Article provided by ZenHabits.com
Make friends with pen and paper, it’s worth it
I get a feeling that writing is a universal key to our subconscious mind. My experience with journaling and goal setting suggests that despite the huge number of volumes about the power of the subconscious mind, we still hopelessly undervalue it.
And you can throw the rock at me first. I was very quick to read or listen to anything about the power of the subconscious and judge it as bollocks.
Well, it’s easy to dismiss stories that happened to others. It’s pretty hard to ignore things that happened in my own life.
The Power of Writing
I won’t talk much about the subconscious mind, I’ll let you read between the lines. Let’s focus on writing.
A joint research study done by scientists from Princeton University and UCLA concluded that writing by hand has an advantage over typing and it allows you to remember study material better.
Ponder it. There should be no difference. Writing information down should increase retention, no matter how we do it. Yet, there is a difference. You commit a lot more of your motor power into handwriting. A lot more muscles activate when you write with a pen. More of your senses are alerted.
Our memory is not a hard drive like we like to imagine. It’s a network of associations. Handwriting provides more associations, more input signals, and more data points than typing.
I’m an amateur on the subconscious, but you know what? I bet it is more association-like in its nature than a neatly organized data set with reference points.
The author of “Writing Down Your Soul”, Janet Conner, described in her book how she activated her subconscious mind with daily journaling. Her breakthroughs and transformation were nothing short of amazing.
Among others, she tells a story about when she desperately needed $10,000 and wrote about this asking God for help. Sure enough, she got the money two days later.
Once she asked in her journal for two thousand dollars. “And I need it now,” she added. An hour later her sole remaining client called and said the strangest thing: “I don’t know why, but I just feel you should send us an invoice for two thousand dollars.”
Writing and My Goals
I’m writing this post at the end of December, and I’m fresh after the review of my 2018 goals. I’ pretty lame when it comes to achieving my yearly goals and in 2018, in particular, I made a colossal mistake: I wrote them down and never visited them again.
I typed my goals, so I didn’t have the additional associations provided by handwriting. A few things alerted me during the review of my goals.
For example, I totally forgot I intended to get on more podcasts as a guest. Yet, whenever an opportunity appeared, I gladly took it. Podcast hosts contacted me out of the blue a couple of times, another time my customer introduced me to a host thinking that we would be a good fit. Every time I followed the opportunity, which is not my default mode.
Often, when cold email offers arrive, I simply delete them. Guest posting, writing opportunities, joint-ventures — 80% of the time they land in a trash folder.
I also forgot about my other goal which was getting more power over my schedule by going to bed at 10 pm and waking up at 5 am. I didn’t follow it up. I complied with this goal in less than 10% of days and it was never caused by the intention of the goal, but out of necessity or circumstances.
Yet, I had this nagging feeling, a yearning to stick to those hours. I felt great when I was in bed on time- without remembering the goal!
Despite the fact that I didn’t keep the assumed times, a huge improvement in my sleep patterns happened in 2018. I slept a full 7 hours a night more often than not. I hadn’t had such a good year since I started tracking my sleep in 2013. And that was the intent underlying that goal.
At the beginning of 2018, I wanted to publish a couple of books. I made some progress with one of them, but it is still a couple of months away from publishing.
However, I wrote and published a book that was not on my radar in January.
I tell you those stories because there are clues that there is more to writing down your goals than we think. It’s not about creating a conscious effort to achieve what we want. It’s also about activating our subconscious mind.
And I found writing was a very effective tool in this regard.
It Simply Works
There was research done about Harvard students. Supposedly, fellows who wrote down their goals were miles ahead of their peers who didn’t. I say ‘supposedly’ because despite the fact that it was all over the Internet, it was an urban myth.
Such research was never done. However, it articulates the feeling of all people who ever wrote down their goals: that it’s instrumental in reaching those goals. Business coaches, management experts, personal development gurus, really, people from all walks of life were preaching writing goals down since humanity mastered the art of writing.
Because it works. “Oh, but the research was fake,” you say. So what? I tell you, writing down your goals works. Will research that proves it makes writing goals down somehow more effective?
There was a time in our history not so long ago when we had no idea about germs. Do you think that washing hands by doctors wouldn’t decreased the number of infections in hospitals because there was no research for that? Of course, it would be effective!
Research is only the confirmation of reality, and we get such confirmations by observing reality.
So, the reality is that writing goals down works. Yes, many times it doesn’t work in the way we imagine it will work, but it works. Many people don’t reach their goals despite writing them down. But the act of writing them down ignites the powers we don’t yet comprehend.
Reaching My Past Goals
2018 wasn’t the first year when I set some goals and forgot about them for the rest of the year. Yet, when I go over my past goals I either achieved them or am on my way to achieving them, despite the fact that I wrote them down once, summarized the progress at the beginning of next year and shrug them off.
My first goal was to quit my day job. I almost achieved that. I work only 10 hours a week and it’s for benefits’ sake and to stay in touch with reality. I want to be around “normal” people regularly. I don’t want to get disconnected from the common folks’ reality because I can afford a “laptop lifestyle.”
In 2015 I set a goal of growing my list to 1,000 people. I didn’t. In 2016 I changed this goal into “figuring out how to grow my email list at a rapid pace.’ A few months into 2016 I had already forgotten this goal, but I reached it anyway. In July 2016 I opened an InstaFreebie account and I grew my list by several hundred people in a few short months.
What is more, I achieved the goal of quitting my job mostly by selling my books, exactly as I stated back in 2014. I wrote then that I need to sell 130,000 copies a year.
Well, I based that calculation on 99-cent books. With Amazon royalties thresholds you need to sell six of those to earn as much as by selling one $2.99 Kindle copy. Nowadays I net about $2.5 per copy on average, I need only about 17,500 copies to earn the same income. I sold over 12,000 copies in 2018.
Back in 2014 I also wrote: “My only idea for the new source of income is selling my books on Amazon.”
I created new sources of income. Book advertising alone generated for me over $15,000 in 2018. I also coach and have a trickle of affiliate income. I exceeded my goals.
“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action” ― Ian Fleming
Surely, there is someone’s action, even if it’s only the action of the laws of nature.
In the same fashion, I achieved or exceeded most of the goals I missed in previous years. Coincident? This is a poor explanation.
For 16 years before 2013, I had never written down any goals. And I accomplished very little. I got new jobs, salary raises, bought a flat for our family, graduated from the university or received my driving license at the age of 24. Sometimes I set some intentions or my wife set them for me. But I never wrote down anything. And all of those goals were pretty normal. It is a deal to graduate, but not such a big deal, isn’t it?
There was some progress, but it pale compared to the amazing growth of the last six years.
Hence, going over those numbers and goals, I have the weird feeling that despite the volumes written about the power of the subconscious mind we still don’t comprehend it even 1%. And we don’t comprehend how writing holds the key to the gates of the subconscious mind. Here comes a couple of examples that shook my narrow thinking in this regard.
My wife didn’t want another baby after we had two boys. She was satisfied with our “inventory.” I wanted more kids. I have five sisters, a big family is a normal environment for me. I couldn’t persuade my wife, so I prayed for another kid. But preparing for this post, I recalled one disturbing fact: I put my prayer in the form of a poem. I wrote down a plea to have “a hope for a gasp of life,” which really sounds better in Polish and makes a play of words.
Needless to say, we have three kids now.
Somewhere at the beginning of 2013, inspired by a story in “The Science of Getting Rich,” I wrote down a list of items I would like to possess for me and my family. They were simple things like bicycles for all of us or a portable USB hard drive for me. Those things I could comprehend that eventually we somehow could’ve afforded them despite the fact that we struggled to save a meager $100 a month.
I wrote down those items to get rid of them from my mind, not to look at the list or visualize having them one day. The creepy thing is that my wife took my notepad and added jokingly ‘a home’ to the list. I discovered it several weeks later and had a good laugh from it. She had been dreaming about our own house for a few years already. We simply couldn’t afford a home. Period.
In the first months of 2015, I found that notepad with the list. We possessed every single item on the list, including a home.
My mind was blown away. Well, I was shocked. I never derided writing goals down since then.
I hope this post shocked you enough to write some goals down. Even if you have no idea how to achieve them. Even if they seem preposterous. Even if they are simply impossible for you.
When I started my transformation I was determined to quit my day job and provide for my family from my own entrepreneurship. I had no idea how to do that, I was a lifelong employee.
The goal of selling 130,000 copies of my books a year seemed ridiculous. Well, I already sold over 50,000 copies of them in the last 5.5 years. My books were translated into German, Spanish and Chinese. Another will be traditionally published in Korean.
None of this was possible 6 years ago when I had had no books published.
Writing Down Your Goals Is Not Magical
I also don’t want to leave an impression that it’s enough to write something down, trigger your subconscious and the magic will happen. I didn’t just write some lists or some goals. For the past few years, I have been wrestling with my subconscious every single day during my journaling sessions.
I also bombarded my mind with my mission, day in and day out since I created my personal mission statement in November 2012. I selected the content I consumed and people I interacted with. It all synergized and compounded.
Still, those amazing stories from my life opened my eyes to all which I don’t comprehend.
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” — Jim Rohn
Writing down your goals will not magically provide the results you want. However, it may do just that. Not writing them down surely will do not much for you.
Move your butt. Take action. Write down your goals.