Not just book summaries: How I use ChatGPT to ask personal questions and receive coaching advice

I tried something different with ChatGPT, and I thought I’d share. Instead of the usual tech and writing emails stuff, things got a bit personal.

Starting with a Personal Dilemma

My initial prompt was:

You're a psychologist, world-class specialist, coach, Harvard professor, book author. Please help me discover how I can use my peculiarities to my benefit. The problem is I tend to quickly lose interest in things. For example, I started a blog on AI a few months ago. Wrote a few publications for a couple of weeks and then switched my attention to health and longevity topic. I tend to come up with somewhat good business ideas, but I lose interest long before I am able to create a company around that idea. What should I do to play on my weaknesses to my benefit?

Discovering the “Scanner” Personality

ChatGPT response:

From your description, it sounds like you exhibit characteristics of a "multi-passionate" or "scanner" personality. This is a term popularized by Barbara Sher in her book "Refuse to Choose!" to describe people who have a wide range of interests and struggle to commit to just one.

“Refuse to Choose!” offers valuable insights for individuals with a broad range of interests. Here’s a summary of the key takeaways from the book, especially tailored for entrepreneurs:

Key TakeawaysDescriptionImplications for Entrepreneurs
Scanner IdentitySher introduces the idea of “Scanners” – people with varied interests who find it hard to stick to one thing.Entrepreneurs can capitalize on this trait by rapidly prototyping and testing diverse ideas.
Cyclical LearningScanners often cycle back to previous interests. It’s not about abandoning interests but rather rotating through them.Entrepreneurs can revisit past business ideas or ventures, seeing them with fresh eyes and possibly finding new opportunities.
Project CreationScanners thrive on creating short-term projects.Entrepreneurs can focus on short-term goals or milestones, breaking larger objectives into smaller, achievable tasks.
Scanner DaybookA tool Sher suggests to jot down ideas, projects, and explorations.Entrepreneurs can maintain an idea journal, ensuring no potential business opportunity is lost.
Diverse SkillsScanners often amass a wide range of skills due to their varied interests.Entrepreneurs can leverage this diverse skill set in their ventures, making them more adaptable and versatile in business.
CollaborationRecognizing that Scanners may not complete long-term projects on their own, Sher suggests collaboration.Entrepreneurs should find partners or team members who can handle long-term commitments and operational details.
The Joy of DabblingSher emphasizes the value in exploring interests without the pressure of mastery.Entrepreneurs can explore new markets or products without the pressure of making them the primary focus of their business.
Resisting Societal PressureSociety often values specialization, but Scanners should embrace their nature.Entrepreneurs shouldn’t feel pressured to fit into traditional business models or niches. Diverse interests can lead to innovative ventures.

ChatGPT provided a mermaid diagram that vividly connected various Scanner traits to potential entrepreneurial benefits:

I’ve edited this diagram using software.

Scanner or Just Lacking Discipline? Digging Deeper

This question had been nagging at the back of my mind. So, I posed it directly to ChatGPT: “How do I know if I am really a scanner or just don’t have self-discipline to finish projects?”

The AI’s response was pretty comprehensive, breaking it down for me:

Scanner Traits:

  • Genuine Curiosity: Scanners are innately curious about a myriad of topics.
  • Quick to Learn: They jump into a subject, grasp the essentials, and then might hop to something else.
  • Overwhelm with Choices: The idea of committing to just one path might feel restricting.
  • Returning to Old Passions: They don’t always abandon interests; sometimes they circle back.
  • Thrill of Starting: The excitement of a new project or the initial learning phase is super appealing.

Discipline Issues:

  • Avoidance: Consistently sidestepping tasks, especially the challenging ones.
  • Lack of Routine: Not just in projects, but in daily habits or commitments.
  • Regret Over Unfinished Tasks: A nagging feeling about things left undone.
  • Blaming External Factors: Finding reasons outside oneself for not seeing things through.

Then, ChatGPT dropped some introspective questions on me:

  • Am I moving on because my curiosity is satisfied, or am I avoiding the challenging bits?
  • How do I feel about diving deep into one thing for an extended period?
  • Is the initial phase of a project more exciting to me than its completion?
  • Do I consistently dodge tasks in other areas of life, not just projects?

Wrapping My Head Around It

Taking a step back, this chat made me reflect. I’m still piecing together whether I’m a Scanner, struggling with discipline, or a mix of both. But one thing’s for sure: understanding these patterns is the first step in navigating them. Sometimes, it’s not about boxing ourselves into categories but recognizing how we operate and working with it.

After understanding the traits of a scanner and grappling with the discipline conundrum, another thought kept circling back: the nagging feeling of self-blame that seemed to follow every unfinished project.

Tackling Self-Blame

This recurring pattern had a familiar rhythm. Dive into a project with all the enthusiasm in the world, lose steam somewhere along the line, and then get swamped under a wave of self-blame. Was this just a part of who I am, or was there more to the story?

Seeking answers, I turned back to ChatGPT:

How does self-blame originate? Can it be connected with how my parents and grandparents treated me as a child?

It seems our formative years, those early interactions with parents and grandparents, can lay the groundwork for patterns we exhibit as adults. If there was ever a feeling that love and attention were linked to achievements, or if there were instances of over-criticism, it could be the precursor to the self-blame game I found myself playing.

The AI elaborated:

1. Childhood Experiences:
Childhood plays a pivotal role in shaping one's self-perception, emotional responses, and coping mechanisms.
Parental Criticism: If parents frequently criticized, belittled, or punished a child without offering positive reinforcement or understanding, the child might internalize these criticisms. Over time, the child might come to believe they are at fault for mistakes or misfortunes.
Conditional Love: Children who feel they only receive love or attention from their parents when they achieve something might develop a fear of failure. They might blame themselves for not meeting these perceived expectations.
Overprotective Parents: Parents who are overly protective might prevent their child from facing challenges or failures. This can result in the child developing a belief that making mistakes is unacceptable, leading to self-blame when they inevitably do face setbacks.
2. Generational Patterns:
Patterns of behavior and emotional responses can be passed down through generations. If grandparents, for example, were highly critical of your parents, your parents might have unknowingly adopted similar behaviors.
Learned Behaviors: Children often model the behavior of their primary caregivers. If a child observes a parent consistently self-blaming, they might adopt this as a normative response to challenges.
Cultural and Societal Expectations: Some cultures have strong norms around success, duty, and honor. Individuals from such backgrounds might be more prone to self-blame when they perceive they haven't met these standards.
3. Other Factors:
Personality: Some individuals naturally have a more self-critical or perfectionistic personality, making them more prone to self-blame.
Traumatic Experiences: Experiencing trauma, especially during formative years, can lead to feelings of guilt and self-blame.
Peer Interactions: Bullying, peer pressure, or lack of acceptance in peer groups can also contribute to feelings of inadequacy and self-blame.

Here’s what ChatGPT suggested to do to address self-blame:

Reframe the NarrativeUnderstand that not finishing a project doesn’t equate to personal failure. Instead, see it as a learning experience or a pivot point.Whenever you catch yourself ruminating on an unfinished project, list three things you learned or skills you acquired during that endeavor. This shifts your focus from what you didn’t accomplish to what you gained.
Practice Self-compassionCultivate a kind and understanding relationship with yourself. Self-compassion involves treating oneself with the same care and understanding as you would a dear friend.When feelings of self-blame arise, pause and ask yourself, “How would I respond if a close friend told me they were feeling this way about their own situation?” Try to direct that same empathy and understanding towards yourself.
Set Clear, Achievable GoalsSometimes, our ambitions can be larger than our realistic capacities. Breaking goals into smaller, more manageable tasks can help in maintaining momentum and seeing progress.For your next project, break it down into mini-goals or milestones. Celebrate small wins along the way, and if you pivot or move on, acknowledge the milestones you achieved.
Seek External PerspectivesDiscussing your feelings of self-blame with trusted friends, mentors, or professionals can provide fresh perspectives on your projects and achievements.Schedule regular check-ins with someone you trust to discuss your ongoing projects. Their feedback can help you see progress, even if it feels like you’re stalled.
Embrace a Growth MindsetAdopt the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. Mistakes or unfinished tasks are opportunities for growth, not definitive judgments on capabilities.Each time a project doesn’t reach completion, instead of seeing it as a failure, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience? How can this guide my future projects or interests?”

Overall impressions

Engaging with ChatGPT has been a revealing journey, far from the standard tech-focused interactions I initially anticipated. Through our dialogue, not only did I gain insights into my personality and behaviors, but I was also offered actionable steps to better understand and address underlying issues. It’s a testament to how AI, when approached with openness and curiosity, can move beyond mere data and code to offer genuine self-reflection and personal growth opportunities.

Also, ChatGPT greatly helped me write this publication, nicely summarising our conversations. 10/10 🎉

Further read:

Some Tips for Scanner Entrepreneur

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