BL&T No. 017: Seeking Change Through Self-Discovery

Personal Growth

This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.


"[When I approach a problem, my mental image is that of a city] from 40,000 feet above on an airplane looking down ... you don’t see the contours, you just see a city. You [don't understand all] aspects of the city ... you don’t understand where it’s dense, where it’s not dense, it just looks like a blob. And so the important part for me is I don’t know what I don’t know. So I always start by allocating enough time. If something is important, I start allocating time towards it. And then I quickly try to spend enough time where I can get to what I call level two, which is when I’m more like 20,000 feet perspective, where I can start seeing the contours of the city. I can kind of work out [the] rough tree branches, so to speak. I can see the leaves. I can see the details. I can see all of those things, but I kind of have an idea of blocks to start diving into.

... So putting yourself in that mindset, starting to see the nuances, starting to see the blocks, then start to think about what habits can lead up to the skills that you desire."

Daniel Ek on The Tim Ferriss Show (#484)


A new year is upon us. For many, that means making new New Year's Resolutions or revisiting past ones.

In my experience, any attempt at a New Year's Resolution was mostly unsuccessful. If I did make progress, it rarely stuck. I set resolutions because I saw a brighter future for myself. I knew that I was capable of more and wanted to get closer to reaching my full potential. The challenge wasn't with the vision; it was in the execution. I had no plan.

I fell into the same trap that many of us do in December and January. We get inspired by success stories of people making a positive change in their lives. We ignore the hardships they overcame and focus on the outcome. We believe that if we're firm enough in our Resolutions, we can willpower our way to change. In reality, that only takes us so far. Who has the energy to challenge their temptations and habits every day? Willpower is exhausting.

I recently listened to an interview with author Gretchen Rubin (featured in my newsletter last Monday). She talked about a framework she created to describe how people respond to expectations called the Four Tendencies Framework. It classifies people into the following profiles: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel.

Gretchen Rubin Four Tendencies Framework

According to Rubin, "when we understand ourselves and how our Tendency shapes our perspective on the world, we can adapt our circumstances to suit our own nature."

I was intrigued by Rubin's framework, so I decided to take the online quiz last week to find my profile. The results hit home. In a matter of moments, it was like Rubin had me figured out, going as far as to recommend the exact strategies I'd already adopted for practicing good habits.

I thought about my personal growth over the past few years. I realized the journey was less about creating positive change and more about self-discovery. When I think about why I never made progress on my New Year's Resolutions years ago, it wasn't solely because I relied on willpower or didn't have a plan. I spent more time focusing on who I wanted to become than I did in understanding who I was.

Where did I spend my time? How did that make me better?

What were my motivations? Personally? Professionally?

What did I want to learn? What was holding me back?

It wasn't until I could answer these types of questions that I could even begin working on a plan.

As we welcome 2021 with open arms, Rubin's framework couldn't have come at a better time. While I no longer make New Year's Resolutions, I enjoy the feeling of rejuvenation and hope that comes with a new year. For me, it is time to reflect and think deeply about my habits. Am I still heading in the direction I want to go?

During the rest of the year, I focus on consistency above all else. I make sure to leave room for new experiences and discoveries to shift my perspective, often inspiring me to revisit old habits and adopt new ones.

Lesson? There is no one-size-fits-all solution for personal growth. To create change, we must first start with understanding who we are. In essence, we cannot change the outcome of a system without understanding how that system works.

Thought Starter

Where am I using force to create change?

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