Practice: Investigating and
Rewriting the Self-schema
In Part III, I suggested an action exercise on writing out what is currently in your Self-schema. Writing out the content of my Self-schema makes me aware of what kind of a person I consider myself to be and by examining what’s in there, I can also derive implications for how I conduct my Life and why I can’t act in certain ways. Also, I can see which concepts and beliefs in my Self-schema are beneficial and helpful and which ones may work in a limiting way. The possibilities for self-limiting beliefs are pretty much endless, so the best approach is to simply investigate my self-schema to see whether or not there are any beliefs in there that are limiting in the way I am living my Life.
After taking an inventory of my Self-schema I can set some goals for how I want to make any changes to it. What kind of changes that may involve is up to each individual, it’s the freedom to set a new direction for how I want to be.
You may have noticed that during this book I didn’t really give you much content that you could fill your self-schema with. You may have expected that kind of information (especially in Part III, since it covered the self-schema specifically). The reason being is that this isn’t a book about telling you what to do.
I trust that you can fill out your self-schema yourself. It is not up to me to tell you what your Life should be about. That would be pretty lame. What your Life is about is your own freedom to choose. Fill the self-schema with what you want to fill it with, not with what other people want you to fill it with.
I can re-write a new Self-schema in the same way that I wrote down the current one. I will not become that new person over-night, but I can make specific long-term goals, action practices and put those in my Self-Change Projects. By repeated exposure to new concepts, making plans for implementation and doing new behaviours, how I am being as a person will change over time.
Identifying your Values
As content for new internally based concepts for my Self-schema, I can identify my values. My values are the things that I find most important in Life and that to which I’m willing to dedicate my time and invest my energy in. It’s a list of concepts that I want to live in alignment with. Identifying and writing down my values is a step in rewriting my Self-schema and making it more internally based. I like to write down my values and list them in order or priority and review them on a regular basis (as I may want to switch things up as I learn more, have new experiences, gain different perspectives, etc.).
Listing my values in a hierarchy of priority makes it easier to make decisions in Life. When I know what I value (find more important), it’s easier to choose what kind of activities to spend more time on and invest more energy into.
As an example, here are my current values:
It’s important to understand that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ values and that they will probably change over time depending on the phase and context of my Life. This is perfectly fine, a list of values is merely a set of concepts that gives clarity and direction, and it’s not to be followed rigidly and in a dogmatic fashion.
As it’s part of my identity, I let it be dynamic.
Written Vision, Daily Goals and Excitement
“Those who envision the future as based on
the past are condemned to repeat it.”
~ Werner Erhard ~
At the end of Part III I wrote about a Future-schema in addition to the Self-schema. Creating an idea and vision for where I want to go, how I want to be and what I want to realize will help direct my behaviour in the direction of making all of that real. In order to create this, I have to know what I want.
An externally based Self usually takes on the attitude of ‘what do I happen to get’, while an internally based Self asks the question: What do I want to create?
Without a clear idea of where to go and what the end goal is, I will be like a traveller who just wanders around in a random direction stumbling upon whatever places I happen to arrive at. Sure, exploring Life like this can be fun, but it can also result in me ending up in a place I don’t actually like. Therefore, asking the question: “What do I want?” and writing down the answers in terms of goals on a regular basis is a good practice.
Creating a vision for the future implies investing time and effort into thinking ahead. Setting goals and working towards realizing them is challenging and requires effort.
If by default I’m already challenged by Life (by unprocessed hurts, addictions, unhealthy lifestyle, dysfunctional relationships, structural stress, etc.), there is no way I am motivated to set additional goals in my Life. I may desire and hope for a better future, but I simply won’t have the necessary energy resources available to go make it real, so I just hope that it will happen by itself someday.
Also, in goal-setting and pursuing their attainment, there is always a sense of uncertainty (cognitive dissonance) about whether or not I will be able to realize them. As I am never totally sure if a goal is possible to achieve, there is an element of doubt about potentially wasting my time in investing energy into a goal.
This sense of uncertainty is inevitable, as a goal is always something that is not real yet; so I never know for sure whether or not I will be successful. To counter this uncertainty for a bit, the advice is usually to set goals that I believe to be realistic and attainable and to increase the difficulty of goals as I build on small successes.
Furthermore, goals work best when they are:
- Written down
- Positive (I want X, not I don’t want Y)
- Stated as a present outcome (I have X, not I will have X)
- Highly Specific (provides clarity)
- Created along with implementation intentions (creating action practices that will realize the goal)
- Personal (I will create X, not someone else)
- Measurable (creating a bench-mark so I can determine when I’ve achieved the goal)
- Attainable and Realistic
People often have this issue when writing out their goals, especially regarding themselves. They say: “But this isn’t true.” And the thing is: Off course it isn’t.
What do you think a goal is? It’s having a vision or cognitive representation of something that is not true yet, that does not exist yet. If it would be true, it wouldn’t be a goal, it would be a fact. Let’s say I have an affirmation that says: “I’m confident.” While in reality, for the most part of your Life I’ve been feeling insecure. And then I say: “That’s a lie, it’s not true. That’s not who I am.” Off course it’s not true. If it were true I wouldn’t need a goal. The point is that I start consciously choosing new things into my identity that have not been true up until this point; that I base my beliefs about who I am (how-I-am-being) based upon how I want to be and where I want to go, instead of based upon past behaviour and projections of other people.
“When I began to change guys would say to me shit like
‘you’re trying to be something that you’re not’.
What the fuck? That’s the idea.
The interesting thing is; if they met the new me it would be
a lot cooler than meeting the old me.”
~ Alex Treasure ~
Most people want a higher quality of Life, but not all people invest equal resources into clearly defining and pursuing it. I used to think this was because some people are more ambitious and conscientious than others. This belief was appealing to my ego, but lately my perspective has become that it has more to do with the capacity for challenge that I have written about thru-out this book.
Everyone wants to present a strong image and not be perceived as a weakling.
This tendency potentially leads me to avoid vulnerability (authenticity), hide my weaknesses and even deny hurts to myself for the sake of ‘positivity’. Yet, I don’t understand why I keep doing shit to get me out of pain that won’t help me in the long-term. I’ve hammered this point to death in this book, but I think it’s truly that important to address. Without proper completion of past hurt, my main drive will always be to get out of pain, rather than to jive off of positive emotionality in my endeavours in Self-Change.
Under healthy circumstances, there is an excitement that comes with living towards the realization of something you’re stoked about. There is fun to be had in looking forward and working towards something valuable and worthwhile. In the process of creating what I want, I see the new reality taking shape bit by bit; kind of like a sculptor chipping away at a piece of marble. Gradual progress, small successes and step-by-step improvements motivate to keep me going.
The vital thing to realize is that the ENJOYMENT OF THIS PROCESS is contingent upon me being complete. If there is unresolved hurt and uncompleted past in me, it will be more difficult for me to enjoy this, as my (subconscious) focus is geared towards getting me out of pain, which will naturally lead to compulsive addictions, co-dependency, rigid & narrow thought/action ranges (Part II), self-limiting beliefs and the whole instant-gratification bandwagon I wrote about in Part III.
Hence the focus on completion and taking care of my basic fundamental needs first. Tackle those basics first and get them working properly, then move onto bigger challenges.
The next and final book piece drops Friday February 24th provides a few
more principles about taking risk, settling, perfection and practice…
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