“Know thyself? If I knew myself I would run away.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Yes, I know the title is a bit melodramatic, but in a psychological way, it is true.
I spent a great deal of my life doing what I thought I should be doing, rather than pursuing my own passion. Growing older, life can get complex, pursuing a job, raising a family, increasing stability, increasing debt.
It’s not uncommon to become one of the sheeple. We do what we are taught, raised and guided to do. That’s only a bad thing if you find yourself not fully living the life you wish you had.
The good news is, there is hope.
Entering Writing. (ta-da!).
When you get down to it, writing communicates an idea, thought, piece of data, emotion etc. It can range from a spreadsheet of sales numbers, to painting a picture that represents hope or loss.
There are many different ways to communicate an idea, but in this post, I will discuss the actual act of writing. I will cover other alternatives to putting pen on paper or words on screen, at another time. The process and benefits are the same.
The benefits of writing:
- Know yourself better
- Make better decisions
- Get better results
- Live a more purpose driven life
This may sound a bit over the top. Writing can improve my life? Really?
Stick with me on this.
The problem many of us face is that we are not fully living the life we want. We still have passions, values, goal, achievements we want to pursue, but we aren’t.
We all write, whether it be an email, text message or epic novel (or anything in between). Mostly it is mundane. We normally don’t think about the actual process, because it is so obvious and habitual, and certainly not profound.
Unless we are writing a book, or write for a living, we don’t tap in to the benefit that writing can provide.
We are living less than optimally.
The benefit of writing is that it can help us understand ourselves better, which allows us to make better decisions and get better results. And we know how to do it already.
“If you really want to know yourself, start by writing a book.”
-Shereen El Feki
Let me explain the power of writing and how it has benefited me.
How the process works
The writing I do is mostly blogging, researching and developing thoughts that may someday become blog posts, articles or even books. Who knows?
It has provided me a way to re-integrate what really makes me happy into my life.
It works in the following four ways:
- It helped me to focus
- It helped me to clarify
- It helped me to analyze
- It helped me to act
Not to dwell on the negative, but for much of my life I haven’t fully pursued my dreams (insert any goal, achievement, sense of purpose etc.) in any meaningful fashion. I have always dwelt on what it would be like if I could follow my own dreams, such as run my own business, write a book, become a travel blogger, and many other things.
I never pursued any of them. Why?
The reason is that I did what I was expected to do: get an education, get a job, have a career, start a family, buy a house, save for retirement, live happily ever after. You know the story. Life gets more filled with more obligations and responsibilities, and our dreams are at risk of being pushed aside for more immediate concerns.
Sounds like a personal pity party, doesn’t it? Well, it was, but it changed. Writing – communicating what was important to me – changed everything.
“You can only have two things in life, reasons and results. Reasons don’t count.”
Let me explain each of the four points above, and how they helped to shift my thinking and better be able to pursue my passion.
1. It helped me to focus on what is important
Writing accomplishes several things when you do it. By writing, you are by nature excluding other activities. Your mind is engaged at the task of getting the thoughts you want to communicate out on paper (or screen). Going through the act of writing focus’ your thought process in a way only thinking about them does not.
You are directing your mind to concentrate on the concept at hand, while excluding other data.
This is nothing more than a mental exercise.
You can dive deeper into your thoughts by getting them out of your head.
2. It helped me to clarify
As you braindump, the easy, more dominant thoughts in your mind will hit the page first. We have all sorts of thoughts floating through our mind at any one moment, some more dominate or recurring than others. More significantly, the dominant thoughts aren’t necessarily important thoughts.
By getting those thoughts out on the page, it frees your mind to consider other thoughts that get pushed aside.
The more you write, the more thoughts you express, deeper thoughts will start to rise to the surface naturally. As the small talk is over, more deeper conversation can begin, so to speak.
Your mind will have to sweat a little to find the words to write. As you do so, you will get closer to the core of what is important to you. Your values. Your passions. What drives you.
This clarification, or awareness of core values leads to my next point:
3. It helped me analyze my current life path
By writing, I personally have become more clear on what is important to me. By documenting my thoughts and by writing stories, I find the same values keep driving my writing. I can explore those areas and learn to better understand what is guiding my thoughts, and therefore my actions.
Doing this, it becomes clear whether you are on the right path for you, or whether there is a dissonance between the way you are living and the way you know you need to live.
The brain is powerful. Tasked with a clear vision of your values and a determination to pursue them, it will begin to churn out ideas that you cannot now imagine. Core values come into focus, and the mind naturally thinks of ways in which it can communicate them.
Desired outcomes and specific actions become apparent.
4. It inspired me to take action
As I progressed through this process, each step became more inspirational. My motivation increased as I re-discovered what was important to me. I learned more about how I can better balance my life to not just work a job, but to take meaningful action to pursue my dreams based on my passions and values.
My emotional state improved. Confidence grows knowing what your values are, and that you have done solid analysis for pursuing them.
As you know, thoughts lead to actions, actions lead to results. By understanding yourself and taking control over your life, your actions will improve, as will your outcomes.
Motivation, energy, confidence are all good reasons to write in order to rediscover or re-engage with your true values and drives. You don’t need to be a writer to benefit, and writing doesn’t need to be your goal. What you discover about yourself, and your commitment to change is how writing can benefit you.
The more you write, the better you will get, meaning you will get better at being aware of your values and taking action to express them..
By writing, you are communicating thoughts or ideas that are important to you. You will define your values, define positive actions and define a life with more direction and purpose.
When I say that writing saved my life, you can see now how other words just don’t live up to the profound benefit I have received. I now live more in-tune with my passions and values and have more motivation, passion, drive and confidence to pursue them.
Maybe writing can save your life too.
Write a 2,000 word article. That is not particularly long, but it may be challenging.
Try this process if you need help coming up with ideas to write about:
- Brainstorm by making a mind-map. You will get more thoughts out of your head than you think.
- Outline. I just organize my thoughts and list the points I want to make.
Do this and see where it takes you. Practice regularly and your life will change for the better.
P.S. Remember, if you like this post, please share it with your friends.