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Can you guess one thing that every successful politician, businessman, scientist and philosopher had in common?
It is by far the single most beneficial habit you can have to radically transform yourself and achieve your goals. Without it, I simply can’t see how any success is even possible.
The habit of journaling.
I know what you’re thinking. “Pff, journaling is not for tough guys like me. That’s for lovey-dovey teenagers and their dark, twisted fantasies!”.
But it is also for you if you want to:
- Learn how to formulate better arguments and win more often
- Expand your capacity to think things through
- Develop a well-organized and efficient mind
- Find unique solutions to your problems.
- Form coherent and clear ideas about important issues
- Reduce stress, improve your mental and physical health
- Be happier, have more energy, and live a more fulfilling life.
Sounds pretty sweet, huh?
Not only that, once you know how, it is also extremely simple.
In just five minutes, I will explain to you everything you need to know to radically transform your life. Step by step.
All you have to do is
give me your left kidney read this article and do the challenge at the end!
Exercise 1: Weeding The Roots Of The Problem
Your brain evolved to solve problems.
So how come you still have so many?
I know it’s hard to believe, but even your amazing brain has its limitations.
Generally, it can consider seven to nine ideas at any given time. But to solve complex problems of our lives, careers and relationships, we need much more than that.
If we are faced with a complex problem we can’t think through, we will develop a thought loop. The problem will constantly loop and loop in our head and we feel like we are chasing our own tail.
Thought loops are deadly. Not only you aren’t able to find a solution, but your brain also hates anything that is left undone. So it will keep coming back to the loop. This can last for months and even years!
To break the loop, we need to temporarily expand our thinking capacity to consider all the necessary ideas. The best way to do that is by writing.
You see, when you write, you download ideas on paper, an external storage. Laying one thought on top of another, you can now give your full attention to only one idea at a time.
This is the basic principle for the first exercise: weeding.
With weeding, your goal is to find solutions to your problems. We are not looking at superficial symptoms – which would be the things that are bothering you, but the underlying root of the problem – why things bother you.
- The biggest challenge is defining the problem. Think about something that is bothering you. Look at it objectively – how it is in real life. How would you describe a random person on the street if he had your problem? Now think about it subjectively. How does the problem make you feel?
- Once you have described your problem in-depth, summarize it in one sentence. Keep it as short as possible.
- Lastly, simply begin to write about your problem. Anything that comes to mind, write it down. Don’t filter yourself, be open to new insights. A solution will most likely pop up after a few lines. Or it might take up two pages.
Do this exercise as much as you want. Multiple times a day even. It will help you solve all the problems you have in your life.
However, sometimes you don’t need to solve a problem. Sometimes all you need is advice.
The next exercise will teach you how you can mentor yourself.
Exercise 2: Advice From A Mentor
A year ago, I was going through hell.
Something happened to me that caused some sort of an existential crisis combined with chronic anxiety. Really severe anxiety.
One day I was particularly bothered with this one question. I climbed a hill and opened up my notebook. At that point, I was confused, anxious, and sad. I didn’t understand what was happening, nor what to do with my life.
But I knew that deep down I have the answers.
So I wrote down “hi.”, and got a reply.
Broken Mike: "Hi Mike" Chad Mike : "Hey" Broken Mike: "Man, I'm having this question: —. What do you think I should do about it?" Chad Mike : "Hah, this one is easy, listen..."
At first, I was utterly dumbfounded about what just happened. I knew the solution all the time! Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously it was there! And by entering a semi-meditative state with hiking and writing, I was able to mine the gold that was already deep inside my mind.
That day I came home a different person.
Whenever we have questions, we always turn to google, youtube, or friends. Not knowing that we actually might already know the answer. That is no way to conduct yourself. Even a scientist makes a hypothesis based on his intuition first and only then performs experiments.
Every time you are faced with a difficulty and need a bit of advice, ask your alter ego. Your big bro. Your spirit guardian. Your future successful self. Summon the deeper part of you to give you the answers.
“Ask, and you shall receive.”
- Take a walk, go in nature or an isolated and calm place.
- Breathe deeply to get yourself in a semi-meditative state.
- Choose a mentor – your alter ego, who will provide answers.
- Take your notebook and say hi.
- Respond back: remember, you are the mentor.
Exercise 3: Connecting Values To Your Actions
I discovered value journaling from James Clear.
In his post, James describes a psychological experiment made by the Stanford University. During the winter break, researches chose two groups of students.
The first group had to write all the positive events that had happened during the day. A soft of a gratitude journal.
The second group had to write down all the events, positive or stressful, and connect them with their personal values.
The second group won.
The researchers found that the students who meditated on their values had less stress, visited the doctor less frequently, were happier, healthier, had more energy, and a better attitude than their peers. These changes lasted for months after the experiment.
Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal described the experiment:
“It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience.
In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a one-time mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.”
Researchers believe that these changes happen because connecting personal values to stressful events gives them meaning. After all, it is well known in psychology that by willingly facing your fears and challenges ahead, a completely different circuitry is activated in the brain.
One thing is a dragon creeping up on you and taking you by surprise. Still, a whole different matter is you going out to hunt dragons and choosing the place of battlefield yourself.
“What is the difference? A dragon is a dragon”, you might say. Yes, but in the latter case, you chose to fight because it is honorable to do so. This reframing makes all the difference. Not only on your perception of the situation but also on your self-esteem.
Your boss wants to talk to you. He summons you in his office. “Although we respect your work,” he argues, “it is currently not needed in our company.”
At that moment, you feel crushed. It is like the entire world is against you. All of a sudden, this massive “dragon of unemployment” popped his head from the shadows. How will you survive the next month? How can you possibly pay the rent? What will your friends say? How on earth will you find a new job?
Questions are racing in your head.
But when you come home, instead of wallowing in self-pity, you decide to fight the dragon head-on. Wasting no time, you sit down, open project-mike.com, and do the writing exercises.
“How will I pay my rent? Easy, I will think of 100 ways I can earn some cash. Food? I’ve got some money saved up. Besides, I can sell my stuff and change my spending habits. I always wanted to try a minimalistic lifestyle. Job? Was I really satisfied? What do I actually want to do with my life? How will I achieve that?”.
Writing frantically for the next six hours, you fall into bed exhausted but excited for a new ahead. The dragon is looking all dumbfounded: “what the heck… I thought you were scared shitless of me”. “Oh, I am.” you boldly respond, “but I am even more excited to hang your head on my wall”.
It’s you who is on the hunt.
We, humans, are both fragile prey animals and exceptional predators. By willingly choosing to go on a hunt, we tap into our nature of vicious hunters.
- At the end of the day, write down all the events that happened to you.
- Write down five of your most important values.
- Connect events with values and explain exactly how this connection exists.
Exercise 4: Introspection For Rapid Progress
I learned this exercise from Scott H. Young. The guy I’m currently taking Rapid Learner from.
For this exercise, you first need to have a well thought out project. I can help you do that in this post.
After you finish your work for the day, document precisely what you did in your learning journal. Meditate on which exercise or studying method was effective, ineffective, and what will you do to improve them. You can even think up new learning drills altogether. Define the problems you are having, and brainstorm for solutions. Consider what is essential for your goal.
Once you are happy with your analysis, write down precisely what you will do tomorrow, and how you expect things to go. This will teach you how to make more accurate predictions.
By documenting your journey, you won’t undervalue your achievements. You will also learn not to overestimate the difficulty of the next step you need to take. Everything you don’t know how to do right now looks difficult. But looking back, everything will seems like child play.
Once you are done with the project, save the journal. It will serve as a guidebook for new challenges in the future.
Exercise 5: One Sentence Per Day Habit
This exercise helped me get started with journaling.
It will help you create a habit of writing daily. Over time you will automatically and effortlessly expand the habit to include one or more exercises I mentioned above. This is the perfect exercise to help you practice your “getting started” muscle.
Every day write one sentence about anything that comes to mind.
Make sure you keep a physical journal. To help you with the habit, place the journal with a pen on your bed or on your toothpaste. This way, you will effortlessly create a new habit with the help of existing patterns.
Challenge For Rapid Progress
- Do the Weeding exercise ten times.
- Do the Dialogue exercise three times on three separate days.
- Write in your value journal every day for one week.
- Every time you are done with studying, analyze your progress. Do this five times.
Good luck on your journey!