Polybius (Ancient Greek Historian and Author; The Histories)
“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.”
Mark Victor Hansen (Co-creator; Chicken Soup For The Soul series)
“Give yourself an even greater challenge than the one you are trying to master and you will develop the powers necessary to overcome the original difficulty.”
William J. Bennett (Author; The Book of Virtues)
The more you define your purpose, the more energy you’ll have to achieve it.
In high school, I hated sprints. The worst part of practicing any sport was the inevitable back-and-forth, shuttle sprints my coaches would make me do. Every day, for football practice, in full gear, I would have to do 10X100-meter, 8X80-meter, 6X60-meter, and a variable number of 40-meter sprints. During wrestling practices, I was forced to do an endless line of shuttle sprints, down and back across the wrestling mat, or up and down a stairwell or stadium step-way. I even had to do shuttle sprints, from base to base, during baseball practice. And, regardless of the sport, my coaches would never tell me how many sprints I had to do. Oh sure, they would tell me the number of sprints I was starting with, but never how many sprints I had total. And if they did tell me how many, the number ALWAYS grew. “Not fast enough”, they would say, “get back on the line…do it again…and again…and again.” The interesting part was, no matter how many sprints I just did, whenever my coaches finally called out, “last one, give everything!”, I was able to run faster.
The hardest part of doing these sprints was not knowing how many I had left. How was I supposed to know how hard to try (or how much to hold back) if I didn’t know how many I had to do? That was the whole point – to learn that no matter how many sprints I just did, I could always do one more. Over time, my coaches trained me to hold back less and less during these sprinting sessions. Still, I was always surprised with how much energy I found in myself whenever they yelled out, “last one, give everything!” I could always run my last sprint much faster than my second-to-last sprint. Why?
Purpose = Hope = Energy
Purpose provides energy and clarity. In the 1950s, Curt Paul Richter, a Harvard graduate and Johns Hopkins scientist, did a series of experiments that tested how long rats could swim in a high-sided bucket of circulating water before drowning. Dr. Richter found that, under normal conditions, a rat could swim for an average of 15 minutes before giving up and sinking. However, if he rescued the rats just before drowning, dried them off and let them rest briefly, and then put them back into the same buckets of circulating water, the rats could swim an average of 60 hours before drowning. Yes, 60 hours. If a rat was temporarily saved, it would survive 240 times longer than if it was not temporarily saved. This makes no sense. How could these rats swim so much longer the second time, especially just after swimming as long as possible to stay alive? Dr. Richter concluded that the rats were able to swim longer because they were given hope. A better conclusion is that the rats were able to swim longer because they were given energy through hope. The rats had a clear picture of what being saved looked like, so they kept swimming for it.
The reason that I (or anyone) will feel a rush of energy close to the finish line of a sprint workout is the same reason why rats can swim longer after being saved; because the future defined. In other words, the goal – the purpose – is defined. Understand that defining the path in front of you will give you the energy you need to complete it. The key is to positively visualize the end at the beginning. You don’t have to actually see the end, you just have to envision it. Vision creates hope, or a feeling of expectancy. And hope creates energy.
Writing = Reality
“I wrote myself a check for ten million dollars for acting services rendered and dated it Thanksgiving 1995. I put it in my wallet and it deteriorated. And then, just before Thanksgiving 1995, I found out I was going to make ten million dollars for Dumb & Dumber.” – Jim Carrey on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1997
Writing down your goals is not an end in itself, but it is the beginning of getting what you want. In the book Breaking In, author Evan Farmer tells the story of Jim Carrey, the wildly successful comedian and actor, who wrote himself a check for 10 million dollars in 1987. At the time, Carrey was a 25-year old struggling comedian living in his car. One night, Carrey drove himself up into the Hollywood hills and, sitting on Mulholland Drive, overlooking Los Angeles, he wrote out a check for 10 million dollars. He dated the check for “Thanksgiving 1995” and added the notation, “for acting services rendered.” Carrey kept the check in his wallet for seven years until, in 1994, he found out he was going to make 10 million dollars for acting in the movie Dumb & Dumber. All great deeds are first great words – written words. The only way to bring an idea or objective to life is to write it on paper. This is because writing down your desires imprints them on reality. Now, it’s real. Now, it’s in front of you. And the mind will naturally focus on whatever is in front of it.
Belief backed by action is the only real magic. Turning your goals into reality by writing them on paper is not a secret; it’s science. Studies show that people who write down their goals are 33% more likely to achieve them. Other studies show that people who write down their goals make 9 times more money than people who don’t. Yet, less than 4% of Americans write down their goals. This isn’t surprising when you consider that 80% of Americans don’t even have goals. But how does just writing down what you want bring you closer to having it?
Achieving your goal can be as addictive as a narcotic. According to psychologists and neurologists, writing down a goal invests you into the objective as if you’d already accomplished it. Your brain automatically integrates the written goal into your identity. Also, your brain cannot distinguish between things you want from things you already have. This means that, to your brain, failure to achieve a written goal is the same as losing a current and valued possession. Finally, your brain is addicted (literally) to achieving written goals. Accomplishing any preformed objective releases dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for reward-motivated behavior. Every type of reward that has been studied increases dopamine levels in your brain, including gambling and a variety of drugs.
Millionaires and other successful people write better goals. They each have a strong, well-defined, sense of purpose. Details generate drive. The key to achieving your goal and fulfilling your purpose in life is to write down what you want in as much detail as possible. You can do this by creating a list, cutting yourself a check, or building a vision board. The more you define your purpose, the more it will integrate with your identity, the more energy you’ll have to fulfill it, and the better it will feel when you achieve it.