As I write this, I cannot help but smile, thinking about how the entire journey unfolded for this book. At first, the idea of writing a profile on myself felt uncomfortable. Who am I to write a profile on myself? It feels narcissistic! The more I thought about it, the more I realized the clarity, focus, and excitement in my life right now resulted from the reflective methods outlined in Personal Socrates, and that my perspective could relate to others.
I reflected on a prompt that I often ask myself when considering whether or not to do something: What’s the worst that can happen? The fear of being judged or not resonating with my profile held me back, but at the expense of someone finding value in my story. If I have learned one thing over the last decade of studying great minds, it’s that it only takes one prompt or one perspective shift to completely alter our path.
I genuinely believe many of you will come out of my profile with a bulletproof end-of-the ear, or any-time-of-year, review system.
What do I want for my life?
This very question saved me, a question that paused and released an internal narrative that was sending me down a dark path—a journey that felt hopeless, alone, and terrifying. This question, by nature, is optimistic and progressive. I can’t see myself asking for a life of suffering and despair nor can I see others asking for this life either. I released the narrative holding me back and answered the question based on what I wanted in my life, not from a materialistic standpoint, but from how I wanted my life to feel.
I set my intention, or my one-word theme, for the year: Thriving. I will thrive in my thoughts, feelings, family, activities, health, and work. Spending time twelve months ago to set this intention with goals, habits, and systems to support the intention has led to me being in a different headspace. Compared to the introduction, I’m in an opposite place, one with a different set of questions, thoughts, and feelings.
Are all areas in my life thriving day in and day out? No, but each day I am more clear, more intentional, and able to experience an expansion of possibility. This book, a move out of the city and into nature, and working with exceptional people who light me up each day have been my expansions that not long ago would have seemed impossible. Yet, here I am, excited for new possibilities to come—experiences, people, and circumstances that I cannot predict but I know will unfold as I follow the signs and breadcrumbs of life.
The question now becomes, what do I want for my life now? In short, more of the same. As I write my profile, it’s early December, a time when I start collecting my reflections 2 Personal Socrates: Better Questions, Better Life from the previous year and start planning conscious intentions for the upcoming year. To be clear, you can run this exercise at any point during the year. The flow is the same. I choose the end of the calendar year because the entire world slows down, making it even easier for me to slow down.
For those of you, like me, who like to know the practical details, I will explain my process. I credit a huge amount of my mental clarity to it, and I now know this process is firmly rooted in the Socratic method.
What did the last twelve months look like?
I always like to start by taking inventory of what actually happened over the last year, or in other words, I spend time getting clear. You can try and do this by memory, but unless you are superhuman, it will be challenging. Often the most prominent moments will come to mind first. Maybe this year you moved, changed jobs, ended a relationship; but there were other vibrant moments and events that most likely took place to appreciate and learn from as well. Here are three ways to do a high-level review of the year:
Calendar scan: Open up your calendar, go to the “view by month” option and scan the significant events, important meetings, vacations, and milestones you have recorded.
Journal scan: Open up your journal, do a quick scan of the things that stick out. The intent is not to reread everything you wrote, but to identify the “oh yeah, I forgot about that” moments.
Photo scan: Take out your phone, go back to the beginning of the year, set up a month by month view and start scrolling. We are visual beings, so this scan often tells a great story and triggers many memories to reflect on.
Regardless of the method you use, list the moments that stand out so you can see everything in one glance. Now you can start unpacking what you learned and appreciated during those times, and also better understand what you want from your life.
Try out these prompts:
What did I learn?
What was amazing?
What made me the happiest?
What did I ignore?
Where can I be more focused and intentional?
Now, focus on painting a picture that supports your ambitions. Be intentional, and design a life that brings the feelings and emotions you want to live out each day. I find it helpful to pick a word or a theme for each year. As I mentioned earlier, my word for the year was “thriving.” Pick something that speaks to you, and work through the prompts above to bring a clear picture of how you want the next twelve months to materialize. Once you have a clear picture, you can then set goals and put systems in place to turn your vision into reality. I’m not going to dive into goal-setting practices, as countless books and articles are available to help in this process. I subscribe to the notion of setting clear goals and implementing robust systems to ensure my habits support the goals I have set out to achieve. If you want more on this subject, I suggest reading Atomic Habits by James Clear or flip back to his profile as a guide.
The last step in the process is something I learned from best-selling author and worldclass thinker Tim Ferriss. Take your plan and review each element from the perspective of what you would have to do to achieve each ambition in six months instead of twelve.
I know, it feels lofty. When I first heard about the tactic, I thought to myself, “Come on, I just spent all this time crafting a plan for the year, and now I have to restart on another timeline?” My original thinking was wrong. The intent is not to restart but to challenge your thought process and not settle on what intuitively comes to mind. Going a few layers deeper and challenging your initial thinking will open up a whole new path and set of opportunities.
Try out these prompts:
Where do I want to be in the next twelve months?
What steps do I need to take to get there?
How does it look and feel when I get to that place?
What are the affirmations that will help me?
What can I do to achieve all of my ambitions in six months instead of twelve?
If you spend time with these prompts to get clear and intentional with your life, you will be pleasantly surprised by the opportunity presented to you. The feeling of waking up with a plan, a guiding light, and clear actions supporting your goals and desires make for beautiful days. Dream, explore, experiment, learn, and have fun with the process. If this practice speaks to you, do not wait until December to jump in. Run through the prompts and your reflection right now. I can say with certainty that you will come out the other side feeling motivated, driven, and alive!
Only a few minutes of intentional reflection can dictate months’ worth of results.