I recently unveiled for myself three months of progress on a project called “The Post-It Note Method”. I was inspired to do this after reading this article (thank you Hopper) by a psychotherapist and Zen teacher named Jared Michaels who practices in the Bay Area (who created and coined the term for this method). The basic premise of the project is very simple: For a period of 2 – 6 months, jot down on post-it notes (or any other small sticky paper) anything that brings you positivity, happiness, strength, excitement or inspiration (one note for each thing that brings this; and I recommend you read the article to find out why specifically you do that). Ideally, the intention is to do this on a daily basis so that by the end of that period of time you’ll have a plethora of sticky notes that you can then tack up onto a blank wall and visually discern for yourself where your area(s) of passion lies. Practically speaking, I didn’t experience moments of joy on certain days and/or I forgot to record moments; so over a period of 90 days, I ended up with only 42 sticky notes (which is still a pretty good amount to begin an analysis with). Also, I chose to unveil my progress at three months because I felt that was a good middle number to check on my results and because, serendipitously, the date that I began the project (9/25) would cycle to three months on Christmas day. So it’d be like opening a present to myself!
Tacked up onto my wall before:
As the author of the article explains (and as you can see from the “after” photo), you will discover “patterns” that you can then group into “clusters”. I ended up with six of these clusters which I gave temporary names for:
- Teaching + learning + education
- Drums + music + movement
- Building mastery
- Purpose + meaning
As you can also see from my list, some of these clusters could very well be part of the same thing (“Drums…” and “Creativity” for example). But my descriptions on each of those notes gave me the sense that there was something distinctive about what I was describing and hence, grouped them separately.
As far as what I discovered: It was kind of an underwhelming feeling after looking through all the notes and grouping them together. Nothing really jumped out at me. Fortunately, I hadn’t made the mistake of building up my expectations too much for this and so I was only mildly disappointed. The first thought that came to me was that I needed to collect more evidence (I’m gonna give it another three more months). I felt that while the evidence I did have was substantial enough to illuminate certain areas, I felt that I didn’t have enough to build a solid case for myself. One very interesting thing I did find was that I was reminded of the joy I had felt in practicing taiko. I had actually stopped taking classes after the end of October to re-group myself but also because I thought maybe I would stop doing it altogether (there was some doubt as to whether it was really for me and whether I fit into that community or not). After reading my description in one particular note, I realized to myself that I needed to continue those lessons! So I promptly signed up for the next 3 month cycle of classes at my school. Another interesting thing I found was the small joys I experienced practicing mindfulness as a result of my experience with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (which I’ve just decided, after 7 months, to transition out of). So I am going to check out some local Zen and/or mindfulness groups in the coming month in order to expand my knowledge of this practice and possibly deepen it. There were two post-it notes that I felt didn’t really fit into any of the clusters. I’m curious to see if these become whole new clusters entirely or if I’ll recognize later the essence of what it’s describing as part of an existing cluster.
I don’t think this method is an exact science like some kind of mathematical equation that yields solid answers. I think it is to be expected that there will be ambiguity and uncertainty about what your notes will be saying to you. I do have the feeling though that with even more solid evidence, the patterns that already do exist will become brighter. And I think for me, this will inspire more confidence in knowing whether or not to continue pursuing any one particular area.
If you’re a fellow soul detective, try this out. It’s kind of like gardening…for the soul.