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Rapid Excellence Exercise to Amplify Your Favorites and Be a Prodigious Valuer
An excellent life is a life driven by your authentic values, that combination of dreams, curiosities, passions, and delights that are unique to you.
Unfortunately, too many people end up merely as value-copiers.
Sometimes it just feels easier to, as they say, “go along to get along”. Sometimes it just feels easier to people please. Sometimes it just feels easier to say “it was ok” rather than take the time to stop and examine what you like and what you don't like about something. Sometimes it just feels easier to trod a well-worn path, take your cues from the society that surrounds you, and just do what you’re “expected” or “supposed” to do.
However, too much of that, and you’ll wake up one morning to find you’re stuck in a life that was never really your own.
A self-actualizing life is one centered around your strengths, your skills, your principles, your values. As Maslow once said, “The only happy people I know are the ones who are working well at something they consider important.”
However, in order to achieve this, you have to know what your deem important and what you value.
One of the best exercises I know to lay the foundation for a life brimming with your authentic values is one I call “Favorites - 2 Layers Deep'“.
The general idea is to start to be fanatical about identifying your favorites in all aspects of life - to say “mine” or “not mine” about all the possibilities the world presents. Then, once you’ve identified your favorites, interrogate them. Go to a deeper level, at least twice.
The process, in essence, is this:
Be intentional about identifying your favorites in all that you experience, in a multiplicity of categories. Not just your favorite food - but your favorite breakfast, your favorite vegetable, your favorite restaurant in town.
Especially once you hone in on major areas of values in your life (for example, I love books), get even more granular about the categories (not just “favorite author” but “favorite 19th century British poet” - for example I love Tennyson)
Once you’ve identified a favorite, be sure to ask yourself why.
There might be a handful of reasons. For example, part of my love of Tennyson’s poetry is sheer personal nostalgia to happy days of my adolescence. I also love the aspiration to grandeur and heroism in his subjects and style, his ability to create vivid visual images through words, and how he could capture important ideas and experiences in concise, memorable quotations.
3.) Deeper Causes, Connections, and Distinctions
Now that you’ve articulated your whys, go one level deeper. Either by asking why again to get at a deeper cause. Or by observing patterns and making connections to your other values and beliefs. And/or, perhaps even by making distinctions and drawing out those aspects you don’t like or agree with (after all, just because something is favorite doesn’t mean you like everything about it).
For example, I might ponder on why personal nostalgia matters to me and how it reflects upon my present and future goals. I might observe that vividly visual language and powerful short quotes are aspects of my own writing I’d like to improve (for example in the writing I do for this Club!) and start to compare Tennyson with other writers who have these particular strengths to see what I can learn. And, I might point out that Tennyson’s heroic inspiration often came from medievalism, whereas my favorite epoch of European history was the Renaissance….and there’s another rabbit hole to pursue (maybe even questioning what I can learn about the value in medievalism that Tennyson saw while also going deeper in my own appreciation for the Renaissance).
****Most importantly: once you’ve identified your favorites - actively seek them out and incorporate them even more deeply into your life. Don’t let your days get cluttered by non-favorites, just because.
You have one life, fill it with your favorites.