that this meal is a’cookin in the kitchen? Well, I’m no master chef but I’d say if we have the recipe, my description, and the ingredients, my innate qualities, The next step is to get the proper pots, pans, and utensils. Yes, it’s time to create and use some tools to help me accomplish my goal.
There are a number of tools that already exist in our common culture. The one I’m going to focus on right now is not my favorite but it is popular. I’m going to take a moment to talk about vision boards. Vision boards in some ways are great. Using a series of spooky explanations, vision boards are supposed to subconsciously train you to seek out and attract the things you place images of on it. This is all based on the idea that the subconscious thinks in images and is also capable of subtly altering reality enough to bring opportunities to you to achieve what you want.
The Problem with Vision Boards
A disclaimer here: I did say the external world is essentially mental, but I meant it in a very different way. I meant that our experiences are always filtered by the senses and our perception of the senses. If you stub your toe, you don’t actually experience stubbing your toe. Rather you experience a signal that your toe received damaged and construct an experience based on your narrative. You could say “that this is just your luck,” or you could read it as a good reminder to move something before you trip over it and more seriously injure yourself. I’m going to move forward with this definition of a mental universe, not because I don’t believe the other but rather because this version is more defensible.
Once you start to operate without the notion of the magic behind vision boards the truth is, or at least I find it is, that no one ever really uses them. You construct it, you look at it, and then you leave it to your subconscious to hopefully do what it needs to. The problem is that our minds are exceptionally good at getting used to things. After the initial novelty of the vision board has passed, there’s a tendency to treat it like just another piece of art on the wall. It’s nice to point out when your friends visit so you can tell them how actionable you are with your goals, but once they leave you aren’t really so actionable at all, are you?
I also find that creating a vision board creates a type of satisfaction that you’ve done all you need to do for your goal. In other words, they fizzle out as a tool. I personally am a big fan of rituals and discipline. You get to come back to those every day, and while they aren’t for everyone (some people are more spontaneous or work better with fluid boundaries) they provide a great model for maintaining novelty. So long as the ritual space is kept consistent, you can even swap out the ritual in case even that begins to lose some of its subconscious effectiveness or novelty.
This is why I prefer my idea over vision boards. And that idea is to utilize an ancient tool to create a type of vision board that you return to. A visual you are prompted to return to regularly and feel an emotional drive to interact with so it doesn’t become stale. This age-old tool is called a shrine. A vision board is essentially shrine that you give up on in the first week. So what I’m going to do is make the personal shrine compelling to return to. By charging an emotional connection I will engage the subconscious but also motivate real-world activity.
This personal shrine will be composed much like a vision board but will use five pieces of imagery. They can be drawn, printed, or cut out from a magazine if necessary. The five images will each represent my self-image, internal narrative, experience of life, and behaviors. The fifth image will be a representation of my Eidolon, or idealized self. It will go in the center and the other four will surround it. In fact, it would be best if the images were faces of the role models I picked out in the previous exercise all looking toward my Eidolon. That will give me a visual sense that they are lettering my transformation. Bonus points if you are following along and also do this.
If the thought hasn’t struck you yet that having a shrine to your better self makes your home, or at least your room, into a temple then take some time to consider this and what it means! Turn your space into a sacred den in honor of your best and favorite attributes and your own potential. Remove things that don’t pay homage to the qualities you want to feed and move in things that do. Imagine that you’re incubating your identity in your space. The idea is to make it more than just an idea. By actively making your space into a 3-dimensional vision board, and upgrading the vision board to a personal visualization focal point, I’m intensifying the subconscious and engaging myself in the act of changing my environment to change myself and my behaviors.
So now I’ve made a personal shrine to myself. Or at least an ideal version of myself. This is all very nice and aggrandizing, but how is this better than a standard vision board? How does this encourage me to come back often and reinforce my sense of active and subconscious work? Well, we will play with a little bit of psychology. We will create a very simple daily action. One that is very easy to do and is satisfying when completed, but is visually and psychologically made to give us a sense of failure if missed. We’ll create a simple chain that is not to be broken. I fill in my journal.
Every day I write in my journal, it serves as my personal shrine tribute. This is doubly effective because not only does it provide a simple daily action, but it’s an action that forces me to assess my day and actually consciously stay on my goals. Every day that I do the task I get to feel like I’ve put effort toward my goal. Now the problem comes when you miss a day (and I do now and then) and that feeling of defeat sets in. Nothing hurts more than that empty page. It’s almost enough to make me want to give up completely.
Almost. Instead, I put in a penance. This is my sacrificial tribute to my personal shrine. It doesn’t need to be much, but it needs to be enough that you notice. If you can afford $10, make it a ten-spot. If you can’t, make it a quarter. Send this money away to a cause that doesn’t affect you directly, but feeds a value of your ideal self. And there you have it, a set of physical tools that feed into my progression toward my ideal.
I’ve gone through the trouble of creating an example of the 5 image placement shrine template. You can get it with the button below, then simply tack your role model and personal Eidolon imagery onto the poster and hang it in whatever room you will do your identity exercises and journaling.
In the next post I’m going to talk more about my journaling exercise and how I turn it into a sustainable daily strategy, and also ways to make it even more powerful. Until then, design your personal shrine and pay homage to everything you can and ought to be. I wish you luck on your journey and I’m glad that we’ve come along together so far. Au revoir.
I need a hero. Well first, let me say where I am. I’ve been embarking on a playful, yet sincere, journey in search of my preferred identity. It’s been a whimsical and insightful path, telling me more about myself by revealing what I don’t already know. What I learned is that my life, and this is possibly true of most human lives, is like a lightbulb. What I want or expect is a spotlight. All the things I didn’t know about me and I hadn’t defined drew away from the focus and intensity of my life and experiences. I started by first defining how to outline an idea such as “who I am”. Then I chose details and qualities I care for most in myself to accentuate. If you haven’t seen the previous post yet, please go back and read it.
Now I have a general but still concise description of how I want to experience myself and how I want to behave. I will slowly put things in place to make this more real for myself. Making it “real” matters. This goes for actualizing any type of idea, particularly something as close to home and nebulous as identity. What is this person you’re trying to become actually like? As I’ve said before I am doubling down on traits I’ve already found in myself. Because of this, I have all the experiences and natures needed to make this shift. What else informs this personality though?
A Hero Will Save Us
If you want to change a culture you change its heroes. This goes the same for oneself. Heroes, celebrities, and influencers aren’t an arbitrary phenomenon. Mentors like this exist as part of the social structure to help cohere a set of ideals into the image of a person. If I want to change myself I’m going to need to choose my heroes carefully. I need to look for inspiration. Now I said that making this “real” is important, but fictional heroes are sufficient for this. I am looking to inform an idea or create a model. It is only necessary to flesh out enough detail to draw an example narrative or set of qualities from, regardless of if this exists in flesh or not.
Now an important disclaimer. It is my opinion that people are not to be worshiped. Placing someone like a hero or mentor on too high a pedestal regardless of who it is or what your relationship is a bad idea. To them, it is far too great a risk of disappointment and for a living person too great a pressure for them to live up to. To hold a person in high regard doesn’t require idolizing them. Also, it’s dangerous. Since I am going to emulate these people to some degree, I want to avoid thinking that they’re perfect, because no one is. It’s far to easy to take on bad habits from people with good influence because of bias and the halo effect. So for the sake my own psychological safety I’m looking towards these people, not looking up to them.
So the question is, what heroes inspire me toward the image of the person I want to be? I will answer this question with two more questions. First, who do I admire that has done what I want to do? Second, who do I admire that has been what I want to be? Once that is answered, I ask what aspects of that person or character I should emulate or draw from. This answer leads to the mentor I will seek. Now it’s hard to know how someone considers themselves or what their internal narrative or experience of life is like. However, I can figure out how they were considered by others, what their life narrative was like and take a general glance at their quality of life. For the sake of this, I will simply draw upon what applies closest to the traits I decided I want to focus on in myself.
Now I have to decide who embodies the “warrior poet” archetype that I want to adopt as my primary self-image? Who that I admire has been what I’ve wanted to be and done what I’ve wanted to do? My personal mission and ideology are deeply rooted in a concept I’ve been developing since I was 13. It’s actually the same concept I’m using to build this identity framework from. It focuses on self-development and community works. I would look for a mentor, real or fictitious, who also fought for a similar aim but with a poetic way of acting through it.
Regarding my internal narrative, I want my life to read off as a quest. A quest is when one embarks to discover or achieve something. The path is beset by challenges, but the boon of the quest item/action always proves to be greater than first assumed when discovered. Having a worthwhile mission alone can accomplish this. However, this target while powerful isn’t human enough for what I’m trying to accomplish. To really model after and learn from someone, I’ll take the time to discover someone who has embarked on a mission. Ideally, this would be a mission similar to my own and lived their life as a quest. Again, this can be a fictional person as well as actual. Actual is still preferred simply for the sake of how realistically I can adopt some good habits.
Quality of Life
I am seldom happy without some type of challenge. It’s much less that I don’t want a boring life as much as I dislike when things are too easy. Constantly growing through challenges is my natural propensity, so I will look for a hero who demonstrates being graceful under and even welcoming to life’s challenges. This suits very well with the warrior poet label and quest narrative (these are all simultaneously pre-existing aspects of myself after all) so it’s very cohesive so far. For this to work, I need to welcome challenges, but they need to be challenges that are in line with my goals. I can’t just be picking up chess games and Rubik’s cubes simply because they are there. I need to avoid diverting myself from my “quest”. This is where it’s easier said than done. The question is, who can teach me this? What mentor figure could I learn this technique from?
In my opinion, finding a behavioral hero or mentor is the hardest. So much of what makes a person uniquely them is the amalgam of their behaviors and how they express themselves. It’s hard to simply point at a single person and say “yep, that’s me all over” when it comes to behaviors. This means that for this also, you may model one behavior from one individual or several behaviors from a group of heroes. For this reason, I’m going to prioritize the behaviors I listed from most important to me to least so that I have some level of focus in my search. In this case, after looking over my list from the previous post I’d look first for a hero or mentor figure shows courage in adversity, then compassion over confrontation, followed by gregariousness in social situations and discipline over spontaneity.
Who Is That Masked Man?
So the challenge here is this: I have no idea who I have just described. The person or persons who fit the description of the hero I’m looking for is still unknown to me. The trick now is to find out who this person is and learn more about them, taking what applies and leaving the rest. In the meantime, I will create a fictitious avatar as a place holder for all of the things I described above. A sort of image projection of my Eidolon. In the past, I performed my music and poetry under the name “Dimas” so I’m going to simply give this image the same name. Dimas will represent the elements of self I’m hoping to embody.
In the end, this still isn’t “real” until I’ve found a realistic or actual person to emulate myself after. In an ideal situation, I would have had a hero in mind, but this is going to require a little research Regardless, this all lays the groundwork for what I’m going to do next. I’ve spent a lot of time crystallizing the idea. Now I’m going to do actual work to build a tool to better visualize where I want to take my life. It will hopefully help me to actively focus in on my habits, my goals, and my progress. More in that post, but until then, have a great time discovering who you are.
In the previous post, we discussed identity as being the idea we hold of our self. We also discussed the concept of the Eidolon and what that means. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to look it over now.
I also left you with a two-part exercise. Part one, list traits that would be in a class that defines yourself. And part two, propose the most elegant solution to a difficulty that you experience. Jot these down on a sheet of paper. We do this to get a high-level view of where we are starting. Next, we are going to discuss how assessing the self-image, internal narrative, experience of life, and behaviors we want to see expressed in our self can get us closer to being that person.
The Eidolon Process
First, we’ll begin with self-image. This is simply a question of how you see yourself. It is very important to have a positive self-image. A negative self-image is draining and causes us to turn inward harmfully. With life as stressful as it is, we certainly do not need the added burden of seeing ourselves in a poor light. Positive self-image, on the other hand, is a motivating force and allows one to more fully access their own potential. We will choose an archetype to define ourselves by, or enhance an archetype that may already be applicable to us. Do you want to see yourself as a fighter? As a healer? What does it mean to honestly call yourself this thing?
Let’s move on to my internal narrative. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect to define or designate an identity around because it is so variable. Not only might I not hold the same narrative today as I might a year from now, but my conscious and subconscious chatter changes even minute-by-minute. This is because narratives are an aspect of stories, and stories change over time. Generally speaking, however, a story may hold a consistent theme and a consistent plot. In my head, what type of story do I want to live? A redemption tale? A heroic saga?
Experience of Life
Next, we continue by asking what experience I want of life. Suffice to say I would like it to be a good one. But what qualifies “good”? Since this is only about how I self-identify, describing a good experience through external objects and sensations is not very helpful. Rather, it makes more sense to discuss what I think a good experience is. Good is very subjective, and one’s way of life can easily shape what one calls good or bad. It can even help decide what one’s tolerance level is to a bad experience. Maybe I would be pleased to identify with a zero tolerance take on certain actions against me. Or maybe I would enjoy myself as one who finds happiness in meager situations.
Finally, we can discuss behaviors. Of what I’ve discussed, behavior is the only one that has both an interior and exterior element. You own your behaviors, but others have to suffer them if they are poor. This makes things both simpler and easier than with the above because while behaviors are easier to define than the experience of life, they are very numerous. For simplicity sake, we’ll create a series of character traits and situations to bundle up our behaviors in. Something like “cool under pressure” which defines someone who isn’t just level headed, but specifically when it hits the fan. They might be a party animal or a panicky mess the rest of the day, but in that one situation, they have it all together. Do I want to be kind without pretense? Aggressive when confronted?
What This Looks Like
If you’ve been following along, you may have found it extremely hard to pinpoint exactly how you want to be in your Eidolon. In theory, if you could answer those question and live by the answers, you could train yourself into the type of person you’d like to identify as. That is much more easily said than done, however. Human life is far too varied to account for the twists, turns, and nuanced scenarios it would take to simply outline who you actually intend to behave and feel like. Life is just not ideal. However, our personal description is. What we’ve created is an idealized version of our self. This isn’t just whom we want to be, but since we are defining our identity as a spiritual element, it’s also whom we’re meant to be, and are truly intended to be.
Now I’ve had the opportunity to collect a series of ideas that supposedly point the person I want to become and the identity I wish to assume.
For me personally, I like to model my self-image after the term “warrior poet”. It is apropos since I still identify with my practices both as a martial artist and as a writer. More meaningfully it sings a song of balance between two types of temperance.
I would like my internal narrative to follow a theme of self-discovery and a solid plot based around a personal quest. This quest would determine my personal missions and my devotion. I’ll discuss with that devotion is later.
I want my experience of life to be filled with challenge, but not struggle. A sense of well-earned abundance that comes without guilt or entitlement.
In my behavior, I prefer discipline over spontaneity, gregariousness in social situations, compassion over confrontation, but courage in adversity.
Still with me? We now have a good idea of what we want ourselves to be under perfect conditions, even though we fully you know that perfect conditions don’t exist. It helps to provide us some direction either environment we’d want to excel in. We may not be able to reproduce perfect conditions, but we can certainly stage the environment to be more similar to where our Eidolon would thrive. This series of conditions, along with the Eidolon itself, comprises of our personal ideology. This is the sum amount of ideas and ideals that guide us and our personal philosophy which can be codified and practiced. These precepts are key in manifesting the person that you want to become because it is, in effect, an unwritten manifesto.
I’ve made a lot of statements in the name of reinventing myself. It would be unreasonable to expect each of these to be maintained by sheer force of will. It is important to give flesh these out further and more fully visualize them. In the next post, I will investigate tools to both inform and reinforce the decisions I came up here. This will move us further toward embodying the traits we pick out when using this process.
Among one of the most important types of ideas that exist is that of identity. Identity is the idea that the self is or can be represented by a cohesive body of facts. The ways by which a person may identify, be identified, or otherwise answer “who I am” are vast. This lies at the core of the problem with identity, in that deciding what one uses as a foundation for how one self identifies has real implications on behavior. It is because of the power this particular type of idea holds that it is my favorite species of “idea”. It represents the most abstract image of the individual. In some ways, you could even say it is closely akin to spirit.
Gnōthi sauton is the Greek phrase that was said to be written at the Oracle of Delphi. It means “Know Thyself.” Self knowledge requires a “self” to know. This is the problem with identity. where does the self begin and end? Is the self actually an illusion? The conscious sense of “self” can completely vanish through states of flow or the use of psycho-active chemicals. Does that mean that the self is arbitrary? Even asking questions like if someone is the same person today as they were yesterday are philosophically vexing. I personally define myself around a suite of tendencies, and which tendencies are prominent under certain conditions. Lately, however, I’ve felt out of touch with and out of control of those tendencies. Recently after shutting down my business and some other events, I’m not sure what I relate to anymore.
Who Am I?
As I am writing this, I have no idea who I am. That is, I know how to identify myself by name, face, occupation, and a litany of government assigned numbers, but I’m not sure who all of these facts actually point to. To some extent, it does not really matter, but personally designing my sense of identity allows me to affect my self-image, my internal narrative, my experience of life, and my day-to-day behaviors. From a personal development perspective, and even just that of a human, that’s pretty huge. One could almost say that’s all there is.
The question is, who do I want to be? What would I label as my “true self?” I call this particular type of idealized self your “Eidolon”, which is a Greek word that means the true or perfect form of a thing. This ideal person encapsulates the seed of the idea of our perfect identity. Once we have defined it, we have designed a “self” to self-actualize. A series of steps can be laid out and intentionally taken to realize this imagined person into the real world. I suppose because of the non-arbitrary effects I noted above that identity has, I should start from those and work backward toward the center. I invite you to follow along to design your own Eidolon.
Discovering My Eidolon
First let’s make it perfectly clear that when asking our selves “who I want to be” or “who I am,” that doesn’t mean that anything needs to be changed, altered, or removed. You are always yourself, no matter what, so there’s nothing needed to create or discover. This is a self-development exercise specifically built to exemplify the parts you feel are most in alignment with your ideals. You can’t authentically become “more yourself,” but you can present and experience yourself in a way that is more fulfilling. You can be yourself in a way that tells your story more loudly and celebrates everything you are and respect. The Eidolon is about living with the best experience of self, not a critical one.
Now that that’s cleared up, life is about change. Nothing stays the same, at least not for very long. Who I am changes slightly from moment to moment. The point of self-directed change, at least to me, is to have some say in the ways in which I am changed and that change affects me. Some things in our lives simply don’t serve us. Maybe they used to or maybe they never did. And maybe it’s time to make room for new experiences and behaviors. Either way, just like shedding is for trees, change is a very natural part of human existence. What’s key here is to worry less about adding or taking away traits, and concern ourselves more with giving greater attention to our favorite aspects.
Much of this self-direction is achieved through my environment. By creating reinforcing structures and environmental barriers I can outsource the force of will needed to be the way I want onto the world around me with passive reminders. I always like to say that if you need to change the world, you should start by changing yourself; and if you want to change yourself, you should start by changing the world. Some of the best internal work is done external of us. Altering our physical conditions is a powerful and effective way to direct our growth and change. If you make the world reflect more of what you want to be, you will make yourself more like you want to be. I ask if my surroundings surround who I am, and act based on the answer. It’s really that simple.
Several years in software product development has given me a few key tools to help figure out who I am. For one, in object-oriented programming, you figure out how to designate a particular class of entity in code. For example, my class is “Human”, and I am an instance of Human called “Devon”. Devon gets all the properties of Human and some special ones, not least of which are my face and name. Confused yet? Well, if I were a class or type of being (like a Tigger), what ideally would that look like? This class is the Eidolon in a nutshell. Further, there are some concepts from design to consider. One is asking what problem exactly are we trying to solve? Which solution is the most elegant?
I’ll go more into this process in a future entry, but for now, take time to consider the questions above for yourself. If you were a class of being what traits and behaviors would you have, and what is the most elegant way to solve the most prominent difficulty you face in your life. Talk more in the next post.
I honestly expected that to be an easier question to ask myself. Human beings are not two-dimensional. Particularly not with our personal identity. We have nuance and complexity that makes us a roller coaster ride even to our own experience. On this ride, which peak or dip or twist or turn defines you? How do you even answer this question? Is there an answer?
It’s my opinion that people defy definition. That we can’t really be neatly summed up, at least not in our “natural state.” I feel it takes a very conscious exercise of will to decide and commit to who we are in any discrete way. Because of this, I thought to redesign the question so as to offload the weight from me to something else. I am now asking myself “What am I devoted to and will I dedicate my time and attention toward?”
This very different question changes the focus from me as a person to my effort as a measurable vector over time. The question of definition is hard to impossible because of what it actually means. To define implies finality. You draw a hard line with a definition. You simply say “this equals that” and set it in stone.
We are far too dynamic, robust, and obstinate for that. Personal identity is complex enough without shutting down the doors for change. Now, if I asked what I wanted my life to add up to, or where I wanted my presence to settle most, this is a question of desire and follow-through. Not only is it easy to identify, but it’s also easy to verify.
That all being said, I’m still not going to take this question lightly. This is about how I will view myself. Who I want to be and my relationship with that person. My personal identity isn’t just personal, it’s social and communal. I’d like to spend a couple of months very slowly yet deliberately answering the question of where I will place my time. I will ask how I want to be perceived by others, who my audience should be, and what any of this might look like.
I will spend a week outlining the broad idea of what I want my life to revolve around. Then I’ll create a rough strategy to accomplish that the next week. The third week will be spent doing research to validate the strategy. The fourth week I will outline a series of tasks to reach my goals. The month after will involve executing those tasks. My birthday is on July 11th, so that gives me just a little over two months to have designed moved into the lifestyle and career I decide upon.
Designing a Personal Identity
I’m essentially creating a career, brand, and image for myself professionally as well as declaring a cause I will devote myself to personally. This will ripple deep into my family, my finances, and my felicity, so I plan to be extremely thoughtful. Once I’m in I will be making decisions and creating structures and barriers to lock me into my decision. This has always been the way I try to operate, that way I only need to make big decisions once.
How do you define yourself? What do you devote yourself to? Have you ever asked yourself these questions? If you have, how did you determine the answers? Please share and let me know. I can use all the feedback I can get right now. It’s no small task to intentionally design one’s own life. I wouldn’t want to do it all on my own.