Looking back to look forward…

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Socrates said, "An unexamined life is not worth living." My take on that observation: personal development is only possible via cultivated and concious self-awareness, and that without development and growth, life's not worth much.

It seems to me that one of the most important times to look inward at yourself, and backward over your past, is when contemplating new life directions. When setting new goals, and approaches toward their attainment, it's sensible to take a look back at past accomplishments (and failures), and to learn from them…

  • What made you happy, in genuine and lasting ways?
  • Which approaches worked for you, and which didn't?
  • What was it about the best times that made them so?
  • Which of your strengths really were, and which not?
  • In which circumstances did you grow, and realize best progress toward your potential, and in which did you disappoint?

Agree? Hold that thought… while I digress:

I enjoy discovering and using well-designed software, crafted with excellence in both utility and esthetics. I recently (via a Tweet by @GTDGuy) found an application fitting that profile. It's called PersonalBrain, developed and offered by TheBrain. (I know, branding may not be their strength.) While at first look similar to a simple mind mapping program, it's much more.

I've used MindManager for years as a personal brainstorming / idea development tool. It's great for that purpose, allowing a graphical / visual form of idea organization that seems to promote different modes of thinking than if working only with text outlining — which I also use regularly. When the web of relationships between the ideas you're working with becomes very rich however, MindManager and tools like it get cluttered and cumbersome, and simple outlining just can't cope.

Not so with PersonalBrain.

Its ability to handle very large, complex, and richly interconnected idea sets is outstanding. Add in its ability to further connect to external artifacts (web sites, files on your computer, email messages to name a few), and you have one powerful tool for organizing and analyzing information.

I believe that I'll find myself using it for many tasks. The first however brings us back to the point of this post…

I noted in various references its use as a means of organizing autobiographical information (people, experiences, places, life themes, etc.). So, when I downloaded my trial version (since upgraded to full license), that seemed like a good place to put the program through its initial paces. Not only did the program pass muster with distinction, I couldn't stop building on my autobiographical map. (I guess we all find ourselves interesting!) I recalled people and events not thought about in a long time. I found connections and themes I never realized existed. I had more than a few aha(!) moments.

That's when Socrates came to mind, and how just the kind of far-ranging retrospection made possible, and indeed even fun, by PersonalBrain might help toward the personal plans I'm now exploring and developing.

Snapz Pro XScreenSnapz001 While still early days in the process, I'm finding that recalling (often for the first time in a very long while) and exploring the events, themes and story lines of my past is providing an illuminating perspective on future alternatives.

We'll see where all this leads, but so far the journey itself is proving valuable. Socrates believed that it was folly, neigh dangerous (think Icarus, Adam and the apple…), to try to achieve "ownership" over the absolute truth, but that striving toward what is true (including about oneself) is the means of achieving our humanity and its manifold promise.

Enough deep thought for today. I am in Maui after all, and this is supposed to be a vacation too. Off to the pool…

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