The Write Stuff for Mission Impossible

You’ve had the key to move mountains since you were eight years old.

Posted Aug 12, 2013

I lay in bed at night with Laura by my side. The cacophony of the rainforest attempted soothing solace for the horrible thoughts I was having. Why don’t we have water at the house yet? Why don’t we have a phone? Why is living in paradise so hard?

Moving to the Costa Rican jungle in 2006 was the most wonderful and horrific thing Laura and I have ever done. We have spent three years writing Radical Sabbatical, the story about our big life gamble. People tell us it’s hilarious. How can such a trying time be so hilarious? Well, the Second City, where so many household comedic actors got their start, taught me in the first minutes of my very first day of training that the two elements of great comedy are truth and pain. We surely tell the truth in Radical Sabbatical. Obviously, we were under a heaping dose of stress and pain to counterbalance paradise at the same time.

Yet, over the last three years of writing the book, we have come to truly understand what happened in the jungle and noticed a dramatic improvement in our own lives as a result. We even mustered the guts and faith to be on TV and in magazines, to do YouTube videos that we blast all over the internet, and to put ourselves under extreme financial strain to create a book and programs that change people’s lives.

Here’s what we found from our investigation into exactly why writing yielded so much fruit from an otherwise not-so-fruitful episode.

When you make a big life change, your reactions to your critical moments—hearing “no” from a key prospective client or being stranded in the middle of the jungle with a broken car, little food, and no drinking water—are key.

In Leveraging the Universe, Mike Dooley proclaims an existential truth reinforced by so many others: Our thoughts are things. What you think is what you get. Our critical moments are the times when we stand the most potential to have defeating thoughts.

Therefore, controlling our reactions to critical moments is paramount to fulfillment.

Luckily, there is a way to do this without too much effort. You call it journaling. Scientists call it writing therapy.

Wait! Wait! You want to flip to the next article because one word just came into your mind: “work!” OK, but stick with me for a sec because I’m talking 5-10 minutes of work per day. You may be taking a big life leap. Most people quit their life leaps. This is your dream. Trust me. It’s worth it.

Why does it work so effectively? Without journaling, you tend to try to solve your problems with endless logic—a continuous loop of left-brain whys and hows. Why is this bothering me, and how can I get it to stop, for example? You need to slow your analytical left brain to make room for the right brain to create a new plan to react positively to your negative stimuli.

Luckily, you are conditioned to be creative when you write. You go from blank page to words on a page. That’s creation! You have engaged your right brain to produce a solution to the problem.

You now have a therapist in your head when you didn’t before.

To boot, as you write daily, you can diagnose patterns in your thinking that solve reactions to other critical moments, and you have documented proof of your overall progress that you can go back to when you ask yourself, “What have I really accomplished?”

So what type of writing will create the positive reactions you desire? Answer these questions daily:

-- “What circumstance triggered my worst feeling today?” – Maybe someone said “no” to you on a sales call.

-- “In that moment, in one sentence, what was the negative thought I had that made me feel bad?” – Maybe it’s, “I’m never going to sell a widget.”

-- “What are three words that describe the outcome I’m afraid of when I have that thought?” – Maybe it’s “broke, humiliated, quitter.”

-- “What three words are the opposite of those three words?” – Now you could write “rich, proud, successful.” These are your desired outcomes.

-- “What thought, in one sentence, can I replace for #2 that will get me to my desired outcomes?” – You could write, “All I have to do is close on 2% of my calls—2 of every 100—and I can live comfortably.”

-- Now write down the sentence: “When [#1] happens, I will immediately think [#5.]”

-- If you have time left in your journaling session, just free write. Put on the page whatever comes to mind. This will cement your new planned reaction further into your brain.

Do this every day, and positive developments are on the way. Before you know it, you’ll be able to tell yourself and everyone else, “Look at my amazing life leap!”