Yesterday, I announced the start of an experiment which will be a virtual self-development conference using this blog. To save some of your precious time, I will not repeat the reason and the agenda again, but link to it here.
As the title suggests, the first day of the conference is about getting to know yourself. We spend so much time with ourselves, having experiences, having thoughts and talking to ourselves. Unfortunately, due to the fact that we are with ourselves all the time, we are tricked into thinking that we know ourselves quite well. And although this is true to a large degree, we miss out on really getting to know ourselves.
Why should I do that, you might ask. This is a fair question. I am aware that sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Moreover, it is not an easy endeavor and it can be emotional and challenging to walk on this path. This is why we need a few ground rules that need to be applied from here on going forward:
- We will always talk to ourselves and our partner in crime from an angle of compassion, understanding and benevolence! When dealing with self-development, you will often come across negative thoughts and experiences and the way forward can only be through love and compassion.
- We need to understand that reality is subjective. Our reality is shaped by the experience we made in the past, our beliefs, our thoughts, our emotions, our surrounding, and the general state we are in at the moment, and so many more factors. That is why other people might see the “same” situation differently. This means that there is no ultimate truth. It also means that you can change your perspective and therefore change your reality. I know this is easier said than done because we might strongly belief in our reality but the question you need to ask yourself is how do you want to feel or how do you want your life to be like? You have all that it takes to change it=).
- People always act the best way they could in a specific situation. You might want to disagree with me, but wait for a second. I just said that they act the best way possible given the state they were in (see #2 above). It might have been an appropriate or an inappropriate action, and people might even shake their heads at themselves asking why they did it. For us, it is about understanding and not judging something as right or wrong. This approach will help us to look behind the curtain of a behavior and, with compassion and willingness to understand, we might learn something about ourselves and/or someone else. So, you should also apply this approach toward yourself!
- We look at the past only to understand. Not to judge or to stay in the past. We cannot change it but we can learn from it. Ultimately, this conference aims at getting closer to the bright future you envision for yourself, so please don’t dwell in the past. I did it for a very long time and although it feels comfortable, it leads you nowhere. The future is ahead and ready to be molded =).
- People can solve their problems only by themselves. It is about figuring out the resources on ourselves and others to change/adjust our behaviors to solve problems.
Now, let’s come to the exercise of day one. It is called “River of Life” but I adjusted it a bit because I think there were some things missing.
Materials needed: blank paper (the bigger the better), pen, different colors (it can be marker, pens, paint….), and a notebook or something to write into.
The task is to draw your life. It can be a river, it can be a story… be creative and use as many colors as you want to =). Draw your life with all ups and downs and experiences you deem important. Take your time. Afterwards, take your notebook and write down how you felt during those ups and downs and experiences and the reasons you did what you did (remember the ground rules from above =)). You should divide your paper into two parts. Firstly, your life until now, and then in a second step, draw the life how you wish it will be like. Also include experiences and milestones you want to achieve and then writing down how this would make you feel and why it is important for you. This will come in handy during later days of the conference.
The next step depends on whether you do the exercise with a partner or alone. Let me start with doing it alone. Go through your notes and whenever you stumble upon a negative thought, I want you to apply the ABCDE method. Follow the link to learn more about it and also see it used in an example. It is a method to dispute (the D) negative thoughts and beliefs and helps us to reframe the situation. When done often enough, it will strengthen your own resilience =). Also, be curious and observe which words/phrases you used. This can tell quite a bit about us. It will also serve as a preparation for day 2.
When you do it with a friend/partner you can present each other your life story. However, only tell what you really want to tell and you are ready to tell and make sure that your partner is understanding and benevolent toward you. Do it in two rounds. At first, each of you presents his/her story of what happened until now, then you discuss and ask questions, and in the second round you speak about what your life should be like in the future. Closely observe the body language, tone, facial expressions and what words or phrases are used and often repeated. They can be an interesting element to discuss later on. However, be wary to form a hypothesis. Be humble and tap into your own ignorance and put your observation as an open question. Also remember ground rule #5. It is not our job to give advice and sometimes we can cause more harm instead of help.
Here are some reflection questions you can ponder:
- Do I repeat a certain behavior? Did this behavior work in the past? How do I want to adjust it?
- Do I always behave the same or does it vary in different situations? What does it say about the behaviors and patterns that are at my disposal when it comes to tackling challenges?
- What are words/phrases I use often? Do they have a meaning?
- What were the most positive experiences in my life? What made them so positive? What was my part in achieving/having those experiences?
At the end a few more words. Working on ourselves is hard work. Take your time. If you need more than one day for this exercise than that is fine. You are the captain of your own ship. Remember to always be patient and compassionate with yourself and/or the other person you are doing it with.
Use this blog to ask questions or to share your experience. I am always very curious to read them because I know how much I can learn and grow from it.
Have a wonderful day and take care, Stephan