In teaching the common topics, I’ve had my students read Managing Oneself* by Peter Drucker. The goal of the assignment is to have the students see which of Aristotle’s topics Drucker uses to make his case and to determine if his points are persuasive. For Christian readers who don’t want to learn from a secular author, read this. Anyway, Drucker had these points that would be helpful to anybody pursuing any goal, including becoming more like Christ:
- Use feedback analysis.
Feedback analysis is the simple process of looking at the outcomes of your habits and actions using a journal or, in today’s world, a tracking app on your phone. Christians might, for instance, notice that on days when they get more sleep, they are more apt to be kind and forgiving or that when they study the gospels each week they are more daring with respect to evangelism and caring for the needy. The effectiveness of this method is that you can edit/revise your affairs routinely rather than simply being shaped by whatever suits your fancy in the moment.
- Concentrate on your strengths
For church member ship or one’s job this task is very important. If a hand tries to consume food or a foot tries to see, then there will be some serious problems. But if a hand works really hard at being handy, then the whole body can flourish. If you’re really good a mathematical reasoning then it doesn’t really make sense to try to help the world doing something different like interior design or managing a hair salon.
- Work on improving your strengths
Many people have strengths and they use them when the time comes to use them, but they do not improve them. I had this struggle with academia. I was good at memorizing and synthesizing data, but I hated studying boring things. But had I improved my abilities when I was younger, I might have (would definitely have) been more successful. If you have strengths, improve them.
- Discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it
I’ve written about this before. Many people are so proud that they refuse to learn something new, lest it shows them to be ignorant. I remember when Johnny Candito posted about using wrist straps for deadlift and observed that many people don’t use them solely for pride. Similarly, many people won’t use the Lecture-To-The-Wall technique of studying because of pride. Finally, many people cannot overcome a bad habit like drinking, porn use, or video game addiction because they won’t admit that they have a problem. But Drucker recommends that you crush this pride barrier, admit ignorance, and start learning to do the thing that holds you back.
There are several other comments Drucker makes in his essay that would be helpful, but this was meant to help people learn these particular principles and perhaps get you interested in reading the essay itself. How have you applied these principles? If you haven’t, how will you?
*While skimming the essay, I realized that he had intentionally universalized certain Christian principles of self-examination and applied them to goals beyond the constraints of Christian spirituality. In fact when I read it more thoroughly, I discovered that, Drucker admits as much in the essay when he says that “feedback analysis” is simply adapted from the Jesuit and Calvinists in the immediately post reformation era in Europe.