Think about the way computer programmers talk about “bugs” in the program, or “feature requests” that would make a given app or game much better. Bugs are things-that-are-bad: frustrations, irritations, frictions, problems. Feature requests are things-that-could-be-great: opportunities, possibilities, new systems or abilities.
Write down as many “bugs” and “feature requests” as you can, for your own life.
A genie has offered to fix every bug you’ve written down, and to give you every feature you’ve requested, but then it will freeze your personality—you won’t be able to grow or add or improve anything else.
Hearing that, are there other things you’d like to write down, before the genie takes your list and works its magic?
Imagine someone you know well, like your father or your best friend or a longtime boss or colleague or mentor. Choose someone specific, and really imagine them sitting right there beside you, looking over your shoulder, and reading your list. You say to them, “Look! That’s everything!” and they’re skeptical. What things do they think you’ve forgotten, and should add?
Do a mental walkthrough of your day and/or week, starting from waking up on Monday and going step by step through all of your routines and all of the places you go, things you do, and people you interact with. Look for snags or hiccups, as well as for exciting opportunities. Be as thorough as you can—often, actually taking the day or week step by step will cause you to remember things you hadn’t thought of.
Take a nice, long, slow thinking pause for each of the following broad domains, one at a time (at least ten seconds and maybe as many as thirty):
- Scheduling and time management
- Social interaction
Now read this sentence, nice and slow, letting it percolate (maybe read it two or three times, or pause in the middle if it sparks thoughts, and then come back and read the rest).
For this last prompt, think of ways you want the world itself to be different, opportunities you haven’t seized (and what’s kept you from seizing them), problems you haven’t solved (and what makes them sticky), things you knew would go wrong (and then you didn’t do anything about it), times you’ve lost connections or dropped out of things (and then were sad about it), things you wish you’d said but didn’t, things you did say but regretted, places where you’ve never ever felt satisfied or okay, and anything you’d be embarrassed about if your heroes and idols and role models knew.