Learning to Think …

I read an interview with Charles Duhigg that helped me understand why I do some of the things that I do. To summarize what I gleaned from it, in order to be successful, we must challenge ourselves to think more about the things that we want to accomplish. We need to put ourselves in a position where we are outside of our comfort zone so that we will think about our goals in deeper and different ways.

When I started writing my seven hundred and fifty words every morning I wanted to learn how to transfer what I was thinking to the page effortlessly. I had discovered Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Her first suggestion is to sit down every morning and write three pages. I thought about this and decided that I wanted to write on a computer.

I poked around the internet and discovered Buster Benson‘s 750words.com. Buster had done the math and figured out that three hand written pages were approximately seven hundred and fifty words. I signed up and started writing. Buster had made things interesting by collecting statistics on your writing, like how many days in a row you had written your words, and how many times you were distracted for more than three minutes while writing your seven hundred and fifty words. Your words are kept private and you can choose to share as many or as few of your statistics as you like. He also came up with badges for achievements like 30 consecutive days writing, not being distracted for a certain number of days in a row, etc.

As weeks and months went by, I discovered that I was learning to write more fluently and with much less attention to the mechanical aspects of getting the words on the page. At first I had spent much of the posts talking about how many words I had written so far and how many words I had left to write. I soon graduated to describing what was going on in the room around me. The sounds that I heard out the window. The demands of the cat and dog. My wife’s phone conversations.

I kept at it and discovered that if I could listen to music that was instrumental or so familiar that I could ignore the lyrics, I could block out distractions. Of course when I was struggling with myself about what to write, I would often start talking about the music.

Then at the beginning of June I read a blog post by C.J Shivers that advocated blogging every day. I have had a much neglected blog for years. I had even made several attempts to blog daily. This lasted for several days or several weeks. I always got distracted and quit blogging. This time when I decided to commit to blogging daily I new I need to have a plan.

I had managed to make writing daily a habit with 750words.com so, I decided to use my morning words as a way to generate drafts for blog posts. That would allow me to use one good habit to help bootstrap another. I wrote a blog post committing to blog daily and I was off.

I haven’t been able to think of something blog worthy while writing my words every day so far. Some days, I have other things on my mind. Things that are either too private or too boring to make into a blog post. When that happens, I have to make more time to write my blog later in the day. But when I do manage to write a good blog post while I’m writing my morning words, it is particularly satisfying.

The thing that originally caught my attention to read the Duhigg interview was the pull quote that said that you were using your todo list all wrong. I have been a long time believer in the power of making lists. I’m not as much in the habit of making them as I’d like but when I do, I seem to accomplish the things on them.

Duhigg advocates that you use your todo list to prioritize and motivate. In particular, he says to write your stretch goal at the top of the list and periodically ask yourself if what you are doing right now is contributing to that stretch goal. This is yet another way to force yourself to think more and differently about your goals. I’m going to give it a try.