In the previous three installments, I discussed visualizing ideal final states of things, examining the current state of your life, and how to bridge the two. In the final post in this series, I show how these techniques can be applied at any scale; from a daily to-do list to planning the course of your entire life.
In the previous post, I showed how how I write Structural Tension charts. The paragraph on top is where I write the ideal state of some thing that I want to accomplish, whether it’s a finished project, an instilled habit or an attained achievement. The paragraph on the bottom is where I describe as objectively and nonjudgmentally as possible the current reality of the thing I’m setting out to accomplish. The space in between the two paragraphs gets filled with a list of actionable steps I can take to move from where I am to where I want to be.
To me, these steps resemble planks on a bridge. The easier and smaller steps tend to go down near the bottom of the page, and the later tasks tend to be a bit more abstract, large in scope, and usually depend on previous tasks. Sometimes the steps I write out are really big items, like “Get a job as a software developer”. Writing this down doesn’t fill me with the will to go out and get things done. How do I even go about starting such a huge task? The answer: Make a ST chart for that task. If there are any tasks in that new chart that are too large, you can make yet more charts. In the end, you wind up with a forest (in the graph theory sense) of charts that all serve to plot a course for your life.
For example, the ST chart I shared with you in the previous post could have been a single step in a larger chart where I set a course to gain better insight to my emotions, and the step titled “Experiment with active forms of meditation” could have its own chart where I describe the styles I’ve tried, what’s gone well, and what has yet to be tested. Furthermore, I could have a completely separate chart about setting up a regular journaling habit where I list “Try keeping a meditation journal” as one of the steps.
So far the method that I’ve had the most success with is to keep track of these charts on paper, but as much as I deeply enjoy the feel of pen and paper, I can’t help but think that organizing these charts is a task that computers are well-suited to. I’ve noticed there is a lot of software that could be great at managing these ST charts, but I think the two most promising ones are Emacs and TiddlyWiki. I’ll hopefully have more to say in the future about if/how I’ve adapted my system to allow for the help of software.
In conclusion, the process of writing ST charts may lead you to write out steps that are a bit too large to tackle on their own. Fortunately, you can take advantage of the recursive nature of ST charts and break each step down into their own chart, and it becomes easier to plan out projects or ambitions of any size.