There’s an exercise I do every so often, when I’m feeling stuck or lost. I dust off my notebook, which has no equal when it comes to this sort of introspective work, and start by writing down all the things that I want to be doing. I think about this in the terms of the everyday. The exercise is not about setting goals, but permitting a bit of time and space to reflect on what brings me the greatest joy and satisfaction and taking steps to ensure I continue to focus on them.

I might spend 15-20 minutes writing down everything I can think of and another 5 consolidating duplicates and editing. I then answer two questions about each of the things I have written down: “Why is it important to me?”, “What (if anything) is keeping me from it now?”. The questions force me to articulate the forces behind the things I want, and come to terms with the choices and realities that are, at present, moving me away from it.

After answering both questions for everything, I look for emergent themes– the underlying values and stories I’m telling myself. For example, one thing I kept writing as part of my answer to the second question, was that something “felt like a chore”. Thinking more about what I meant by that admission, I come to the conclusion that I am very aversive to discomfort, and will shy away from or completely neglect the things that don’t come easily. Given that a lot of the things I desire speak to valuing a high sense of self-efficacy, it seems like there’s a nice duality between what I value, and what’s holding me back. Thus, when I move on to the next part of the exercise–choosing my focus, it ought to be with these themes in mind.

For example, the desire for an elevated sense of self-efficacy is at the heart of the majority of things that I want. This suggests that there might be something that is resulting which tells me that perhaps For example, one of the things I value that is at the heart of a lot of the things I want is a increased sense of self-efficacy–the idea that I’m capable of d

The first question aims to reveal the underlying values, and stories we believe about ourselves. The second, what changes in ourselves and environment.

For example, as opposed to writing “author of a novel”, I write something like “write every day”. Perhaps, the eventual goal is to be writing a novel, but I don’t view this as a goal setting exercise. It’s much more about aligning my current self with an ideal. Permitting a bit of time and space to think about what brings me the greatest joy and satisfaction and making sure that I continue to focus on those things.

I have a new apprentice starting today. So I’ve been stressed about giving her a good first impression and making sure that she get’s a good start. At the same time, I’m not one to usually worry about things like that. Instead, I just try to keep in mind one or two things. Something like. “be a good listener” and let the rest take care of itself.