This is what can be described as the I-perspective.
There are three questions humans tend to ask themselves and seek to answer for themselves during their lifetime:
- Where did I come from?
- Where am I going?
- Why am I here?
I contend that the first two questions are purely subjective when compared to your lifetime. At some point you did not exist and, at some point, you will exist no more. Sure, we could wax philosophical about how you are constantly dying and being reborn because who you were a nanosecond ago isn’t the same you that exists right now; however, I try to be a bit more pragmatic. We could also split semantic hairs and say, well, I came from the house and I’m going to work or similar, but, again, let’s try to focus on the spirit and be more pragmatic.
Whether you believe you came from a deity, stardust, or something else, I can’t prove you’re wrong and you most likely cannot prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that you are correct. Whether you believe you return the deity, dissolve into nothing, or something else, again, I can’t prove you’re wrong and you most likely cannot prove yourself right.
Yet, throughout history, humans have performed serious pain and suffering because of their beliefs regarding these two questions.
With that out of the way, let’s focus on the third question; in pragmatic terms.
(This third question is why the self-help—or self-improvement—industry exists. An estimate from MarketResearch.com says the self-help industry in the United States will grow to over 13 billion USD in 2022.)
I haven’t met an individual yet who would deny that, at the highest level, they are here to lead a fulfilling life as defined by them.
Even when we subjugate our desires to the will of another, as long as we are doing it willingly, that’s a fulfilling life.
That’s a bit abstract and we’ll need to get more concrete. Exploring this question and these ideas is what this section of the site is about.
(We’ll explore the other two questions, but in a much shorter time-scale.)
CharacterSection titled Character
Character is to the individual what culture is to the group.
Character is your personal set of values, principles, practices, and tools.
The dividing lines between the base qualities of character can get a little blurry.
Values are preferences. They can often be stated as X over Y. For example, you might say, “I value freedom over slavery.”
Principles are statements and rules of thumb that may feel self-evident. For example, you might say, “All people have the right of liberty.”
Practices are activities you engage in; part of the fuzziness here is that they may include habits in this context. For example, you might say, “I exercise my freedom to choose where I live.”
Tools are fuzzy within themselves because they aren’t limited to tangible things outside yourself; a process can be a tool, a pencil is a tool, and voting in various forms. For example, you might say, “I use voting to ensure liberty for all.”
A theme inherent to my practice of coaching individuals is awareness and intent; these could be considered tools, practices, or both.
Some of us are unaware and unintentional in our character. Many of the exercises I use and have developed are designed to increase awareness to manifest intent.
The Motivators Exercise, for example, is a values-oriented exercise. The 5 Ps Exercise focuses on identifying principles and practices. Tools come into play when we explore how you accomplish things or how your values, principles, and practices are made manifest; the Motivators and 5 Ps exercises are tools I use to help others practice awareness and intent, which I value.
Identifying your values, principles, practices (or habits), and tools is nonlinear. You don’t need to figure out your life’s purpose before determining your values before stating your principles and so on. Instead, you can start by cataloging your practices and asking yourself why that’s a practice. Or start listing tools you use and ask why you use that tool.
Feel like an example is in order. I use pen-and-paper (tools) for capturing todo items (practice) because I don’t want to forget and I don’t want my mind cluttered. The last bit is in keeping with the principle: Your mind is for having ideas, not storing them. Further, the last bit is in keeping with my value of integrity (keeping my word to self and others).
I have more examples I could throw at you. However, I value simplicity, therefore, I hope the pen-and-paper example demonstrates how starting from anywhere and reflecting on why can you into the other areas as well; anxiety of the blank canvas.
The Motivators exercise is a way to get away from the writer’s block that often comes from being asked to figure out what you want to be if you grow up.
Character is something we all have; like a diet or budget. Intentionally defining and capturing it can help you find your way in dark spaces; a North Star or flashlight for who you are and want to be.
When I feel like I’m losing myself or otherwise experiencing an identity crisis, I can always go back to my character sheet and see who I said I was when I wasn’t in crisis or panic. With that said crisis and panic mode often reveals our true character or at least aspects of our character we maybe weren’t aware of before.