Self Authoring: How Writing it Down Can Build You Up (The Secret Sauce of the IPSAT)

“People who spend time writing carefully about themselves become happier, less anxious and depressed and physically healthier. They become more productive, persistent and engaged in life. This is because thinking about where you came from, who you are and where you are going helps you chart a simpler and more rewarding path through life.” Jordan Peterson

Dr. Jordan Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and founder of Self Authoring, a suite of online writing programs that collectively help people explore their past, present and future. It was informed by the research of Dr. James Pennebaker, a psychology professor from the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Pennebaker pioneered research showing that students who wrote about difficult experiences fifteen minutes per day for four days experienced increased immune functions and reductions in doctor visits against a control group who wrote about superficial topics. The improved immune functions were validated by blood tests taken before and after the experiment.

The act of writing about complex experiences actually changes where the brain stores information. When complicated experiences are put into words, the manner in which they are represented moves from the areas associated with stressful emotions to the areas associated with detailed comprehension. According to Dr. Peterson, “This makes articulate people less stressed and more informed about how to be successful now and in the future.”

In this sense, “articulate people” are those who have reflected on who they are and where they are going and documented their thoughts in writing.

The Self Authoring suite developed by Dr. Peterson moves beyond reflecting and writing about past experiences. It also incorporates writing about the present, both from the stand point of faults and virtues connected to your personality (using the Big Five Personality model).

The Future authoring exercise revolves around the question few people have ever engaged: “What do you hope to achieve in your life and what kind of person do you want to be?”

The Self Authoring Secret Sauce of the Identity Profile Self-Awareness Tool (IPSAT)

The Identity Profile Self-Awareness Tool (IPSAT) is designed to help you get honest with yourself, about yourself, and honest about yourself with others. This is the heart of self-awareness.

The IPSAT process incorporates both reflecting and writing. It is focused on your Identity Profile, the unique combination of personality, strengths, skills, personal values and passions. We want to help you extrapolate this deeper understanding of yourself into three practical outcomes:

· Greater confidence and clarity about how you add the most value to others and best contribute to a team

· Better understanding of the high ROI opportunities for personal growth

· Revealing how your identity predisposes you to self-defeating behaviors that could sabotage relationships or derail your leadership

The IPSAT is not a new assessment. It is a guided discovery process helping users identify self-descriptive words or phrases from a bundle of existing assessments for personality, strengths, skills, personal values and passions. These self-descriptive words and phrases are then organized into a set of five “self authored” statements:

Identity Overview: 100 words or less explaining what happens when the five components of your Identity Profile work together in your life.

Best Contribution: 50 words or less explaining how you can add value to others and make your best contribution to team.

Developmental Priority: 50 words or less explaining where you need to grow the most now.

Potential Derailer: 50 words or less explaining how your identity predisposes you to self-defeating behaviors that could sabotage relationships or derail your leadership.

Vulnerable Settings: 50 words or less explaining the situations or circumstances, in which your potential derailers are most likely to surface.

The self authoring aspect of the IPSAT was a strategic choice in the design of our web application from the start. We knew there was something powerful in the process of reflection expressed by writing that transcends the value of computer-generated statements, regardless of how accurate the algorithms or how validated the results.

What we didn’t know at the time was the body of research supporting the process. We’ve found this journey is especially powerful when the self authored statements are explored in a virtual coaching session with an IPSAT certified coach. Writing is a powerful form of thinking, which appears to help “people derive information from their experiences that helps them guide their perceptions, actions, thoughts and emotions in the present.”[i]

Talking about the self authored statements in a safe and affirming coaching experience helps users clarify, edit and take ownership of who they are, what they do best, where they have gaps, and how they could derail their own leadership. Which takes me back to where we started, in the words of Dr. Jordan Peterson:

“People who spend time writing carefully about themselves become happier, less anxious and depressed and physically healthier. They become more productive, persistent and engaged in life. This is because thinking about where you came from, who you are and where you are going helps you chart a simpler and more rewarding path through life.”

If you would like more information about engaging the self authoring benefits of the Identity Profile Self-Awareness Tool (IPSAT) for yourself, your team, or your organization, visit myIPSAT.com.

[i] The Benefits of Writing, by Jordan Peterson and Raymond Mar, available for download here.