Richard Kallos

Inveniam viam - Building Bridges

:: life, memento-mori

If you know where you are and where you want to be, you can start to plot a course between the two points. Following on the ideas presented in the previous two posts, I describe a practice I learned from reading Robert Fritz’s book Your Life as Art.

I spent a few years of my life voraciously consuming self-help books. I believe the journey started with Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and it more-or-less ended with Meditations, Stoicism and the Art of Happiness, and Your Life as Art. I’ll probably wind up writing about my path to Stoicism some other time. This post is about what I learned from Robert Fritz.

Your Life as Art is filled with insight about navigating the complex murky space of life while juggling the often competing aspects of spontaneity and rigid structure. My collection of notes about Your Life as Art is nearly a thousand lines long, and there’s definitely far too much good stuff to fit into a single blog post. At this point, I’ll focus on what Robert Fritz calls structural tension, and his technique for plotting a course with the help of a chart.

Hopefully I convinced you with the previous two posts about the importance of objectively “seeing” where you are and where you want to be. These two activites form the foundation of what Fritz calls structural tension, a force that stems from the contrast between reality and an ideal state and seeks to relieve the tension by moving you from your present state to your ideal state.

Writing is a handy exercise generating this force. A structural tension chart (or ST chart) has your desired ideal state at the top of a page, your current state at the bottom, and a series of steps bridging the gap between the two. First you write the ideal section, then the real section, and finally add the steps in the middle. It’s very important to be as objective and detailed as possible about your ideal and current states. Here’s an example:

--- Ideal ---
I meditate every day for at least 15 minutes. My mind is calm
and focused as I go about my daily activities. I feel comfortable
sitting for the duration of my practice, no matter how long it is.

- Try keeping a meditation journal
- Experiment with active forms of meditation
- Experiment with seating positions
- Give myself time in the morning to meditate
- Wake up at the same time every day

--- Real ----
I meditate approximately once per week. I have difficulty
finding a regular time during the day to devote to meditation,
making it difficult to create a habit that sticks. I find that
I become uncomfortable sitting with my legs crossed for more
than 5 minutes. I do not often remember how good I feel after
meditating, which results in difficulty deciding to sit.

If you’re interested in reading more, I highly recommend Your Life as Art. Robert Fritz’s books are filled with great ideas. While this is basically a slightly more detailed to-do list, I find the process to be very grounding.

In conclusion, once you know where you are and where you want to be, try writing a structural tension chart in order to set a course.