I went to a networking meeting yesterday that included a small exercise: write down your dream or goal for the future. This is a powerful exercise that seems so simple, but it’s easy to forget how important it is. The singular act of writing out one or two sentences provides so much value – let’s explore.
Think about when we were in kindergarten and we were asked to draw pictures of what we wanted to be when we grew up. This activity got us thinking about the different possibilities and exploring our interests on a basic level. But, more than that, we were visualizing ourselves in this role. That in its own is a powerful activity for our brain – it bridges a connection of us in that role, which is an important step down the road. We are more likely to do something when we can see ourselves doing it.
Let’s fast forward to adolescence and early adulthood. Many people start to keep journals. Why? Perhaps it’s a conversation with yourself that helps you sort your thoughts. Perhaps it’s a way to express yourself that otherwise would be hard to say out loud. Maybe it’s because you’re not sure how you feel, so you rely on the process to take you in surprising directions. Sometimes it was your confidant when you felt insecure. Whatever the reason, the process of writing provided the most value. Getting thoughts out of your head and on paper takes your thought-process and emotional development to the next level.
Let’s move forward again. Now you have the capability to achieve your goals or dreams if you want to. You are autonomous, taking control over your life. But how do you start? You write it down. When we do this simple step, we unlock the following:
- Many experts will tell you that putting something on paper helps your brain to “check it off the list” meaning that it won’t be swirling around in your mind anymore. The benefit of this in terms of goal-setting is that it becomes tangible. It’s no longer just a thought in a black hole – it’s now a thing on paper. It exists!
- The process of writing down your dream or goal in one or two sentences helps you formulate and refine it. We take more care with the words we choose. We give it some TLC. It’s ok to have several drafts and revisions, but taking that first step is the key point here.
- There’s a level of ownership that comes with having your goal written down: “This is mine.” Now what? If you’re like me, you develop a sense of responsibility. If this goal is something that’s truly meaningful to me, I owe it to myself to take steps to get there. Even if I don’t succeed. Writing down a goal doesn’t ensure success. But it gets you to that first step of action, whether that looks like a new list of steps you need to take, bridging networking connections, or going back to school, etc.
- Remember the kindergarten scenario? This is my favorite part of why writing down your goals is valuable. You visualize yourself doing it. Perhaps you start to smile and you get those fuzzy feelings. Maybe you start to feel empowered as you see your potential success. You think of money, or power, or happiness. The important part is that time and time again, visualization is shown to be a path toward achievement.
Writing down your dream or goal doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes. However, it’s a small effort than can have a big return on investment. Don’t we all deserve that?
What experience have you had writing down your goals or dreams? How do you feel after? What steps do you take next? I’d love to know what works for you!