Pop quiz time!
What was your last meal?
I know I know, easy peasy!
Next, when was the last time you exercised?
Hopefully this one was simple as well right? (no, a brisk walk to the fridge for a midnight snack doesn't count)
Let's dial up the difficulty for the next few...
- What were the specific triggers the last 5 times you felt anxiety?
- What were the causes for you sleeping late over the past 3 months, and how many days did that happen?
- How many times did you have a meaningful conversation with someone in your life this year so far?
If you're like most people, you'll struggle with these. Maybe you have some vague idea or guess, but that's about it.
You wouldn't be able to confidently say for example:
The last seven times I felt anxiety were:
Mon 3rd - Behind on client requests at work
Thu 6th - Feel overwhelmed balancing study and work
Fri 7th - Woke up worrying about the doctors bills
Tue 11th - Procrastination, about that uncomfortable call
Wed 12th - Continued to avoid that call
Fri 14th - Big presentation coming and I'm feeling dread
Sun 16th - FOMO that I couldn't join that event everyone was talking about
You might be wondering, that seems excessive, so let's talk why do this, and end up on the how.
The most fundamental skill for any self improvement is to "know thyself".
With actual data about your life - your actions, moods, habits, your inputs and outputs so to speak you can then step back and truly learn about yourself.
Just like an anthropologist might study the behaviors of a tribeswoman by observation and notes, you too can study what makes YOU tick.
- How often you feel down, and what are the initial and any underlying causes.
- Why you keep getting distracted from your work or study goals.
- How often you feel optimism and what brings it on?
For example, if you learn that most of your happiness isn't from your online shopping habit, but rather with the simple fun times with family, that's a fantastic learning! It would be a good trigger to schedule more family time and ease off the shopping which might actually reduce happiness. But you might not have had that revelation without self monitoring.
Or, if you find out that scrolling social feeds usually leaves your mood worse than when you started, that's a good signal to start on that digital detox etc. Many folks don't realize they have a problem in this area and chase happiness but end up with a loss each "social session".
So hopefully we've established why it's a good idea, now...
How do we do it?
Setup a complicated spreadsheet and log hundreds of metrics each day?
Definitely don't do that! (excel-heads, put down your pitchforks)
Like we've talked about before, start easy and small.
Pick just 1-2 things you want to focus on first, and make a daily journal.
Some good starting points:
- Was I feeling down today? If yes, what was the trigger?
- Did I feel positive and optimistic? If yes, why?
- Did I do _____ that I planned to do? If not, why not?
Then set aside 5 minutes in your daily schedule to review and record these. Whether you use a physical journal, spreadsheet or mobile app doesn't matter, whichever works for you.
Once a week, take 15 minutes to look back at the week to reflect on what you captured and what it means for you.
I guarantee you, if you adopt this practice over the next few weeks you will learn something important new about yourself, and quite likely something very impactful...
So now, go know yourself!