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First thoughts on designing my own STANDARDS

This is my continued brainstorm on the idea of building a set of standards to run your life with.  By designing, executing, reviewing and revising these standards, the goal would be to eventually end up with a very workable and, importantly, custom, plan for long-term happiness. Forgive me if it’s long-winded while I continue to figure out what I’m trying to say.

When it comes to moods, morale, motivation, etc, I’ve come to believe that there are three separate struggles that all need to be addressed in order to really be happy/fulfilled.

My primary struggle is with energy–getting enough of it to continue to follow-thru on decisions and goals that I’ve made in the past.  My secondary struggle is with replacing fogginess of mind with focus so that I can design those decisions and goals and edit them as they progress.  And my third struggle is between positive and negative moods so I can enjoy the fruits of labor, goal-achieving, and well-made decisions as they come in.  They’re all interlinked, and you need them all to both design and live a fulfilled life.

  • Weak vs Strong Energy (motivation — how much you want something)
  • Foggy vs Focused Mind (vision — knowing what you want)
  • Unpleasant vs Pleasant Experience (appreciation — being able to value what you do have)

The struggles have priorities.  Assuming that all three struggles are occurring at once (ie. I’m feeling weak, foggy, and unpleasant–yikes!), my first responsibility is to move from weak to strong–to cover the basics of exercise, sleep, a good diet, etc.  Only once that struggle is completed is it necessary to take on my second responsibility of gaining focus–finding clarity of mind and a vision for what I want my life to be.  And likewise, once that’s complete, I take on the third responsibility, which is to move from unpleasant to pleasant overall moods and states of enjoyment–a capacity to enjoy what I do have while also knowing what I want and having the energy to go try to get it. It’s my simplified version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applied to my own very specific life.

The basic premise of what I’m trying to design is that depending on how pleasant, focused, and strong I feel, I will have different activities and responsibilities that address the current weakest aspect of my mood and morale (and, therefore, not all at once, since the weakened state of morale simply isn’t capable of taking on the whole burrito at once–for example, what point is knowing the right thing to do if you don’t have the energy or will to do it?).  The beauty of it is that I know that my priority is to move towards feeling pleasant, focused, and strong, and that there are different ways to get there (aka different forms of self-medication) that work better for particular situations than others.

When I start each day, I’ll attempt to select where I am along each of these three categories, and that will help shape the goals for the day:

  1. Unpleasant or Pleasant
  2. Foggy or Focused
  3. Weak or Strong

Weak versus Strong

For the weak trait, my self-medication should focus on being physically healthy.  Getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, not drinking too much, etc.  Once feeling healthy and strong, my responsibility is to be ambitious, to reach for something bigger and better than the current situation, and use the strength to think beyond what’s simply assumed.

Foggy versus Focused

For the foggy trait, my self-medication should focus on meditation, brainstorming, and walks.  Things that help me address the mental quality of the feeling directly, getting back to a grounded, clear, state and being able to make plans, decisions, and even bigger visions (assuming I’m also feeling strong).  Once focused, my responsibility is to be productive with that focus and figure out or re-affirm goals and an overall vision.

Unpleasant versus Pleasant

For the unpleasant trait, my self-medication should focus on quality time with myself, my wife, and my friends.  It may or may not involve a change of scenery, since that helps reacquaint me with the huge variety of the world.  The goal is to bring variety, the unexpected, the spontaneous back into my state, and mix it with the familiar, and share it with people I love.  I often feel that my unpleasant feelings are often related to a very small view of the world, one where I’m at the center… and the best way to get out of it is to change the scenery and experience something outside of my own head.  Once I am feeling capable of enjoyment again, I gain the responsibility of being self-expressive in some manner.  Creating, building confidence, being generous and giving with my time and resources.

Given that general outline, by choosing one of each of the three paired traits, I will fall into one of 8 profiles:

  1. Strong, focused, pleasant
  2. Strong, focused, unpleasant
  3. Strong, foggy, pleasant
  4. Strong, foggy, unpleasant
  5. Weak, focused, pleasant
  6. Weak, foggy, pleasant
  7. Weak, focused, unpleasant
  8. Weak, foggy, unpleasant

The goal is to work my way up the profiles, ultimately finding a way to sustain myself in the profile of feeling pleasant, focused, and strong.  The bold word is the area that deserves immediate attention in the form of some kind of self-medication.  The italics word designate the areas of responsibility that I have for myself in terms of health and productivity.

All of this implies that given how I feel at my starting-point, I can begin to build a list of priorities, self-medications, and responsibilities for myself that are best suited for moving from that profile up to a higher one on the ladder to happiness.

My first draft of the 8 profiles looks something like this:

  1. Strong, focused, pleasant: Producer and Enjoyer
    1. Responsibility: Produce and self-express in an ambitious manner, build amazing things, focus on big meaningful projects
  2. Strong, focused, unpleasant: Maintainer
    1. Responsibility: Do things that need to be done that have been put off for a while, but don’t require creative thought
    2. Find enjoyment with quality time with friends, change of scenery, consuming media
  3. Strong, foggy, pleasant: Artist
    1. Responsibility: Do something big and self-expressive that involves discovery / free-association
    2. Find focus with meditation, walks, brainstorming
  4. Strong, foggy, unpleasant: Sharer
    1. Responsibility: Go out and have fun, be social
    2. Find focus with mediation, walks, brainstorming (primary)
    3. Find enjoyment with quality time with friends, change of scenery, consuming media (secondary)
  5. Weak, focused, pleasant: Tinkerer
    1. Responsibility: Produce and self express on a small scale, pay attention to meaningful details in existing projects
    2. Get stronger with exercise, diet, sleep
  6. Weak, foggy, pleasant: Explorer
    1. Responsibility: Write, doodle, take pictures
    2. Get stronger with exercise, diet, sleep (primary)
    3. Find focus with mediation, walks, brainstorming (secondary)
  7. Weak, focused, unpleasant: Organizer
    1. Responsibility: Clean, do errands, organize
    2. Get stronger with exercise, diet, sleep (primary)
    3. Find enjoyment with quality time with friends, change of scenery, consuming media (secondary)
  8. Weak, foggy, unpleasant: Consumer
    1. Responsibility: Call up a good friend and meet. Read, find a good movie, try to find an enjoyable diversion.
    2. Get stronger with exercise, diet, sleep (primary)
    3. Find focus with mediation, walks, brainstorming (secondary)
    4. Find enjoyment with quality time with friends, change of scenery, consuming media (thirdiary)

The point of the profiles…

The whole point of this is that when I’m feeling weak, I should remember to make exercise, sleep, and diet a priority over worrying about making progress on meaningful projects.  There’s a direct connection between my weakest trait and the self-medications that can be applied.  To give my emotional landscape a bit of respect (don’t try to brute force myself to be at 100% every single day) and in the end develop a system that is flexible enough to handle low-energy weeks and yet ambitious enough to ask a lot from myself when I’m feeling at the top of my game.

Putting it into practice

Since this is new, for now I’m just going to try to be aware of which state I’m in.  The funny thing is, that in order to fully flesh out this system, I need to already feel strong, focused, and pleasant.  I’ve come back to this several times over the last couple days and have not been able to make progress until I asked myself which profile I was currently in, and realized that I was unfocused, or feeling weak, etc.

After I test this out and see if it actually makes any sense, I’ll go from there.  No rush, right?

2 Responses to “First thoughts on designing my own STANDARDS”

  1. [...] systematizing his life based on an interesting rule (evolve the other rules once a week) and Buster Benson picked up on it and I expect to spread around the web as a kind of post-Getting-Things-Done movement. I personally [...]

  2. Whoah. I was just thinking about figuring out a sanity plan durin this bus ride back to NYC, and was thinking about how important changes of scenery need to be in my plan, along with getting enough sleep. And then I found that you have already done some foundational work for me. Good job! I’ll let you know when I come up with something.