Diagram it!

I think everyone agrees that it can be very easy to speak about being motivated. It’s easy to speak about achieving large goals and accomplishing difficult and challenging tasks. For many, the most frustrating part of hearing motivational speakers or others who produce positive content or share their ideologies about how to find purpose in life is that they don’t know how to go from simply listening and getting motivated, to actually doing the thing it is that they have been trying to do. It’s not an easy transition, and many get lost in the “noise” of simply being “motivated”, without accomplishing concrete steps towards fulfilling their passion. Its not to say that motivational content is a kind of “facade” for the hardships of actually turning your life into something you’re passionate about, but more so that there is a general misunderstanding of how to make the shift from listening to the content, to doing your own thing.

I am in no way a pro at what I’m about to tell you, mostly because I am in fact one of those people who produces motivational content, but also because I’m not quite where I want to be just yet. Something I always remind myself of, however, is that I was not always where I am now. Through that process, I’ve gained valuable experience and insight not only into how certain things in the world work, but also in regards to my own potential. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, learning new skills and applying them is something that anybody can do with the right mindset, persistence, and determination. There’s no secret to that. So why do so many struggle to do so? Why isn’t everyone pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and just getting to work? There are a few reasons but one of them is that purpose is not always clear immediately. What you know you want to do and why you want to do it are two different things. We all have some sort of perception of what we want our lives to look like. Some want the luxury, some want the fame, some want a great job, and some don’t want to work at all. All valid options. The question is why?

I’ve used a few strategies through the last few years that help me situate my work with ZULUECHO Initiative and surprisingly they come from an unexpected place. If we consider that finding purpose is a “problem”, it means that some form of “problem solving” needs to occur in order to reach a resolution. If purpose is the goal, we need tactics and strategies to help us define them and clarify them so that when we do decide to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, we know exactly why we are doing so, and do so because we want to not because we feel we have to. The strategy I want to introduce is a strategy we use in design constantly. Diagramming. Yes, I know you know what a diagram is, but let me explain why and how we use it.

Diagramming is taught to architecture students to help us problem solve. Buildings are complex structures with many underlying systems. Formal systems, structural systems, mechanical systems, electrical systems… there’s a lot. Solving them all at once is impossible. Not only that, but in most cases, you can’t always see all of these systems. You see the final result. So to understand a building, we employ the diagramming method. We draw abstracted images of certain relationships between these systems to understand how they work individually, and how they relate to the building as a whole. Drawing all the stairs of a building without any of the walls or windows shows us how people circulate through the building. Drawing the building as a series of shapes (rectangles, cubes, etc.) helps us understand the volumetric qualities of the building without getting distracted by doors and walls. This method helps us clarify relationships in our buildings so that we can have a better understanding of what we need to do, to achieve the design we want.

So how does this apply to life? Well what if we diagram our lives? Every challenge we go through is a problem at some level. The strategy I use has helped many others through issues related to their lives and I want to introduce it to you all in the hopes that it can help you. Making a list of pros and cons is a popular means by which to make decisions, but at some level they are usually bias. Instead I use a more diagrammatic method, one that involves lists as well, but in a different way. In any particular situation you find yourself in, especially in relation to challenges, or things that seem difficult to attain, make two lists. In the first list, write down what you want your life to look like. A list of goals if you will, that make up the life you are trying to reach. In a second list, write down everything you do with your life now. How you spend your time, what your daily habits are, even who you associate with. Once you have both lists, physically draw a line from the second list, to the first list where things match. When you see that something in your daily life is actually helping you reach a particular part of the life you’re working towards, draw a line. Continue to do this as you go through the lists. You will find that some items in the second list you can’t draw a line from. When this happens, you will begin to see the areas of your life that you need to reevaluate. If something you are working towards requires a time commitment that you are not able to give, look at how your time is spent now, and understand that there is a shift you need to make in your lifestyle.

The part that is most important is physically drawing the lines. This allows you not only to learn about yourself by getting your thoughts on paper, but it allows you to visually see the connection of how you are living, vs how you want to live. This is critical. A shift in perspective can truly help you become more productive, and make more substantial steps towards what you are trying to achieve in the long run. Do this every month, and each month try to add new things to both lists. As you continue to do this it will help you build a rhythm of self reflection, while also helping you achieve more and begin to cater your efforts in life towards the things you truly care about.

Buildings are complicated, and so are our lives. Diagramming both is an extremely effective means by which to understand them, respectively. If you are having trouble completing this exercise, or have a question specific to something you are going through, please feel free to reach out to me. I would love to try and help!

Don’t just think about it, draw it out.

#zuluechoinitiative #diagramit

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ms. B. says:

    I ended up crossing items off the first list. Seems like that’s counterintuitive …but after the second list showed me what I am doing currently, and therefore had some action underneath them, the items in the first list needed much more passion (a la Z/E) to retain the desire to have them, and if that was not realizable, they were deleted.

    Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fantastic ! It really helps to draw it out !


  2. Maissa Hamed says:

    Now that’s another masterpiece of an article from an architect who expands the concept of architectural design to real life situations. Brilliant!


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