I’ve recently completed the Self Authoring Program by Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.
The self authoring program is designed solely for self-improvement. This site is all about self-improvement, so I decided to write a thorough review of the program for my readers.
The whole self authoring suite merits a detailed review for the following reasons:
- It’s tried and tested on thousands of people with outstanding, well-documented success.
- I personally completed the whole program about 2 weeks ago and I already got tremendous value out of it. I fully expect to keep getting more value in the future.
- It promotes self-reliance, which I believe should be the ultimate purpose of every man.
The Self Authoring Suite Overview
The self authoring suite is composed of 4 programs:
- Past Authoring
- Present Authoring: Virtues
- Present Authoring: Faults
- Future Authoring
You may choose to complete any or all of the four programs.
Each of the programs is composed of a series of interactive web pages that present you with specific personal questions. This simplifies and guides the difficult process of personal writing. The writing is challenging, but the experimentally documented benefits are worth it.
How Much Do The Programs Cost?
Individual programs cost $14.95 each. The whole suit which includes all 4 programs costs $29.90. After your purchase, you will be given a confidential username and account password and your writing will be securely stored.
At the moment, there’s a special offer to buy 2 full suites for the price of one, so you can buy the full suite with a friend and split the cost $15-$15 each. In this case, you will receive 2 usernames and account passwords.
How Long Does It Take To Complete The Programs?
According to the self authoring website, each program takes 4-5 hours to complete. You don’t need to complete the programs in one sitting. In fact, sleeping between periods of work is recommended because it likely helps the process produce the changes in outlook and memory reorganization that it is designed to produce.
Don’t wait for having huge chunks of spare time to work on the programs. Nobody has that kind of spare time. Jordan Peterson says “Don’t let fear, common sense and perfectionism stop you: Do the programs badly and stupidly. They will still be useful…”
Your login/password don’t expire so even if you have just 5 minutes, you can sit down and work for 5 minutes, save your work and come back at another time.
Ease Of Use
The self authoring website is easy to use. The instructions will warn you to not be in a bad mood when working on Present Authoring: Faults and Past Authoring, as these programs may involve some self-criticism and writing about unpleasant memories or traumas.
You can do the programs in any order you wish. I did the present authoring (faults and virtues) first, past authoring second and future authoring the last.
Once you have completed each program, you’ll receive an organized comprehensive email laying out the work that you have done. You can return to the programs in the future to edit and update your work.
The self authoring website has its own FAQ page for your further questions about the programs.
The Purpose of Self Authoring
The purpose of the self authoring program is to know yourself, sort yourself out and get your act together.
According to Dr. Jordan Peterson, many people do not understand who they are, where they are or where they are going. In consequence, instead of attempting those actions that would make their lives as valuable as possible, things just happen to them, and they are often not good.
Self authoring suite aims to fix this by having you write about your past, present and future. It is designed for anyone who wants to concentrate on improving his or her life.
Dr. Jordan Peterson states that carefully answering all the questions in the self authoring suite in your own words will clear the fog from your vision, make you healthier and stronger, and increase the chances that you will exist in a manner that justifies all the trouble that life inevitably presents.
This will help you be a good person for yourself and for other people. If you want to understand yourself better, become less anxious and happier, and commit yourself more firmly to your education, career or your relationships, these programs will help. A lot. He backs his claims with extensive research.
Why Write And What Can Self Authoring Do For You?
It’s more difficult to rule yourself than to rule a city.
— Jordan Peterson
Humans would rather change the world than to change themselves. Hitler wanted to be an artist. But, changing himself seemed so hard that he rather started World War II to change the world.
The idea of self authoring appeared clearer to Dr. Jordan Peterson after he came upon Dr. James Pennebaker’s research conducted at the University of Texas at Austin.
How Writing About Past Traumas Made Students Healthier
Jordan Peterson explains:
“Dr. Pennebaker tested Sigmund Freud’s theory that the release of emotions related to traumatic events could be curative. He had his students write for 3 days for 15 minutes a day, about the most upsetting experiences of their lives, while a control group wrote about ordinary daily activities.
Those in the former group experienced long-term improvements in their psychological and physical health, after a brief dip in mood. Not so much because of the expression of pent-up feelings, however, but because they drew more specific causal conclusions about what had happened to them in the past.
According to Pennebaker, if people wrote about uncertain or traumatic things, past, present, and future, their physical health improved. He did a lot of detailed research trying to figure out what that was and basically came down to the explanation that it was something like an uncertainty reduction mechanism at work.
Because, your brain is trying to figure out how well you are situated in the world. How much do you not know compared to how much you have mastered. You can tell you mastered things when you go somewhere and you act, things turn out the way you want them. That’s an indication of mastery. And your brain is sort of keeping track across your whole life of how many places you’ve been where things haven’t worked out compared to how many places you have been where they have worked out. Of all those places in your past where things haven’t worked out, you need to map and master.
How Writing About Future Ideals And Goals Helped Accomplishing Them
Dr. Laura King had her subjects write about their ideals and future goals. They experienced the same benefits.
Jordan Peterson’s research team specifically tested the effects of the future authoring program, part of the self authoring suite related to goal setting, of McGill University in Montreal, Canada and Erasmus University in Rotterdam Holland.
Academically struggling McGill students increased their grades by 25% in one year and decrease their dropout rates from 30% to 0.
The same thing happened in Erasmus University with more than 1200 business students.
These effects do not just apply to students either.
Dr. Frank Schmidt, one of the world’s outstanding industrial psychologists, has demonstrated that participating in such programs makes all kinds of people substantially more effective on whatever they are doing.
People who complete such programs appear to benefit, because the careful articulation of their experiences, past present and future, decreases their misery related to threat and uncertainty, and increases happiness and hope, which people experience when they progress towards somewhere they truly want to be.
What Happens In Your Brain When You Write
When complicated experiences are carefully put into words, the manner in which they are represented in the brain changes. They move from the areas associated with stressful emotion, demanding constant physical readiness, to the areas associated with detailed comprehension and understanding. This makes articulate people less stressed and more informed about how to be successful now and in the future.
In his book called The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk talks about the effects of writing on the brain:
Writing is different. If you ask your editor to leave you alone for a while, things will come out that you had no idea were there. You are free to go into a sort of a trance state in which your pen (or keyboard) seems to channel whatever bubbles up from inside. You can connect those self-observing and narrative parts of your brain without worrying about the reception you’ll get.
He talks about the effects of Pennebaker’s experiments too. The students who wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings about traumas had improved their mood and resulted in a more optimistic attitude and better physical health.
Bessel van der Kolk states that writing experiments from around the world, with grade school students, nursing home residents, medical students, maximum-security prisoners, arthritis sufferers, new mothers, and rape victims, consistently show that writing about upsetting events improves physical and mental health.
Past Authoring Program
In the past authoring program of the self authoring suite, you write an autobiography.
According to the self authoring website, this exercise is designed to help you develop a clearer sense of your past, by writing your own story. Understanding the defining moments of your life can help to illuminate your present situation, and make it easier to plan and determine your future direction. The exercise may take up to four hours to complete.
The past authoring program will guide you to divide your life into 7 epochs. These epochs can be as short or as long as you want, depending on how much you want to write about. Then, you write about the emotionally significant events in each of those epochs, describe their effects on you and then analyze how you did in those situations, what you might have done differently, what you might do differently in the future.
The Benefits Of Past Authoring
Jordan Peterson explains the benefits of past authoring:
“Past authoring helps you sort out things about your past that are still burdening you.
If you have a memory that’s more than 18 months old and when you pull that memory up to mind, if you still have an emotional reaction, that means you haven’t fully articulated the memory. You haven’t analyzed it causally, you haven’t freed yourself from its grasp and you are carrying it like a weight.
Your mind is always trying to determine the level of danger presented by your environment. When bad things happen to you, your mind and your body react by treating the environment as if it is dangerous and preparing for emergency action. This preparation is stressful and depletes you mentally and physically.
If something bad has happened to you in the past, your mind cannot be at peace until you have figured out how to avoid having the same thing happen to you again in the future. You can tell how well you have managed this by remembering different important events from the past. If you recall memories that make you feel ashamed or guilty or angry or hurt, and these memories are more than a year and a half old, then your mind is not at peace, and you are still carrying the weight of your past.
Unresolved past issues make your mind and body react as if the day-to-day environment that you inhabit is permanently dangerous. Under such conditions, your body reacts to stress with more preparation for action: for fight or flight, which you may feel as anger or fear and emotional pain. If this preparation becomes chronic, your mental and physical health can be damaged. This happens in part because your body produces more cortisol, a stress hormone, when you are endangered. Cortisol makes you ready to act, but your body gets the energy for such action by stealing from your future reserves. Cortisol shuts down your higher mental functions, inhibits your immune system, burns up your available energy and, over time, damages the brain areas responsible for memory and emotional control. Thus, it is very important to keep your stress levels within reasonable boundaries.
There’s only one reason you remember the past. That’s to be prepared for the future. A negative emotion that’s associated with a memory is something that’s crying out for mastery. Writing can really help with that. You are reorganizing your brain when you write autobiographically. You want to take everything that’s negative and emotional and transform that into a fully articulated vision for your future. That frees you from your past. You shouldn’t be thinking about your past. If you are most of the time thinking about your past, it’s like your soul is trapped back there. You need to free it through investigation. You are trapped in the past. You’ve got to break free of that, so you can use all your resources to move ahead into the future.”
Some examples of traumatic or stressful past experiences people write about are: the death of a family member, sexual or romantic trauma, divorce, final exams, loneliness, being bullied, abusive parents, incompetent authorities etc.
My Experience With The Past Authoring Program
The past authoring program took me about 3 hours to complete. I did it in my spare time during 5 consecutive days, so I got plenty of sleep in between sessions, which is highly recommended.
Before self authoring, I had never thought of writing about my past. I wrote approximately 8000 words in my autobiography (Jordan Peterson says that plenty of students write more than 15000 words about their past).
I used to think that I had an OK past. I was surprised to find out I had plenty of unresolved traumas that were still bothering me.
I didn’t think I would get emotional when writing about my past, but there were times when I got so emotional that I had to stop writing, go out and have some fresh air. Besides that, I had plenty of epiphanies during my writing which were probably difficult to see at the time but became clear when I had a bird’s-eye view over my past.
Writing about myself helped me to clearly see the repetitive patterns throughout the course of my life. I am happy that I had already diagnosed and resolved most of the destructive patterns and habits, but I became aware of some hard to see destructive patterns that emerge from time to time, which went undiagnosed. If hadn’t recognized these problems, they would probably go unresolved for the rest of my life.
Before past-authoring, I already believed that every man should be self-reliant. Writing about my past further reinforced my belief, and helped me recognize some opportunities to be even more self-reliant.
It was embarrassing to notice that I cared too much about other people’s opinions about me for a significant part of my life. Although I became wiser later in life and stopped caring about what others think about me, the amount of time I wasted in my life worrying about what others thought of me is disappointing.
In his great book 50th Law Robert Greene puts it like this:
Understand: people will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself—your worth, your abilities, your potential.
They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose—they want to keep you down.
You are continually prone to believe these opinions, particularly if your self-image is fragile. In every moment of life you can defy and deny people this power.
You do so by maintaining a sense of purpose, a high destiny you are fulfilling. From such a position, people’s attacks do not harm you; they only make you angry and more determined.
The higher you raise this self-image, the fewer judgments and manipulations you will tolerate. This will translate into fewer obstacles in your path.
— Robert Greene
Your present is mostly the result of your opinions about yourself and your beliefs about your strengths and weaknesses.
Our daily life is composed of many conscious or unconscious decisions. Our unconscious decisions come from our past experiences and our instincts. If we had to make all our decisions consciously, we would be overwhelmed. We don’t have time to think about all the decisions we make in our day to day lives. So, most of these decisions become automatic during the course of our lives.
Setting aside our instinctive behaviors, most of our daily decisions come from our beliefs about ourselves. For example, if you believe you can’t build a business, you will not even attempt to do it. Our beliefs about ourselves are mostly formed in the early stages of our lives which may or may not be correct. Our self-image greatly determines our success and productivity.
During past authoring, I identified the roots of my remaining self-doubts and hopefully got rid of them. The more self-doubts you get rid of, the brighter your future will be.
After you complete the past authoring program, you get a summary of your autobiography, which you can copy and paste to a document or email to yourself.
Present Authoring Program (Faults and Virtues)
In the Present Authoring Programs, you will write to find an answer to the all-important question “Who am I now?”.
The Present Authoring: Faults program is designed to help you address your personality faults.
The Present Authoring: Virtues program is designed to help you capitalize on your virtues.
Note that these are two separate programs each of which can be independently completed.
The Benefits Of Present Authoring
By doing these two programs, you get to identify your most significant faults which are weakening your ability to live the life you want and your most significant strengths which are helping you to live a better life.
Which personality traits are currently holding you back from living the life you desire or which of them helped you the most and may help you even more?
What is currently holding you back from reaching or working towards your goals?
What are your virtues which are currently helping you in your life? How can you utilize them more?
According to the self authoring website, these programs have been designed to allow you to do an in-depth analysis of some of the negative and positive aspects or faults and virtues of your personality.
Your aim is to construct a clearer picture of your faults and virtues which will help you understand the impact of your personality traits on your life in the past, present, and future.
How Are The Present Authoring Programs Constructed
You are recommended to complete the faults section when you are in a normal to good mood so that you can tolerate the self-criticism. You can complete the virtues section whether you are in a good, bad or neutral mood.
Each program (faults and virtues) is estimated to be completed within 60 to 90 minutes.
In each program, personality traits are grouped into 5 categories:
- Emotional Stability/Low Stress Tolerance,
Under each of these personality traits, there are 30 faults or virtues listed to choose from (150 total faults and 150 total virtues). For each personality trait, you will be asked to select 2-10 faults/virtues. After you select your faults/virtues, you will have a list of 10-50 faults/virtues. Then you will be asked to narrow these down to 6-9 faults/virtues and prioritize them.
For each fault/virtue, you get to write for 10 minutes. For example, in the faults program, if you choose 6 faults you write for 60 minutes. You may choose to write about more than 9 faults but know that you will write for 10 minutes for each fault. Same applies to the virtues program.
For each fault, you will be asked to describe how this fault has impacted you negatively, in the past; what you might have done differently; and what you could do now and in the future to rectify or eliminate this fault.
For each virtue, you will be asked to describe how this virtue has strengthened you in the past; what you might have done differently to have made things even better; and what you could do now and in the future to increase the power and effect of this virtue.
Is It Possible To Change Your Personality?
According to Jordan Peterson, changing personality means changing habits of action, presumption, and perception. Personality change requires the formulation of clear future goals, as well as discipline and practice. People who are too agreeable can learn to stand up for themselves. Disorderly people can become more conscientious. Introverted people can become socially skilled. People who experience paralyzing levels of negative emotion can learn to explore.
My Experience With The Present Authoring Programs
I completed the faults section of the present authoring program in about 70 minutes. I narrowed my faults to 7 in my final list of faults, prioritized them and wrote about how each fault has impacted me negatively in the past; what I might have done differently; and what I could do now and in the future to rectify or eliminate this fault.
The reason I chose 7 faults is not that I only have 7 faults, mind you. I determined these 7 faults as the faults that require my most urgent attention in line with my current life and my future goals.
The most difficult section was to write about my strategies to overcome these faults. If I knew how to fix these faults, I would already have done so. I needed to go complete the past authoring program to clarify the root causes of my most important faults.
To identify my faults was the first step to fixing them. Finding the root causes of the faults was the second step. The third step is working relentlessly to fix my faults so that I can live a better life and focus on further faults to fix and move forward. I will probably never be perfect but the more faults I fix, the better life I will have.
For the virtues section, I determined my 9 most important virtues to capitalize further on. Honestly, I didn’t even know some of these traits were considered to be virtues. My 9 most important virtues are all crucial for me to live a good life, so I am extremely happy to have them in my arsenal.
I got to write about how these virtues helped me in the past, helping me in the present and how they can help me even more in the future. There are many things I did in the past thanks to these virtues of mine which I am very proud of. But, instead of remembering the good times in the past, the virtues program reminded me that I can do even better in the future instead of fixating on the past.
I wrote plans to make more use of the virtues I already possess, which I think will be easy and enjoyable because I don’t need to fix anything about myself before I start acting.
After you complete each program, you get a summary of your faults/virtues and your writing, which you can copy and paste to a document or email to yourself.
Future Authoring Program
The Future Authoring Program is designed to help you detail out a vision of your future three to five years down the road. It will help you to look for the answers to questions such as
- What would your family relationships look like?
- What would your career goals look like?
- What are your educational plans?
- How would you handle drug and alcohol use?
- How will you take care of your mental and physical health?
and so on, five years down the road.
What do you hope to achieve in your life and what kind of person do you want to be?
How Is The Future Authoring Program Constructed
The whole program takes approximately two and a half hours to complete.
The program is composed of 2 stages:
- In Stage 1, you will write generally about your goals.
- In Stage 2, you will specify and clarify the nature of those goals, and begin to strategize.
You are recommended to complete the process over two or more separate days. I completed Stage 1 on day one and Stage 2 on day two. You may choose to divide it to as many days or sessions to your liking.
On Stage 1, first, you will be asked 8 questions such as “what could you do better?”, “what would you like to learn about?”, “what habits would you like to improve?”.
After briefly answering these 8 questions, you will be asked to write for 15 minutes about your ideal future three to five years down the road, without editing or criticism.
After you finish writing about your ideal future, you will be asked to write for 15 minutes about the future you want to avoid three to five years down the road without editing or criticism.
The Benefits Of Future Authoring
According to the self authoring website, clearly defining your future can help reduce the uncertainty in your life, and reduce the amount of negative emotion that you chronically experience, in consequence. This is good for your confidence and for your health. Having well-defined goals also increases your chances of experiencing a positive emotion, as people experience most of their hope and joy and curiosity and engagement as a consequence of pursuing valued goals (and not, as people generally think, by attaining them).
Jordan Peterson states that it’s best to think of your ideal future as the heaven you want to run towards, and the future you want to avoid as the hell you want to run away from. You write about your hell because if you do that, your fear is behind you and pushing you instead of ahead of you and stopping you.
On stage 2, you will first be asked to define and personally title your overall future plan. Then, you will be asked to take your general plans for the ideal future and break them up into more specific goals. Each of these separate goals will also be given its own title. This step will help you clarify your goals.
You will be asked to prioritize your goals, strategize about them, evaluate your motives, consider the broad personal and social impact of your goals, consider the detailed strategies for goal attainment, identify your potential obstacles and their solutions, and have a plan for how to monitor your progress towards your desired goals.
After you complete the program and set your goals, you are recommended to concentrate on a daily or weekly basis on implementing the strategies you have devised for their attainment, instead of worrying about the goals themselves.
My Experience With The Future Authoring Programs
Before the future authoring program, I had never written about my goals in such great detail. I already had a list of goals that I keep at an excel document but I had never explicitly prioritized them, wrote about and strategized them in detail. I had also never thought of writing about the future I want to avoid.
I already feel strongly that writing in detail about my goals and the future I want to avoid solidified my future plans.
I had a difficult time prioritizing my goals because almost all of my goals seemed to have equal importance to me. Nevertheless, I think having prioritized my goals will serve me well in the future because it’s better to focus on one thing at a time and move on to the next goal after I accomplish my more important goal at the time.
I wrote down detailed strategies for my career/money, fitness/health, education, family, habits, leisure and social life goals, which I almost never did before.
After you complete the future authoring program, you get a summary of your writing, which you can copy and paste to a document or email to yourself.
Summary and Key Points
- The self authoring suite is composed of 4 programs: Past Authoring, Present Authoring: Virtues, Present Authoring: Faults, Future Authoring
- You may choose to complete any or all of the four programs.
- Individual programs cost $14.95 each. The whole suit which includes all 4 programs costs $29.90.
- Each program takes 4-5 hours to complete.
- You don’t need to complete the programs in one sitting. Sleeping between periods of work is recommended
- Your login/password don’t expire.
- You can do the programs in any order you wish.
- After you complete each program, you get a summary of your writing, which you can copy and paste into a document or email to yourself.
- You can return to the programs in the future to edit and update your work.
- The purpose of the self authoring program is to know yourself, sort yourself out and get your act together.
- The present authoring program comes with the slogan “discover your true self”, the past authoring program with “understand your past” and the future authoring program with “plan for your ideal future”.
- Carefully answering all the questions in the self authoring suite in your own words will clear the fog from your vision, make you healthier and stronger, and increase the chances that you will exist in a manner that justifies all the trouble that life inevitably presents.
- Males and ethnic minorities benefit the most from self authoring programs.
- It’s more difficult to rule yourself than to rule a city.
- The release of emotions related to traumatic events could be curative. If people wrote about uncertain or traumatic things, past, present, and future, their physical health improved.
- You can tell you mastered things when you go somewhere and you act, things turn out the way you want them.
- People who complete such programs appear to benefit, because the careful articulation of their experiences, past present and future, decreases their misery related to threat and uncertainty, and increases happiness and hope, which people experience when they progress towards somewhere they truly want to be.
- In the past authoring program of the self authoring suite, you write an autobiography. This exercise is designed to help you develop a clearer sense of your past, by writing your own story.
- The past authoring program will guide you to divide your life into 7 epochs. These epochs can be as short or as long as you want, depending on how much you want to write about. Then, you write about the emotionally significant events in each of those epochs, describe their effects on you and then analyze how you did in those situations, what you might have done differently, what you might do differently in the future.
- If you have a memory that’s more than 18 months old and when you pull that memory up to mind, if you still have an emotional reaction, that means you haven’t fully articulated the memory. You haven’t analyzed it causally, you haven’t freed yourself from its grasp and you are carrying it like a weight.
- If something bad has happened to you in the past, your mind cannot be at peace until you have figured out how to avoid having the same thing happen to you again in the future.
- There’s only one reason you remember the past. That’s to be prepared for the future. A negative emotion that’s associated with a memory is something that’s crying out for mastery. Writing can really help with that. You are reorganizing your brain when you write autobiographically.
- Some examples of traumatic or stressful past experiences people write about are: the death of a family member, sexual or romantic trauma, divorce, final exams, loneliness, being bullied, abusive parents, incompetent authorities etc.
- Plenty of students write more than 15000 words about their past.
- In the Present Authoring Programs, you will write to find an answer to the all-important question “Who am I now?”.
- The Present Authoring: Faults program is designed to help you address your personality faults.
- The Present Authoring: Virtues program is designed to help you capitalize on your virtues.
- In the present authoring programs, your aim is to construct a clearer picture of your faults and virtues which will help you understand the impact of your personality traits on your life in the past, present, and future.
- Changing personality means changing habits of action, presumption, and perception.
- The future authoring program is designed to help you detail out a vision of your future three to five years down the road
- Clearly defining your future can help reduce the uncertainty in your life, and reduce the amount of negative emotion that you chronically experience, in consequence. This is good for your confidence and for your health.
- Think of your ideal future as the heaven you want to run towards, and the future you want to avoid as the hell you want to run away from.
The self authoring suite exceeded my expectations. I didn’t expect to write in such great detail. The website gives you clear directions on each step so that you are not lost and you know exactly what to write about.
In the present authoring program, I discovered some virtues that I didn’t know I had, and some faults that I didn’t think mattered but in reality, I found that they mattered a lot. Knowing what to fix is better than not knowing at all because if you are not aware of a problem, you can’t solve it.
In the past authoring program, I got to identify some of the root causes of my faults. I dug into some unresolved traumas and got to write about them. Writing about my past traumas is supposed to free me from their weight. I have to wait and see how this turns out in the future. I also wrote a lot about my past achievements. Writing about my achievements was a further confidence boost to me.
The future authoring program helped me to visualize my perfect future, and write about a future to avoid. I wrote about my goals, prioritized them and wrote detailed strategies to attain them.
Overall, the whole self authoring suite was a fascinating experience for me. I am glad I did it.
I expect to reap the benefits until 3 to 5 years down the road. At this writing, it’s been 12 days since I completed the program. I am already more productive but I am not sure yet if this productivity will continue in the future.
PS – You can purchase the programs by following this link. I’m not affiliated with the programs in any way so I neither make money when you purchase them nor I provide customer support.