Thought Leadership

Shopping for a friend

By Colin Walls

A while ago, my wife told me about a concept – a way of looking at the world – that she had come across. The concept provides a useful tool for evaluating decisions in many aspects of life. Over the last few weeks we have been using it to rationalize various aspects of our lives. The more that I consider and internalize the idea, the more applications I find for it …

Ultimately the concept is very simple: each of us has an alternative existence, which is separate from our normal selves. This alternative is our fantasy self [FS for short]. These alternative people are very like us in numerous ways, but they have various characteristics that we aspire to, rather than achieve in reality. This sounds depressing, as if I am saying that we will never achieve these things. That is not necessarily the case. I am just saying that our FS has skills, talents and habits that we have not yet attained.

I will use myself as an example. I am very familiar with my FS – we have known one another for many years. He has some very sophisticated skills and habits. For example:

  • He writes copious [legible] notes, using a fine fountain pen, in beautiful notebooks [think Moleskine …]. In reality, I can barely write my own name with a ballpoint. But I still get drawn into up-market stationery shops and find myself thinking “if I just bought this lovely book, maybe I would write a daily journal …”. Of course, if I did buy it, I would never use it. It would be a money-wasting bit of clutter in my life. I have many of those.
  • My FS can converse confidently in a number of languages. Although I can order beer in several foreign tongues, that is about my limit. I am challenged enough in English!

So, how is this concept useful? Well, every time you consider buying something or plan to do something, you should quickly evaluate whether the purchase or plan is for you or for your fantasy self and adjust your actions accordingly. Will you stick to that training class you want to book, or are you booking a place for your FS?

It is possible for you to achieve some of the attributes of your FS. I have done so myself. For example, when I was looking for my current house, I had a number of criteria. One was to have a kitchen big enough to install a table that would seat at least 8 people, as I aspired to cooking supper for jolly groups sitting around said table in my cosy kitchen. I did not really have much history of such entertaining. However, I got the kitchen, installed the table and I regularly enjoy cooking meals for various friends.

If my wife and I are out shopping or perusing Internet shopping sites and one of us observes that the other is considering a purchase for their FS, we have a code phrase that we use to alert them: “Are you shopping for a friend?” ?


2 thoughts about “Shopping for a friend
  • Great technique. One I have used in various forms over most of my life. Currently I’m acting out a long held fantasy of myself as Rock ‘n’ Roll band manager. I’m organizing a small music festival in the middle of nowhere Sweden.

    Along the same vein I have this image of myself finishing up my career as one of the guys that works at the local recycling stations. I’ve spent my life as a developer making some of the underpinnings of western civilization (medical devices, pipeline analyzers) and then worked with software tools vendors making stuff for other engineers and programmers to make stuff… And I love the image of myself spending the back side of the curve of my life helping to disassemble and recycle the stuff of western civilization.

    Thanks for this Colin. I enjoyed reading it, /mike

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at