Activity 5 - An Adventure in Self-Direction

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 08:11


Maurice Gibbons (c) 2008 Personal Power Press International

You have just completed your personal profile and that’s a lot of work, so let’s change our approach and work with our imaginations for a while. I invite you to take an imaginary journey in which you accomplish the most remarkable thing, a dream of an achievement. We won’t violate the laws of nature—this time—and go flying from country to country without wings, but I do urge you to reach for the very best you can imagine actually happening in your life.


This is not airy-fairy stuff, this is a rehearsal of what we will be doing for real very soon, and it will all involve the imagination. Every step forward in self-direction is a step into the unknown. We must imagine the step, what we have to do to take that step, and who we have to become to make sure that step into the unknown is actually taken and taken successfully.

Remember, because it is vital to your success, that you have two cerebral hemispheres, one that emphasizes the operations of reason, and another that emphasizes the operations of the imagination. We will use both, and to good advantage.

Well, what about this imaginary journey? Here is how it unfolds:

» Name your adventure
» Develop some ideas about it
» Visualize your journey
» Set a specific goal
» Devise a strategic plan to achieve your goal
» Imagine your adventure plan actually happening
» Invent a difficulty that appears in your path
» Solve the problem
» Name something you can do to improve next time
» And here’s the basic process that we will follow throughout this program. It is the core of the itinerary above...

Reflection about the process you followed and your personal performance will reveal ways you can improve and that is part of the secret of moving steadily forward.

Hear We Go. The Adventure Begins

Name your adventure: We will find what you are most interested in doing by using a new technique that we will call Focused Pages. This is a technique that I have adapted from the Morning Pages that Julia Cameron describes in her book The Artist’s Way. She urges her readers to write three pages every morning, but not ordinary pages—three pages without stopping, without editing, and without hardly lifting your pen from the paper.

I’m urging you to write. Focused Pages in the same way, but with this difference: begin with the words, “The achievement that would excite me the most is...” and then write wherever that theme takes you. Do at least a page and shoot for three. It’s that third page where the real stuff often comes. Above all, do not let your inner critic silence the wildest ideas that occur to you. No matter what, keep on writing without any stopping until you are finished.

Here’s the beginning of my focused pages...

The achievement that would excite me the most is traveling with a group of talented people around the world to help people in some way that employed my talents and made a difference in the lives of people in need. I’m not sure what that might be, maybe something like what I’m doing here—teaching people to be successful—maybe more focused on survival and keeping safe in some way. But that’s all pretty noble and I would also really be excited to play trumpet in a jazz band which is pretty silly because I’m getting up there in years and I have just learned to get a note out of the thing. Hey, no negative stuff. This is the imagination so don’t turn off the tap of ideas with “I can’ts.” Shoot for a year of work to get ready. There must be jazz groups at all levels of ability....

This is an opening up activity, an activity to open up the possibilities for your imaginary journey of achievement. As Julia Cameron says, we can’t go far in stream writing without revealing things we didn’t know were lurking inside us. When you are finished, look back over what you have written, and take from it (or from your personal profile) the single achievement that excites you the most. Do not make a practical choice, choose the idea that is most exciting to you.

It’s off the wall for me and represents a pretty steep hill to climb, but I like the idea of playing jazz trumpet--with at least three notes. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I keep starting and stopping. Always for very good reasons, but I don’t need to explain or justify. This is an act of imagination. I can’t blow this one—but yes, I will—you know— blow—trumpet.

Record your choice in your journal. Notice that you could just look back to your profile and either select an interest or put one together from the other sections. The idea is to introduce you to another way to get at your interests. Everything we do should be useful for the rest of our lives. You can, for instance, use your profile or focused pages as long as you live. Everything we do here should meet that challenge. Hold our feet to the fire.

Develop some ideas about what you might do now to move toward the interest, theme, or adventure that you chose. This is a creative-generative task. I want to play the trumpet in a jazz band; what adventures can I imagine that will help me to get there?

» I can get a trumpet and play it.
» I can rent a trumpet and take lessons.
» I can find a jazz mentor to guide me and play with him or her.


These are very practical. Let’s add a couple of ideas with some zing.

» I find or start a jazz group and we learn together; we jam.
» I get accepted into a jazz group that will challenge me to learn to play with them.
» I have this amazing talent and quickly find my way to great solos—the amazing, new, one-note solo.

Have some fun because the intent of this imagined activity is to get the feel of the process not to actually do the task. Have fun but don’t get too far from reality.

Do what I did; invent three or more practical ideas and three wilder ones. Then choose one to use in the sections that follow.

*Mine is I find a jazz group and we learn together; we jam. It is always useful when facing a choice or decision to generate more than one possibility, and then to choose the best idea among them.

Visualize the climax of your adventure. Imagine that you go on your adventure and achieve the result that you hoped for. Everything you hoped would happen happens. What is that result like? Imagine what is happening, how you are feeling, and what others are saying. Imagine that the best you could imagine actually happens: what is going on?

So, relax, turn inward, and imagine your complete success.

Here is mine:

My son is a musician and plays regularly at a large, popular restaurant. I imagine playing jazz there to an appreciative crowd. There are five of us; piano, drums, bass, guitar, and me on the trumpet. We are playing cool jazz and everyone is taking turns soloing. When my turn comes I play with feeling. I am also aware of the great challenge to be inventive and I become lost in the experience of feeling the group around me, and being absorbed in the music. When we finish there is applause and my son is beaming in surprise and appreciation that the old man can actually make some music.


Now, what is your story of the best result you can imagine from your adventure in action? Tell your vision to your journal.

Set a specific goal. We turn next to setting up a specific goal that we can reach in about one to five weeks. Shorter activities we will call “events;” a longer activity we will call an “enterprise;” one this length is a “project.” Several events make a project, and several projects make an enterprise, and a number of enterprises make a “field” of interest.

Moving toward our visions is positive; achieving them is terrific. My vision is an enterprise in jazz trumpet, and is a long way off, but serves as a beacon to guide my shorter, more manageable projects. So what will my project be? Again we want to generate several possibilities and then choose the most promising—unless, of course, an idea comes to you that feels right and is a strong choice. You will know. Here are three of the choices I generated:

1. Learn to play a simple song
2. Find a teacher and take lessons
3. Get a trumpet and learn to play scales


I decided to use all three of these in reverse order. But my goal is to learn to play a simple song. Goals are special creatures: some are good; some are useless. What makes a good one? Well many things, but right now let’s choose an important feature: a good goal is a challenge but achievable. If the goal isn’t a challenge then little can be accomplished by reaching it; if the goal is too grand and out of reach, it is too easy to give up pursuing it. Playing a song—since I can’t play a decent note yet—is a challenge, and I think that I can do it, even though I have no music in my background. What is your project goal?

Devise a strategic plan for achieving your goal. Your plan is a step-by-step process for achieving the results you are after. The strategy is to devise a way to get there that has several features. It’s as efficient and direct as possible. It takes advantage of your strengths and learning style (the way that you learn best and get things done most efficiently), and it’s in the sequence that things have to happen. I already have a couple of steps.

Plan for Learning to Play a Song on the Trumpet
1. Rent a trumpet
2. Hire Wynton Marsalis to teach me (see his website)
3. Practice daily for 3 weeks
4. Learn to play my song
5. Play the song for my wife, but not for Wynton.

This doesn’t sound magical, but playing anything will be amazing to me. Now, devise your plan. Be wilder than this if you like, but remember the ideas about planning and apply them too as you work. We will do a lot with process thinking, thinking about the best process for getting things done.

[Just for fun, check out the Wynton Marsalis home page on Google. Listen to The Carnival of Venice (classical) and then Cherokee (Jazz).]

Imagine your adventure plan actually happening. Include a problem you face and what you do to solve it. This is three steps from the outline of Activity #5 above rolled into one because they are all part of the story we will invent about what happens when we put our plan into action. Once again, this is imagination with a purpose.

Recording what happens is important for two major reasons. First, it reminds us that anticipation is an essential part of planning. When we name the steps we will take, we have to see them happening and know that they will work together. Second, writing the record forces us to reflect on what happened and to understand it so we can learn from it and see what we can do to improve our performance.

We name and solve a problem because as soon as we launch our projects, problems will appear. Starting a project is like throwing a pebble into the pond; both the pebble and the project create rings of ripples spreading out from the disturbance. Problems are normal so we have to relish them and become skilled problem-solvers. Either that or become quitters at the first sign of difficulty, and that is not acceptable in this program, nor, I hope is it acceptable to you. Be unstoppable and be ingenious. Here is my entry about my imagined project.

I went to Long and McQuade and rented a great trumpet for $20.00 a month. The manager recommended a music stand and a beginner’s music book. I talked to Mr. Marsalis and he generously agreed to teach me. I took my first lesson, which was mostly about the instrument, holding it properly, and blowing into the mouthpiece correctly.

I struggled just to make a sound that was trumpetlike. After two nights of screeching I became discouraged and missed the third night of practice, and the fourth. The whole idea of playing seemed further away than ever, and likely beyond my ability.

That was my problem; my mind was accepting defeat, and I was quitting. My wife didn’t say anything, she just took the trumpet out of the closet and put it on my pillow so I couldn’t miss it when I went to bed, as if to say, “What about this?” So I went back to work and told my wife that in two weeks I was going to play an old jazz classic for her called, It Had to Be You. Then I made a space in my daybook and wrote in a time for practice every day. As soon as I could make trumpet noises, I spent a little of my time on the song. These strategies worked, including the promise to my wife.

After a week, she said I was sounding better, and I realized it was a lot better than when I started. After two weeks I played It Had to Be You for her and she was moved, not by the beauty of my playing, but for the fact that I did what I promised to do.

In your journal, write your story about what happens when you implement your plan and solve the problem you face.

The last step is to name something you can do next time to get better. This is important because an accumulation of small steps forward is the key to rapid improvement. My improvement is to make appointments in my daybook for practice and to keep them as faithfully as I do my social commitments. Decide what you will do differently to improve, and enter it into your journal.

Looking Back for Total Recall

That was a project completed in your imagination, but it involves the key operations in conducting any self-directed project, and it is those operations we want to remember. They are outlined in the first purple list above, but there are also ideas about handling each operation well. To help you remember both the steps and the advice, draw a tree with a branch for each step. Then add key words for the advice on each of them. The sample below illustrates these two steps. The tree diagram also introduces visual thinking, another theme in this program that you will be hearing more about. Colour and picture help memory.

Ideas and skills are piling up now. I urge you not to skim over them. Each one is intended to give you more power to learn and accomplish. You have to pay attention before memory can get the fix it needs. What you learn now will pay off later in the program, and in your life. Conduct “operation transfer.” Start using these ideas in your life.

The over-arching theme is to become more intentional. The self-directed person is moving forward with vision and goals to achieve. The self-directed man or woman is also steadily moving forward as a person, seeking success, fulfillment, and happiness. If you have hung in there and gotten all of this activity done, congratulations. You are on your way.

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 October 2011 06:24