How To Figure Out All Your Biggest Flaws (And Fix Them)
What do you do when something goes wrong? Most people just move on and hope that it miraculously goes right next time. This is obviously the wrong approach. There is a reason why the following quote is widely attributed to Einstein (despite him probably never having said it):
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
However, that is exactly what most people do. They keep procrastinating, they keep getting into awkward social interactions, and they keep making poor decisions. Yet they never take a moment to self-reflect and figure out where it went wrong. Indeed, they just shrug their shoulders and hope the same thing won’t happen next time. It will.
Don’t just think about what happened. Don’t just think about what you should have done. Thoughts are worthless because your short-term memory is worthless. G. A. Miller said the number of items your short-term memory could contain was “seven plus or minus two.” Later studies have found that that number is probably closer to four. In any case, it’s a minuscule number, and any subject of any complexity will be too big to fit within your short-term memory. Don’t use it.
To figure out and correct your flaws, you need to journal. Write everything down. Every day, at the end of the day, sit down and make a list of everything that went wrong that day. Then, for every item in that list, write, in detail, exactly how things went. Now find out what went wrong. Don’t shift any blame onto others, figure out exactly what you could have done to prevent it.
Try to go as many steps back as possible. You wrote less today because you were tired. You were tired because you didn’t have enough sleep. You didn’t get enough sleep because you stayed up until 2 AM yesterday. You stayed up late because you had an assignment due today and didn’t do it in advance. Conclusion: You wrote less today because your time management sucks.
If you keep doing this for every single mistake and every single problem in your life, you will eventually realise that all your problems can be boiled down to a handful of things. There really only are a handful of issues that can’t be reduced any further. Almost every issue relating to productivity can be boiled down to poor planning or lack of discipline, because if you plan well and have the discipline to execute that plan, things will go right.
After you found out what exactly you did wrong, write down what you will do to prevent it. And don’t write something vague like “I won’t procrastinate,” you need a concrete plan. Write: “I’ll keep my phone on the other side of the room” instead.
It’s very easy to start hating yourself when you’re constantly pointing out your own flaws, so try to not regret anything. It’s all water under the bridge now. Just analyse it from a birds-eye view to see what you did wrong. Detach yourself from the problem. Approach it as if it’s a mistake someone else made. You’re both the therapist and the client, and for this to work, the two must be separated.
Moreover, try to not see mistakes as bad things. See them as opportunities to learn, opportunities to improve yourself. Don’t think “I totally ruined my chances with this girl I was talking to,” think “I now have a higher chance of succeeding the next time I talk to a girl.”
Lastly, don’t just analyse everything that went wrong. Also analyse everything that went right. Repeat the exact same steps you used on your mistakes, but on your successes instead. Try to understand what went right went right, and think of ways to ensure those same things happen in the future as well.
How To Journal Effectively
Because the sole purpose of this journal is to analyse your mistakes and successes, form is not important. Unlike a diary or a bullet journal, where you might add things like doodles to spruce up the pages, the only thing you’re going to be doing here is writing.
This means anything that lets you write — physical or digital — will suffice. I personally use Notion, because I already use Notion for taking notes and managing my projects, but even something as simple as a pen and paper or notepad.exe will let you do this.
You also don’t have to pay attention to structure. Just keep writing. I sometimes write thousands of words, the only formatting being blank lines separating the different subjects. This is because the journal is not really meant to be reread. If the information is important you’re probably going to remember it, and if you’re really afraid of forgetting it you should write it down somewhere else.
Doing all of this will take a while at first. If you’re not consciously analysing your actions, you’re probably making way more mistakes than you realise. Analysing all those and finding solutions to them will take a while. Luckily, you’ll spend less and less time on this, because you’ll make fewer and fewer mistakes. I went from having dozens of mistakes to analyse every day to having maybe one or two in just a few weeks. When I first started, my life was a mess and I tried to fix every mistake I could remember. It took me multiple hours. Now I do the same in fifteen to twenty minutes.
It’s easy to complain when things keep going wrong; actually fixing them isn’t. No one becomes their ideal self by accident, you have to make conscious efforts to improve yourself and to fix your flaws.
Think of life like chess. Sure, you can just play again and again, and eventually, you’ll become better. You can become really good just by playing a lot of games of chess. However, if you want to become a chess master, you’ll have to sit down and consciously analyse your games. You’ll have to sit down and deliberately search for the moment that made you lose or win a game. As chess Internation Master Mark Dvoretsky said:
It is not possible to become a great player without having learned how to analyse deeply and accurately.