The Personal Statement

What is your memory like?

Do you have total recall?

Or are you more like Dory from Finding Nemo?

Like most people you’re going to be somewhere in the middle.

You remember a lot, but some things slip.

You probably write lists of things to get done, you’ll have a few goals or dreams noted down and some larger personal projects planned out, however roughly.

But on the day-to-day do you sometimes struggle to remember those things you’ve learned recently?

Particularly if you’re on a personal development programme. Do you struggle to remember and keep a track of all the things you have decided that you’d like to change about yourself, possibly based on something you read or heard?

Or you have new regimes, particular changes to your workflows or new habits that you know you want to form, but you find it can be difficult to keep track of the next steps?

Even if you use a trusted digital system like OneNote or a physical notebook, to store this information, it then becomes a problem of indexing & retrieval. You’ll have sections containing different pages with different types of information in, but then you need to be remembering where each different thing is. How do you get that holistic summary, the 1000 mile high view?

This is particularly a problem if you have ADD tendencies. Keep track of one or two new things to accomplish and you’re fine as long as they are not boring – you’ll then do anything to avoid doing them –  but try to keep track of a bunch of new things, stuff not ingrained habitually and it can be like wading through a fog of information. Stuff floats in and out of focus, there’s this sense of disorganisation, that there’s a bunch of things you know you want to be doing, it’s all written down, there’s sort of a plan, but it’s hard to fit it all in your head at the same time.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If so you might want to try this really simple approach that will remove the hard work of trying to remember it all.

The Personal Statement

Let’s assume that you do use a trusted system to store lists of things. Details of projects, random inspirational quotes, which books to read next and so on.

Go through this system and pick out all the things that you want to apply to your life for the – say – next 6 months: aspirations, a few goals, a change in mindset, some habits, reminders about tone of voice in your writing.

Copy them and summarise into a personal statement; your own personal manifesto.

It should be short so it would fit onto a single sheet of A4 if printed and you should store it somewhere where you will look at it very regularly.

Example

Let’s give a hypothetical example.

Jane is freelance front-end web developer who is 35 years old, married with 2 kids who are a few years off secondary school age. She has aspirations to launch an online service putting local crafts people in touch  with people who need bespoke pieces made to specification, she used to be a keen spoon carver until life got in the way.

Her and her partner are hoping to move to Spain one day, so she would really like to learn Spanish. She’s mad on horses, but doesn’t have the space or income to keep one. She has a blog that she’d like to publish more on but she has confidence issues: knowing what to write about and a bit of imposter syndrome.

It is hard for Jane to be motivated to exercise,but she really likes cake and is keen to keep in shape.

She is also rather time poor. On top of her business she has a family and a house to help run.

Jane’s personal statement might look like this:

I, Jane Doe, am constantly improving. I am positive and I am enjoying every day as it comes.

I am kind to myself, I know that I am doing the best that I can.

I believe that:

  • if I want to become a leaner version of myself, I need to act like a lean version of myself
  • if I’m the smartest person in the room, I need to find a new room full of smarter people
  • as we help others to succeed, we also help ourselves

At work, I:

  • work in [specific niche]
  • doing interesting work for;
  • happy clients, who;
  • understand the value that I provide

At home:

  • we have a cleaner each week and someone to mow the lawn once a month. I do not feel guilty about this, it frees up our time to do the things that we want to do
  • I don’t allow screens in my bedroom, except my Kindle.
  • I try not to drink alcohol in the week, but I don’t beat myself up if I do

I have a queue of new positive habits that I will form, currently I am focussed on:

  • drinking 1 pint of water ever 2 hours during the working day
  • going to bed by 9:30pm.
  • getting up 1 hour before the kids every morning, this gives me time to do some exercise and think

I use my commute to learn Spanish, using an app on my phone.

Tuesday and Thursday evenings are my time to work on my side project. I try not to get frustrated that I can’t spend more time on it. I remind myself that it’s better to spend a few hours per week on it than none at all.

Friday night is date night.

Saturday mornings are for chores and kids’ clubs.

Every other Saturday afternoon I go horse riding at the local riding school with my daughter.

Sundays are left free, but I always find an hour to plan out my week.

I have a long list of books I’d like to read, the top 3 currently are:

  • Book 1
  • Book 2
  • Book 3

To avoid getting stressed out about all the projects I wasn’t getting done, I have parked:

  • writing on my blog, it can wait
  • aspirational project 2
  • practical project 3

My family are the most important thing to me, I am here for them but also making sure that I take care of myself.

Note the underlining. Jane uses OneNote, so these are links to OneNote pages containing more information on these things.

Of course your statement will be different because your situation is different as are your aspirations.

But, even if you find it easy to retain and recall knowledge and feel that a statement like this is a waste of time, consider that writing it down will free your mind up to store even more important things.

If you do decide to make your own personal statement then make sure you read it at least once a week.

Keep tweaking it. New things will come in, new things will drop off to allow you to make everything fit.

A summary like this keeps a lot of stuff from floating around in your head, it also keeps it right up front. You’ll be more motivated to keep on track as there’s no longer an excuse to forget.

Good luck trying it out, let me know how you get on.

Words: 1168

Time: 2 hours. I’ll probably re-work this, with a better example over the coming weeks. I follow this practice myself, not sure if it’s a thing, or just something I made up. It definitely helps to maintain perspective.

This post is one of 30 I wrote daily during April 2016 as part of the 30 Day Writing Challenge.