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