Fast Change: Immersive Self-Development Strategies for Everyday Life

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Our team has been conducting some exciting research on intentional self-development strategies and have established a methodology for individual change over a week long period of time. Please see below for step-by-step instructions for the “Fast Change Project,” a project designed to help students align their behaviors with their personal values utilizing cognitive dissonance as motivation.

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Directions for the Fast Change Project

Students were given the following instructions, followed by detailed instructions in class.  Each assignment was given about a week after the completion of the previous assignment.

1)  Identity Project (Real Self)

Write a 4-6 page paper describing your identity in each of the Sustainable Personality contexts:  Social, Intellectual (cognitive), Emotional (psychological), Physical, and Philosophical.  So, who are you intellectually?  Write about it.  Who are you socially?  Write about it.  And so on.  You are describing yourself, writing about your behaviors, your identity, in each of these contexts, not your values.

Take your time on this.  It is good to spend some time reflecting on each context before you write.  This is not a project to be rushed.  Think, then write.  Be honest with yourself; you will not be graded on what you write, only on your completion of the assignment, so use this exercise for your own benefit, in order to examine yourself.

This is who you are right now, in the present.  Not who you want to be.  Describe yourself in each context, even if it might not sound like who you’d like to be.

2)  Identity Project (Ideal Self)

Write a minimum 4-6 page paper describing your identity in each of the Sustainable Personality (Individual Sustainability) contexts, but this time for your Ideal Self.  So:  Ideally, who would you be intellectually?  Write about it.  Ideally, who are you socially?  Write about it.  And so on.  What would your ideal behaviors be in each of these contexts?

Take your time on this.  It is good to spend some time reflecting on each context before you write.  Think, then write.  Be honest with yourself; we will not deduct points for what you write as long as you complete the assignment.

This is who you envision to be your best self.  Not who you are now.  Describe yourself in each context.  Do not to compare yourself with the past, rather write about how you might envision yourself in an ideal form (or “better” self).

3)  Analysis of Real Self and Ideal Self Projects

Reread both papers carefully.  In what ways does your “real self” differ from your “ideal self” in each context?  For example, emotionally, you may want to exhibit certain sensitive and open behaviors (ideally), but what behaviors do you actually exhibit (Real Self)?  Make this comparison for each of the five contexts.  Go into some depth here.  Again, this is a reflective, analytic essay.  Reflect especially on whether your “real” behaviors in each context are different from your “ideal” behaviors, and analyze why they may align or not align, with attention to what barriers may prevent you from being more like your ideal self.

4)  Being Your Ideal Self 

For one week (seven days in a row), be your ideal self in every situation in which you find yourself.  Some individuals like the term “better self,” since being their ideal selves may be too complex or out of reach for a week-long project.  Be your ideal self in every situation, not just ones that involve others.  This will make your week very different (and initially more difficult, at times) than it might normally be.

If this seems confusing, take every situation as it comes to you…live in the present moment.  It is hard to look at your ideal self and take everything on at once.  Go through your day as you normally would without stressing about the contexts, but as your day goes on, just be your ideal self. You may want to write a reminder to yourself, or come up with some other device that works for you so you remember

At the end of every day, write about how the project went.  What successes or problems are you having?  Trepidations?  This journal can be as detailed as you like or simply reflective, but it is important to do this each evening.  How is the project going?  Are you having some difficulty?  Why?  Are you discovering some things about yourself (like what)? Submit these journal entries via email each night before midnight.

5)  Project Final Analysis (Immediately After Finishing the Project)

Now that the week is over, decide among the following three options:  1)  Continue being your “ideal self” in every setting you are in, 2)  Pick one or two contexts in which to continue being your ideal self, or 3)  Stop doing the project.

Write a final reflection on the project.  You may discover some additional insights into your changes.  Some possible questions to address:   Did your behaviors change?  How so and why?  Did your values change?  What motivated you the most?  What measures did you use to bridge the gap between your real and ideal self?  How did you maintain the changes?

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