This week I was sent an inspirational video.
It stood out because of the parallels between the way this method suggests you manage challenge, and counselling practices I have observed.
Sadly for me the whole thing falls down through its focus on people of greatest ability; I think this is a mistake.
These people are certainly the highest earners and therefore unsurprisingly the focus of an enterprise like Thrive Labs http://www.thrivelabs.co/ which Priya Parker is running.
Elitism over life-changing advice ensures that Priya’s business gets to pay the bills but the very brightest are only going to be a percentage in any population.
If we said for example only those with a PhD it turns out to be about 1 in 500 people (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-percentage-of-the-worlds-population-who-hold-doctorate-degrees).
That would leave 499 out of every 500 people who are not benefiting from this technique.
For every Einstein there are hundreds that made sure he had roads to drive on, bread for his sandwiches, and cotton for his shirts.
This needlessly restricts the audience for such advice. Given this is very like a standard CBT technique which is designed to work for everyone.
When I saw this video I thought about the aspects of its message that involved challenge.
Important and creative parts of the counselling process involve challenge.
Counselling homework involves facing your true self and your fictions.
Challenge is key to making positive change.
Priya indicates self-challenge is critical in leading a life you will be happy to look back on in later years. Her strap line is “quit your life and reboot”.
The video had no associated transcript: you may want the edited highlights rather than the entire talk.
These are the highlights that stood out for me:
- People hate their jobs. They apply themselves and work hard but they stay because they are afraid to leave.
- People would like to make better life choices.
- The anxieties of the “brightest” is a public problem.
Everyone has fears I wonder what those who are not thought of as the “brightest” are to do about them?
There are various methods to address these anxieties. These methods also attempt to identify need in the world and recruit people to address that need.
There are different levels of need in the world: whilst one man’s challenge is to resolve drought in sub-Saharan Africa, another man may content himself with fixing the neighbour’s car.
1. The Obituary Test
Imagine that your death is being announced. Write your own obituary.
(Presumably you are not allowed to use latitude here. For example I would probably start out “Phil was a bang up chap who everyone loved…”)
The aim is to drive out how you would like to have lived
(I’m guessing this does not allow for: “like Ozzy Osbourne”).
2. The Passion Comic Strip
A number of people believe that they have no passions. This method will help you to identify your passion.
Interview five to ten people who know you well. Ask them when it was that they saw you look most alive. (Think Wallace meets Wensleydale.)
(I wonder if all such moments would be suitable for sharing?)
Draw a comic strip:
The reason you use drawing here is that:
- Drawing utilises a different part of the brain to writing. (This seems to assume that you have the capacity to draw.)
- Images are more powerful than words. (In what way images are more powerful is not described.)
- Most people’s drawing skill is rubbish so you will not be able to take yourself too seriously once you have seen the resulting comic strip. (Again a valid counselling technique.)
3. Get Comfortable With Discomfort
This strikes me as like CBT in terms of challenge which indicates that almost anyone could participate in this activity.
Quitting life is scary hence you need to develop “discomfort muscles”.
(You will still feel the fear but you also need to be able to manage it).
- In a queue (say at a supermarket checkout) start singing – keep singing even when you can feel your heart pounding.
- Take yourself to dinner alone AND take no reading material. Take no phone. Do not make any excuses. Book it; turn up; eat a full dinner alone with nothing to distract you from your discomfort.
- The backward elevator test. Walk in to an elevator, face the back. Keep facing the back even as everyone in the elevator gets uncomfortable.(What prevents people dragging you off to certain institutions, thumping you or reporting you to law enforcement agencies is not detailed in this video.)
4. Give Yourself a Life Sentence
- What do I value?
- What is my purpose?
- What do I want to be?
There are three parts to a life sentence:
- What are the qualities or values I want to bring with me?
- What is it that I actually do?
(Given you’re on The Procrastination Pen this might be a valid question).
- To what end? (Why do you do this)?
This is regarded as the hardest of the methods but it is the most effective. It needs a large commitment of time. Generally with someone who knows you well.
Once completed this is useful as a filter – everything in life will take you closer or further away from your life sentence.
If it is part of the life sentence you do more of it. If it falls outside the life sentence you do less or stop doing it altogether.
5. Dwindling Cash Experiment
How do you know how much is enough money for you?
Not merely how much do you need to live but how much do you need to feel comfortable?
The test is to understand what it is like to live on different incomes by experiencing those incomes.
Sit down and calculate how much money you spend in a month. Take out this sum. Hold it in an envelope (say under the mattress)
(Given I work in security this sounds needlessly scary why not store it in the safe instead.)
Week 1 – take out 40% of the amount you withdrew; spend it on what you like.
Week 2 – take out 30% of that original figure and spend it.
Week 3 – take out 20% of the original figure.
Week 4 – take out 10%. (This assumes a four week month).
So if the total amount is £5000 a month.
In week one you have £2000 to spend.
In week two £1500.
In week three £1000.
In week four £500.
The lack of knowledge about how much money is enough creates fear. This enables you to work out how much is enough for you.
(£1 ½ million monthly would do me nicely.)
6. Help Somebody Else
Work out which five of your friends do interesting work.
(Assuming that you have five friends).
Spend an hour with them problem solving their stickiest problem.
This assumes you are capable of solving this problem –perhaps for the purposes of this the attempt is sufficient.
This is beneficial because:
– It creates a habit of “how can I help” – a habit which is helpful to society. It has also been established that helping others is good for your well-being as well.
– It helps you to find the problems that you care about – these are the ones for you to focus on.
– It shows what you are good at solving.
7. Set a Withdrawal Date
Send evites for a farewell party (this is a real thing; evites are electronic invites).
Personally this just sounds like “getting down with the kids” – I’m sure that paper invites, cards or telephone conversations would do as well.
Include seven of your closest friends.
(Assuming that you have seven friends).
This makes you accountable to a peer group – the assumption being it is much harder to back out once you have completed this stage.
Stepping back from your life allows you to see it clearly (a pretty key step in any counselling) and is also key in being able to change it.
Problems require talent to work on them and to solve them.
The part that doesn’t work for me is that only the brightest can benefit from this practice.
I would counter that you can skill up all kinds of people to resolve existing problems.
Thinking about meaning is scary. However fear should not deter you (another key counselling concept).
Change requires: time, space and risk (which is also why counselling can take time).
Thinking about what matters to you, what makes you come alive and then dive in.
This will make a difference to society, yes, but in my view, more importantly, it will make a difference to you.