The Five Days of Arete

I started this tradition in my Junior year of college thanks to an inspiring philosophy professor who applied Ancient Greek philosophy to his profitable management consulting practice. His guiding concept was arête which has deep meaning but essentially means the pursuit of excellence in whatever you do. It really resonated with me because I was fast approaching the reality of what I wanted to do after I was graduated in a year from that December.

When I went home for the Christmas break, I had the house to myself for the time after Christmas and just before New Year’s Eve. I spent most of the time hanging out with friends and having those deep discussions of what we were going to do after we left college. Of course we had big plans and it was during one session that I jokingly referred to this as the “Five Days of Arete.” I liked the idea and so when I was graduated next December, I had another round of the Five Days of Arete that had more meaning because I was desperately looking for a job and coping with “real life.”

Over the years I have formalized this process and I thought I would share it with you all. I hope you find it useful. Feel free to modify it as you see fit.

The Five Days of Arete:

First Day – Start a journal that you will use for the next five days. I prefer to mindmap so a large sketchpad and a good set of markers is what I use. Spend the day contemplating these questions and record your answer before you go to bed: What are the significant personal events of the last year? Thinking back to beginning of this year, what were my expectations and how were they met or not met? What were the biggest surprises of this year?

Second Day – Same drill but with a new set of questions. 1) What are the top ten things I learned this year? 2) How have grown as a whole person this year?

Third Day – One question today: what are the top ten things I want to accomplish by the end of next year? Order by priority.

Fourth Day – Starting with your list of top ten things create a list of steps for each of the ten items that will help you reach these goals. Try to be comprehensive but realize that this will change as you progress through the coming year so leave yourself open to serendipity.

Fifth Day – From your list of steps, create a 90-day action plan and starting January 1 or January 2 execute the 90-day action plan. The goal is to build momentum to propel you in reaching as many of the ten items as you can in the next year.

Have a good holiday season and see you after the New Year’s.

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Avatar photo Bill Brantley

@Andrew – Thank you! I know it is a tough time for Govies right now but I believe the best way to make it through the pay freezes, budget cuts, and employment uncertainty is to pursue personal excellence and keep advancing. You will have setbacks but with the proper attitude you can put them into perspective and go for the larger goal. As the great philosopher Clint Eastwood said: “Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.”