Hi guys and Welcome. Today I’m going to talk about the 4 different versions of our “self”. This is an expansion on a concept I came across recently by blogger and real estate investor Paula Place. In her piece, she spoke about;

  • The Ideal Paula – organised, enthusiastic, fit, focused etc.
  • The Actual Paula – disorganised, occasionally unmotivated, stressed etc.
  • Future Paula – The one she exercises for, plans her budget for etc.

I was thinking about this and I felt as though she may have missed one “Paula” from her list. This is a very important to include in any examination of ourselves in hopes of improving as we continue life’s journey. The 4th “Paula” is of course “Past Paula”, one of the finest teachers you will ever have.

This idea resonated with me as I have a similar experience. I notice the often small but sometimes vast differences between “Ideal Alex” and ‘Actual Alex”, and this can lead to some real distress. How often have you noticed something about yourself that was at odds with your own self-image? Disconcerting, isn’t it?

Often these “lightbulb” moments are helpful to our personal growth as they become the catalysts for change. Unfortunately, if left unexamined or unresolved they can turn harmful, leading to feeling of anxiety, purposelessness and in extreme cases depression.

In the interests of helping you all live a more examined life, and frankly to help me examine my own life, let’s have a look at an example (me) and see how helpful the “4 selves” can be in finding a path forward.

Feel free to do this at home as we go or read through to the end before deciding whether or not you want to try it out.

Ok here goes;

  • The Ideal Self: this who you would like to be/ who you see yourself being on your best day. Are you more productive, more creative, more attentive to your loved ones? Write down all the attributes you would use to describe this Idealised version of you. Be honest with what you want to see there. Mine includes the following
    • More consistent with my weights training
    • Spend half an hour a day doing yoga with my partner
    • Write/edit/publish a new piece of writing every day.
    • Catch up with friends more regularly
    • Eat less processed food and more wholesome stuff
  • The Actual Self: this is who you see yourself as of now (i.e. the last 3 months or so). This is the real you right now, someone either on the brink of major life changes or in the process of building the life they want. Otherwise why would you be here reading this. This next list is too easy to just do an inversed reflection of the first list, so make sure you don’t just put down the things you don’t like but also put down the things you do like. For example:
    • I’m being more conscientious in my relationship with my partner
    • I’m getting to the gym 2 times a week (most weeks)
    • I clean up and keep my house tidier than I ever have before
    • I’m not that reliable at sitting down to write everyday
    • Bad a catching up with friends unless they put the effort in first.

So not all bad, but not all good. Be realistic with yourself here. Ok, onto number 3.

  • The Past Self: everything and everyone you’ve been up until this point. All the good and all the bad. I said before that our past can be our greatest teacher. This is because if we have been living an unexamined life, we often repeat the same, or similar, mistakes repeatedly, without realising that while the circumstances may change in the details, the overarching themes will remain the same. If we do not learn from them, we will inevitably keep repeating them until we do. In this next list, rather than focusing on the events of our pasts themselves, take some time to reflect on the lesson you did take away from those experiences and see if you can figure out any new ones you didn’t learn at the time.
    • I’ve learned that if I’m not careful, I bend the truth to spare people’s feelings and to hide my own failings.
    • I’ve learned that it is ok to disagree with your friends over opinions but that if you disagree over appropriate behaviour among friends, then maybe the friendship needs to be reassessed.
    • I’ve learned that no matter what anyone says, I love Coriander, I hate Avocado and I don’t care whether you like pineapple on your pizza or not, just don’t yell at me when I have it.
    • I’ve learned that I often use humour to deflect when things feel too “emotionally real”.
    • I’ve learned that the only people that really care about you, are the ones you’ve given a reason to care (I’ll get into that in another blog)
  • The Future self: Don’t worry about that guy too much, he’s the one you’re doing this all for but the two of you will never meet. Just keep working on yourself and he’ll be fine.

As you can see from my lists, and I’m sure you’ll see from your own, there a quite a few differences between “Ideal Alex” and “Actual Alex”, and we can see that by looking at the lessons I have learned from “Past Alex”, that had I made different decisions, I would have created a different “Actual Alex” for today.

And that’s the whole point really. I’m sure you have heard the classic George Santayana quote “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. It’s not just true on the larger scale of nations and civilisations, but also true, if not more so, in regards to your own life. If you’re unhappy with an aspect of your life, go ask “Past You” if you’ve dealt with something similar before, and if you have how did you deal with it. If the answer is “It wasn’t resolved”, chances are this is an issue that will keep rearing it head in your life until you learn why you keep ending up in these situations. So, you then have a choice. Deal with it now and learn the lesson, or keep ignoring the issue and keep going around in circles. If the answer was “I thought it was solved” at least you’ll know you can solve it and you’ll have a better chance of it not coming up again because you’ll already know the changes required to fix it. Change is hard but knowing you have gotten some of the way before will make it easier. Sometimes the answer will be “Nope, never seen this before” and that’s ok, because you are now living an examined life and you will take this opportunity to learn the lessons that need learning so you can grow into your “Ideal Self”. That is the point after all.

Now Get Up, Get Out There and Get Awesome

And look to your past when learning how to build your future.