Jul 4, 2007

How to Write Down Your Goals

For background, first read this and this. My present post is written for three categories of people:

(1) those who believe that thoughts do affect reality, and wish to experiment with goal-writing as a specific means to alter their reality in specific ways;

(2) those who do not believe that thoughts can affect reality in any "magical" way, but want to experiment with positive affirmations as a possible method to motivate themselves, generate creative ideas or focus their energy; and

(3) those who feel unsure or undecided about whether thoughts affect reality, and just want to experiment and investigate this possibility.
Depending on which aspects of mindhacking you prefer to emphasise, there are several ways to go about writing down your goals. Bear in mind that the common principle is to plant the desired goals as deeply as possible into your subconscious mind. In future, I will describe some of those different ways. For now, let's stick with one simple exercise.


1. The best times to do this exercise are early in the morning, soon after you've woken up, or late at night, shortly before you go to bed. (This has something to do with your brain wave functions, but let's not get too technical). Otherwise, just pick a place and time that's quiet and peaceful and where you know you won't be interrupted or distracted for the next 10 to 15 minutes.

2. It's important to do the exercise with a clear mind. In other words, don't do this when you're angry or upset or busy or worrying about other things. Your writing exercise will last only 10 to 15 minutes, so during this short time, focus properly on it.

3. You'll need a single, blank piece of A4 paper and a pen. Personally, along the lines of Tony Buzan's mindmapping principles, I like to use pens of different colours, but these are frills, moderately useful but not strictly necessary.

4. Once you start writing your goals, do not stop until you finish the exercise. You do not need to write fast, but you simply must not stop. Keep writing steadily. The reason is that if you pause, you will start to analyse logically, and doubt will creep in. In other words, your conscious mind will have time to kick in, and you will start thinking, "Hey, this goal is not realistic. How could I really double my salary? Maybe I'll just aim for a 30% or 40% increase." Do not allow this to happen - just keep writing steadily, without pausing to analyse whether your goals are plausible or not.

5. State each goal in a single sentence. Write down whatever goal comes into your mind - it could relate, for instance, to your studies; your career; your family; your health; your personal habits; your hobbies; your sex life, and so on. Choose goals that are personally important to you and which would really make a difference to your life if they were achieved. As soon as you've finished stating one goal, move on to stating the next one.

6. Overstate all your goals. Make them very ambitious. If your goals are modest, then there is a strong likelihood that they could be achieved even without any special mindhacking methods. As a rough rule of thumb, just take what you think is a "realistic" target and then give it a significant bump upwards. For example, if you "realistically" think that you will score about 2 A's and 2 B's in your next exams, just bump it up into 4 straight A's.

7. If you face mental resistance towards writing down huge, ambitious goals (eg mental doubts such as "How am I possibly going to be able to achieve this?"), just tell yourself, "I permit myself to imagine and daydream. For the next 10-15 minutes, I will just let myself be foolish and pretend this is possible."

8. Wherever possible, state your goal in the present tense, as if it had already happened. For instance, do not write: "My goal is to earn $120,000 a year, by next year". Simply write "I am earning $120,000 a year" as if this goal had already come true. By tricking your unconscious mind in this way, you will cause your reality to bend more rapidly to make your false, unconscious belief true.

9. As far as possible, be clear and specific. Do not say: "I lose weight and become slim." Say "I lose 5 kg and weigh 50 kg, my ideal weight." Frame your goal in positive terms. Do not say: "I learn not to be so shy." Say: "I am a confident, sociable person, comfortable around other people."


10. End the exercise when you've finished filling up one A4 page, or when you've listed at least about 20 goals.

11. Put away the piece of paper in a folder. Do not throw it away. Retain it for your future records.

12. In the initial stages of this experiment (eg the first three weeks), do this exercise about twice a day, every day. It also works if you do it less frequently, but it will take more time before you see the results. Later on, as you become more experienced with how this works, you can cut down on the frequency.

13. Each time you do this exercise, do not look at the previous pages of goals that you've already written. Just do the exercise afresh. Most of the goals that you wrote about previously will therefore be repeated again and again (in slightly different wording), Each time you do this exercise, it's perfectly ok to omit a few previous goals or add a few new ones.

Through constant repetition by writing, you're programming your unconscious mind to accept that your goals are possible, or likely, or realistic, or even already fulfilled. Then your unconscious mind will start bending reality to make your goals come true.

After doing the exercise, you can just get on with your normal routine. If you suddenly feel new motivation to take personal action towards your goals, by all means go ahead. If you do not, just carry on with your usual daily life. Do whatever feels right. You don't have to put any unnatural pressure on yourself to behave in any particular way.

If you want to compare the goal-writing exercise to the Rosenthal experiment, it is as if the teachers are being told twice a day, every day, that Student A is smart, and Student B is stupid, and Student C is average, and Student D is smart, and Student E is stupid ...... . The teachers are told these things so often that at some unconscious level, the teachers start believing those things about those students.

And you know the rest, about what happened in the Rosenthal experiment. Whatever the teachers believed just started coming true. A self-fulfilling prophecy. Whoever is believed to be smart, becomes smart. Whoever is believed to be stupid, becomes stupid. No extra effort or action needed by the teachers, even if they had actually had any concrete ideas on what they should do.

The 13-step process I've outlined above is shaped by my personal experience. Others, like Scott Adams, will have slightly different takes. For example, he will write the same goal 15 times a day, but I would prefer writing a list of many different goals in many different areas of life, just once a day. To some extent, these are just differences in personal preferences. My preference simply reflects my personal view of the meaning of success in life.

Some other people's takes on goal-writing exercises are
here, here, here and here.

If you really want to thoroughly investigate whether thoughts affect reality, then quite apart from doing the writing exercises every day, you should also keep a diary to record significant daily events or occurrences in your life. Pay attention especially to synchronicities that crop up in response to your written goals.

The term
synchronicity was coined by Carl Jung, one of the founding fathers of modern psychology. It refers to the experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally inexplicable to the person or persons experiencing them. Jung's own definition was the "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events."

For example, suppose you write these goals - "I have very good friends" and "I find a new job that I really love, in interior design." Two days later, you bump into an good old friend whom you had lost touch with and hadn't seen for 10 years. While you're happily chatting with him, he suddenly says, "Hey, I'm now working in an interior design firm. We are looking to hire a new person. Do you happen to know anyone who might be interested?"

This would be an example of how reality reacts synchronistically to your thoughts. You will, of course, be inclined to dismiss it as a strange but random coincidence ... until you see it happening again, and again, and again, and again, and again.
Record all these down, so that you can review them later and analyse the probability that in fact it was all random.

If you do your recording faithfully, I believe that you will soon realise that reality is constantly shifting and bending to make your thoughts to come true. If your thoughts are focused on your goals, then reality will constantly shift and bend to make your goals come true.

This is related to what Buddhism calls karma, and that's why Buddhism emphasises the importance of thinking good thoughts. Whatever you think will translate back into your personal reality. More on this Buddhist angle, another time. Meanwhile, go on, try the goal-writing exercise. Don't be shy now.


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This post is dedicated to Mr G Singh. All the best!

29 comments:

Henry Leong said...

I think it is important to enjoy the journey of getting it.

Philip said...

Cool. Am gonna start doing it. Thanks Mr Wang for the motivation.

Henry Leong said...

Mr Wang have you found a group students, that let you do you mindhacking experiments?

lucy said...

Hello, have you read Fooled by Randomness by Naseem Taleb? U shld then you will know better what chance does...

Mr Wang Says So said...

I have read "Fooled By Randomness". In fact I am reading his new 2nd book too "The Black Swan". Both are excellent books. I will discuss them in future.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Readers who try this experiment are invited to email me, over the next month or so, to tell me about their results / progress. Feel free to ask questions too.

Note: if you do not wish your email to be featured on my blog (or if you are willing for it to be featured, subject to your name being changed etc), please let me know.

Over the next week or so, I'll feature some other goal-writing exercises which you can mix & match and combine together with th one I've described in the present post.

Anonymous said...

>This is related to what Buddhism calls karma

I do not think so. Mind Hacking (in the way you put it) has nothing to do with Buddhism.

Karma = intentional actions and their consequences. Buddhism has never taught that the intentional action of planting illusions into the mind will lead to the consequence of these illusions becoming reality! But neither did Buddhism say that it will not lead...

That's because Buddhism is not about planting illusions into the mind, to begin with! (Find me a quote from any suttra that teach you to plant illusions into the mind, or talk about how illusion-planting --> reality).

You are teaching the exact opposite of Buddhism, which is about all about training the mind so that the pure concentrated mind can see through illusions and becomes capable of perceiving things as they really are!

What you advocate is the direct opposite: planting illusions ("I am earning $120,000 a year" even when you are not) into the mind in an attempt to make the illusion become real. I have no comment on whether that is possible, but i do know this is NOT Buddhism.

Mr Wang Says So said...

1. Agreed.

2. What I mean is that Buddhism tells us that our thoughts & intentions (and the actions we perform as a result of those thoughts and actions) have karmic consequences; that is, they affect our reality.

3. Consequently, thinking certain thoughts will affect our reality in certain ways.

4. Thinking certain other thoughts will affect our reality in certain other ways.

5. In Buddhism, the focus is on thinking thoughts which lead us closer to the state of enlightenment; or at least to a better rebirth.

6. Point 5 has not been the focus of my posts. Points 2, 3 and 4 are more my focus in my blog (so far anyway).

I will write more on these aspects at a later time.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Buddhism has never taught that the intentional action of planting illusions into the mind will lead to the consequence of these illusions becoming reality! But neither did Buddhism say that it will not lead...

To clarify, when I say "reality" in my mindhacking posts, I am also basically referring to illusion. The vast majority of us, whether we use mindhacking or not, are living in illusion anyway.

Because what we believe to be "reality", is simply (a) the sense data we perceive, and (b) our interpretation of that sense data.

BTH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lim Leng Hiong said...

Hi Mr. Wang,

You've put up another interesting post! I'm in category (2) of your readers.

Actually I've already written down some goals (typed into my computer) last year regarding my science blog. It was typed on 14 Nov 2006 at 3.43pm.

I'm very paiseh to reveal that I projected 900 daily readers by today, but the reality is only one-tenth of that figure.

At that time I didn't know that even top science blogs (eg. Aetiology) rarely have over 1000 daily readers.

So I definitely overstated my goals.

I believed it as much as I can believe anything. But still cannot make it.

Maybe it's not enough? Or maybe it's not the correct format (must be A4 sized paper, use pen, and early in the morning)?

So lau kwee (lose face)!

*runs away in shame*

Mr Wang Says So said...

BTH: No, your understanding of Buddhism is incorrect. I will explain in a future post.

Lim: Personally for this blog I projected 50,000 per month by end of this year, but I passed 66,000 in April. My readership grows pretty much like my income. You'll just have to try to improve at your mindhacking. ;)

BTH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lim Leng Hiong said...

Lim: Personally for this blog I projected 50,000 per month by end of this year, but I passed 66,000 in April. My readership grows pretty much like my income. You'll just have to try to improve at your mindhacking. ;)

66 000 (2200 per day) is so high! How to reach 2200 per day for a Singaporean science blog?

But if I believe it's not possible then it's my own fault. So I must believe I can do it.

I CAN win Mr. Wang! HAH!

Wait a minute...

If I fail to reach 2200 per day then Mr. Wang wins because I neber mindhack my mind. So I lose.

But if I somehow managed to reach 2200 per day then Mr. Wang still wins because whatever method I used must be mindhacking. So I lose.

So whether I win or lose, I still lose.

How can? How can!?!!

*brainz explodes*

Mr Wang Says So said...

If your intention is strong, then your subconscious mind will direct you to the necessary ideas and solutions that will address your problem.

For example, you may be drawn to comment on the blog of a prominent blogger like Mr Wang, who will then notice your existence.

Although you may not have intended to, you will simply end up asking him for a useful idea. And then you'll simply get it. Here it is:

It is unnecessary for a science blog to target any particular country. Science, unlike, say, a poliical blog, has no reason to confine itself to any particular set of national borders.

So what you should do is aim for an international audience of readers interested in science.

Anonymous said...

I have always believe in mindhacking and I tried to write down my goals but I failed.

The reason was simply because of what you have mentioned in number 4. My analytical mind prevented from doing it.

I will start again with your method and will let you know the progress by email.

Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Just curious for the goal-setting, can I write things like:

-My parents are healthy and have a stable career-

Although in actual fact they are not so.

Can my goal setting affecting other people's reality?

Thank you for reading.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

If your intention is strong, then your subconscious mind will direct you to the necessary ideas and solutions that will address your problem.

I agree. However my subconscious mind has also generated many ideas that led me down a bunch of blind alleys.

Sometimes you need some advice from other people.

For example, you may be drawn to comment on the blog of a prominent blogger like Mr Wang, who will then notice your existence.

Heh, that could be true, but I must give most of the credit to my colleague who pointed out your blog to me. This has turned out to be quite interesting.

And I thank you for noticing my existence!

Although you may not have intended to, you will simply end up asking him for a useful idea. And then you'll simply get it. Here it is:

It is unnecessary for a science blog to target any particular country. Science, unlike, say, a poliical blog, has no reason to confine itself to any particular set of national borders.

So what you should do is aim for an international audience of readers interested in science.


Thanks for the advice. My science blog was intended for an international audience right from the start (by avoiding Singlish and using American/British cultural references) but despite my frenzied rate of posting, my readership remained disappointingly poor.

Then early this year I wrote a series of articles about Singaporean science and suddenly it attracted the attention of a few senior specialists.

Despite that, my readership remained low (it is growing now, very slowly), but then I realized that I was attracting a small group of very influential people*.

So maybe I'm not a great mindhacker and I failed to reach my projected readership figures, but that's not necessarily bad.

*Hint: Eg. people from a company that rhymes with Hydro Loft.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I think maybe it will be useful for me to give another explanation of how it works.

Consider habits (good, bad or neutral). Habits are repetitive, patterns of thoughts deeply ingrained at a subconscious or unconscious level.

For example, you wake up in the morning and it's fairly automatic that you will go to the bathroom & brush your teeth.

It has become a habit. It is not something you have to consciously decide to do, or plan to do, or force yourself to do, or make an effort to remember to do. You just do it automatically. You have no more internal resistance to the idea.

Habits may even become addictions. Whereupon it becomes hard to stop doing it. You may do it even before you realise you're doing it (like lighting up and putting a cigarette in your mind). Or you may want to stop yourself from doing it, but your conscious mind is unable to overpower your subconscious mind, and you still end up smoking, even though you know you shouldn't.

When we think of habits, we think of things like

brushing your teeth;
smoking;
regular exercise;
sleeping patterns (eg waking up at a particular time);
idiosyncratic bodily behaviour (eg a habit of slouching, or putting your hands into your pocket);
etc etc.

What you may not see is that apart from such examples, other kinds of behaviour / patterns of thinking can also be deeply ingrained at a subconscious / unconscious level.

For example, you may know someone who is very good at making new friends. Wherever he goes, he gets to know new people very quickly, and very well. For years and years, he has been this way. If you asked him how he does this, he may not be able to explain how. "It's just natural, I guess." he says.

Actually, he simply has had certain "repetitive patterns of thoughts deeply ingrained at a subconscious or unconscious level".
These are the patterns of thought that direct his behaviour such that he is able to make new friends easily. He may not even be able to identify and describe the actual behaviour - he just does it automatically.

The repetitive patterns of thoughts deeply ingrained at a subconscious or unconscious level can be very complex or very simple.

Once they are there, they drive your behaviour automatically. No conscious effort is necessary. They are basically habitual.

For example, a person may have this repetitive pattern of thought ingrained at a deep level:

"I am a pretty outstanding fellow in everything I do. I am normally better than the people around me."

Then it becomes like brushing teeth. Wherever he goes, his behaviour automatically adjusts just that he tends to become better than the people around him, in whatever he and they are doing. Little conscious effort may be needed.

The interesting thing is that with mindhacking techniques, we can play with those repetitive patterns of thought. We can try to change them, erase them, or create new patterns of thought, and ingrain them deeply. There is an infinite variety of patterns of thought that we could try to do this with.

For example, in your case, suppose we install the belief: "I am an extremely popular science blogger."
And we succeed in doing this at a deep level.

Automatically your behaviour is changed. You will do things, write things, behave in ways that will transform you into an extremely popular science blogger.

Consciously you may not know, or you may only have a few vague ideas, about what you should do to become an extremely popular science blogger. But your unconscious mind knows. Your unconscious mind is vastly more powerful than your conscious mind.

That's because somewhere in your unconscious mind, there resides the knowledge and memory of every blog you have ever seen;

every science experiment you have ever done;

every piece of writing you have ever written;

everything you know about science;

everything you have ever heard anyone say or write about how to be a popular blogger;

everything you've ever known about the Internet.

And your unconscious mind takes all that, and starts driving your behaviour, towards realising your newly-installed belief:

""I am an extremely popular science blogger."

The more deeply ingrained, the more fundamental the belief is, the more the unconscious mind makes it real. Typical examples of very, very, very deep beliefs, for example, would be:

"I am alive"
"I want to live"
"I exist"

which is why a lot of your behaviour is driven towards making these things "real".

Of course Buddhism reveals to us that in fact, "you" do not really exist. There is no separation of self from reality - there is no "self". But this is one of the most difficult illusions to see through, because it is so deeply ingrained.

Alfred said...

Thank you for a most interesting series of articles. I was idling on this after I read Penelope's very similar article last year.
http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2007/05/09/if-you-dont-like-writing-lists-buy-a-new-pen/

Anonymous said...

There is no separation of self from reality - there is no "self".

My experience from deep meditation is that there is neither "self" nor "no-self".

And that the true self that exists, is neither the "self" nor "non-self".

There is no duality.

Anonymous said...

This idea of changing your mindset is also central to another good book that I've read "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind".

After setting goals, to get to the execution stage, two other tactical books that I would recommend are "The Now Habit" and "Getting Things Done"

Anonymous said...

As regards to Buddhism, mindhacking and "planting illusions into the mind".

http://residence.educities.edu.tw/wonderfulway/wdm04/w0413.htm

I always believe in karma and keep reminding myself daily about my own thoughts, speech and actions,so i shared my views on this with my dad. He gave me the link above.

Its pretty straight forward, just a story from a suttra. IMHO this is a way of 'mindhacking' yourself into having a better life by being more sensitive to others around you/having positive thoughts.

I believe that Buddhism is a form of teaching, like a subject we take in school~ Nothing supernatural, just experiences passed down from a teacher. Maybe that way we can get less agitated abt it as we take a step backwards and look at it.

Just my two cents on the topic.

Anonymous said...

http://residence.educities.edu.tw/wonderfulway/wdm04
/w0413.htm

Sorry somehow the link above is incomplete~

Anonymous said...

Hi, sorry to comment on such a dated posted.

Just wondering, how long did it take for your goals to actualise after writing down? Thanks.

~ jibby

Anonymous said...

Wow. This has made a huge difference in my life. I've tried using Getting Things Done, I've tried using Stephen Covey's weekly planning, I've tried a combination of them both. I've tried my own flavour of goal setting, roles, tasks, etc etc etc.

This is the only thing that's ever worked for me! Daily I write a list of goals that I have just like you instructed. At first I couldn't remember my full list and so would lose some goals and add in extra ones. After a full week I had my "core" goals that I really wanted to accomplish nutted out.

It's been a few weeks now and I'm a better father, I've lost weight, I'm back in touch with family, I'm happy at work, and the list goes on and on.

I'm so very happy to finally have found something that works for me without having to deal with guilt for not doing things or looking at this massive list of tasks that I never seem to catch up on.

Just thought I would share how this has helped me.

cheers,
Gwaine

Anonymous said...

Hello everybody, i've been procastrinating about write my goals and i have two major blocks. i saw a few post of people with same questions.

1.The media. Does make difference computer or pen and paper?
i rather computer cause i can keep it safe from others and it is easy put pics or symbols.

2. Can my goals include others? eg my parents are in a really bad situation and they relay on me and this is blocking me from do want i would like to do.

thank you very much in advance

harry said...

You may want to check out http://www.GoalsOnTrack.com, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

Christine said...

Mr Wang, this method of goal writing I come back to time and time again.

I've used many different methods of goal writing over the years. And, I do feel that they have all contributed the things that I have achieved.

But this technique is a bit different.