Friday, January 8, 2016

Year of Stoic Living, Week 2: Negative Visualization

A lot of people like beginning the New Year contemplating all the good that might come into their lives. Everyone thinks about the weight they'll lose, the many book they'll read, and in general about the better people they'll become. But how many of us keep in mind that a New Year could mean things becoming worse, too?

We could lose loved one. We may lose our jobs. Our homes. There's as much hope in the New Year as there is dread. But most don't take this fact to heart. And I think this is what causes most people to stop improving themselves. Because they forget the other half of hope, dread overcomes them the second something bad happens.

Let's try to change that up by taking the time to think of what may go wrong with our resolutions.

How to Negatively Visualize Our Resolutions (or Personal Goals)

This isn't about being Sadness from Inside Out. We're not just thinking about the worst that could happen. We're also thinking of ways to deal with the worst.

Let's take the common resolution of weight loss. We already know the best outcome: we lose weight. But what's the worst outcome? We gain weight. And can we deal with that? By being careful observers of what gave us more weight. Maybe you binged. Maybe you have a food addiction problem. Whatever the case is, doing our best to detail what could go wrong and plan accordingly will help ease the emotions we may feel in our darkest times.

One way to make this process is to make a flow chart, like this:

Yes, I know. It's amazing.

Maybe a flow chart isn't your thing. You could make a bad things outline:

  • Resolution 1
    • Bad Outcome 1
      • Fix 1
      • Fix 2
    • Bad Outcome 2
      • Fix 1
      • Fix 2
      • Fix 3

As a general point, you might not want to tackle too many resolutions at once. And you should also keep in mind there isn't always a fix. Sometimes we fail and there's just nothing we can do but start over. Or perhaps our goal just isn't realistic.

But maybe you aren't a resolution kind of person. Maybe the resolution you have is to pick up the habit of negative visualization.

How to Do Negative Visualization

I've already written a post on this subject if you want to go more in-depth on the subject of why we should and how to do it. However, I'll do a quick and dirty version here for you.

This one is a little harder if you ask me, because it's not failure of minor goals we're focusing on. We're focusing on the things in life we could lose.

People could die. We could die. Bad things happen.

Much like with our resolutions, sometimes by thinking of the worst that can happen, we can think of ways to fix it ahead of time so that, when it happens, so can quickly try to take control. But more often than not, these bigger loses aren't about us being able to fix it. It's about being able to cope with the bad happening.

What if you were dying? Odds are, there's no fix for this. But there are ways to cope. There are ways to make it easier on you and others. The first step is to acknowledge that this may happen this year.

This doesn't have to be one of those things you do every year or even that long. Sometimes, the simple acknowledgment of something going wrong is enough to give us the ability to cope. A sticky note with the words I'm dying everyday placed somewhere you can see it might be enough to change how you live your life. Perhaps you want to take a half-hour once a week and pick something to think about. All you have to do is find what works for you.

The Challenge
  • Choose a resolution you made and make a flow chart or outline (or whatever) of things that could wrong. Make sure you include ways to cope and/or fix failures. Have this flow chart somewhere you can find it when you fail so you can remind yourself of your fixes and coping tacit. Aren't the type to make resolutions? Choose a personal goal of yours.
  • Pick up the habit of negative visualization. Figure out how often you want to do it and a way you want to do.

Your Journal

Just so we're clear, your journal doesn't have to be everyday. You could write once a week, once a day, once every five minutes, whatever. And it doesn't always have to be about the challenge, either. It could be how you used Stoicism or want to start using Stoicism. I like to do mine once every other day or so, at least once a week.

A Facebook and Subreddit

Next Week...

We'll see...

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