The dead man’s solution is to have goals that could be achieved by a dead man, such as having no pain or no more terrible feelings. At first, it seems like some nice goals to have, but in fact they may not help us.
It is often easier to mention things that we don’t want to be instead of coming up with things that we want to be. We spend much time thinking about what we don’t want to be (e.g., I don’t want to be a bad person), but does it help us in any way? I believe not.
My reason to say so is that we cannot always change the things that we don’t want to be (e.g., in the case of chronic disabilities), but we have one possibility, and that is to become a little more of the person we want to be.
When we are in touch with what we want to be, we are also more likely to achieve it. Imagine getting a bit closer to the person you want to be the rest of your life, i.e. to minimize the gap between your actual self and your ideal self.
If you find it difficult to identify the things that you want to be. Try to imagine the following situation, which is also called the miracle question:
“Suppose whilst you are asleep tonight a miracle happens, and all of your problems disappear, just like that. But you don’t know that it’s happened, because you are asleep. When you get up the next morning and go through your day, how will you come to realize that the miracle has happened? What would you notice was different about you or about other people? What would others see that would tell them that the miracle had happened? (Westbrook et al., 2013, p. 236)
When you have identified, who you want to be, then write it down. You have now come far in the process of personal development. You may begin to change the way you think of yourself. In order to make concrete plans about how to become the person you want to be, you need to know who that person is.
Research has shown that people tend to believe that they are further from their ideal selves than others are (Williams & Gilovich, 2008). Of course, it takes an effort to become your ideal self, but you are no further from the goal than other people, even though you might think so.
My message is that we should spend more time thinking about how we can become the person we want to, instead of thinking about who we don’t want to be. It appears to be more helpful in creating change processes.