“VERY few people ever bother to take time to write down their goals and plans for the future. Those who do achieve great things.”
In this blog post we are going to find out about the power of handwriting and why it is so effective as a self development tool.
We all have hopes, dreams and ideas about how we want our life to be, and yet very few of us ever take the time to write them down. Those of us who do can achieve great things and make profound and significant changes to our lives.
Something astonishing happens when we put pen to paper. By writing down our thoughts, plans and dreams in black and white, a powerful transformation happens, not just on the page, but also in the way we think and feel.
I have witnessed in my coaching sessions how writing can radically alter our mindset and patterns of behaviour, help us to deal with ‘failures’ and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
When it comes to visualising our future and setting goals, writing is phenomenally powerful. We know that people who write their goals down are far more likely to achieve them than those who just think or talk about them. Your chances of succeeding are even greater when you also have a detailed written action plan, specific and ambitious goals and can vividly describe the success you desire.
So, what is it about writing that is so different from just thinking or talking?
The act of writing triggers complex processes in our brain involving both the right hemisphere of our brain (associated with creativity, imagination and intuition) and the left hemisphere (associated with logical thinking, language and writing).
In order to write, we need to convert the things we imagine into a visible record. We process our thoughts and ideas, make decisions and re-generate them in a visual way on the page. In doing so, we create something tangible that has permanence, and we send a powerful signal to ourselves and our own minds that we are serious, that this is important to us and worthy of our focus.
The benefits are even more powerful when we write with a pen and paper rather than typing on a keyboard or electronic device. Recent studies comparing handwriting with mechanised forms of writing suggest that we remember information better when we write by hand – this is especially true of concepts and ideas.
Writing by hand is a physical and sensory experience that is very different from typing on a keyboard. We feel the writing surface and make decisions about how we represent our thoughts.
Handwriting involves neuro-sensory experiences and fine motor skills, and offers us improved creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills
Writing by hand can help us to:
Clarify what we really want
Focus our mind on the things that matter to us
Articulate thoughts and feelings
Work through failures and setbacks
Change our mindset and behaviour
Feeling the writing surface, holding the writing instrument and directing precise movements with thoughts, gives our goal setting permanence and tells the world that we mean business.
Keeping a journal, diary or writing down our plans and goals every day in a notebook can help us to clarify our thoughts and help us to achieve short, medium and long-term goals that lead to positive changes in our lives.
The physical act of writing is a powerful and impactful method of auditing, editing, curating and creating new lives.
In 2007 a study by British psychologist Richard Wiseman, proved that almost 90 % of people who make New Year resolutions fail to stick to their plans. Part of the reason for this is that they didn’t bother to write anything down or make any kind of recorded plan. The Write Your Life method helps you to meet your goals through the process of writing and by breaking your goals into manageable and achievable mini and even micro goals.
Setting goals and writing them down kick starts the part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). This controls mental agility and alertness and performs as a filter as it has the ability to edit out anything that is not needed and edit in things that are needed. It is a way of training your brain to recognise what you need and what you don’t need and when we set goals this is very important because our RAS presents us with opportunities and resources that will support those plans and goals. When we are aware of what we want to work towards we start taking positive and inspired actions that will get us there. The process of writing every day really supports that process.
Let the important information in
The Reticular Activating system is a group of nerves at our brainstem that allows us to filter out unnecessary information and lets the important information through. It filters the world using the parameter you give it. If you focus on the bad things, then that is what will come to you, focus on the positives and your brain will seek out good things.
With technology being so present in our lives, writing by hand in its purest form is slowly disappearing from our lives as we tap away on our keyboards and stare at our blinking screens.
Recent research suggests that the act of writing, rather than typing, improves our ability to remember and understand information, and is a powerful means of connecting the right side of our brain (responsible for creative thinking) with the logical left side of our brain.
Writing is not new-fact! It has been around for ever and has been used to communicate, document, describe, record and plan everything. It is useful, beautiful and essential has the power to entertain and inform, educate and empower, inspire and fascinate, shock and surprise. It can make us laugh, reduce us to tears and help us sort things out in an instant.
In its most basic function, writing helps us remember what we need to do, tell people we love them or are thinking about them, and enables us to learn and discover. Writing (and reading of course) is a truly amazing thing that we all have access to and that actually costs very little to do. For the cost of a piece of paper or a notebook and a pen we have the power at our very fingertips (and nibs!) to change our lives one word at a time. And yet despite its beautiful simplicity and enormously powerful ability to create incredible change, so few of us ever bother to handwrite very much at all. With technology being so present in our lives, writing by hand in its purest form is slowly being ignored and forgotten as a human communication tool as we tap away on our keyboards and stare at our blinking screens.
Fewer people than ever keep a paper diary or even send a physical greetings card anymore. With a few taps you can upload a digital image onto a pre designed template, edit a bit of text, add an address, pay by PayPal and send it to someone-all from the relative comfort of your chosen digital device. Job done! But where is the passion, the emotion, the thought process, the feeling of having created something? You can’t hold it in the hand, admire it, feel it , smell it or add a big lipsticky kiss!
Does it have the same impact as a handwritten card? Not always! In fact hardly ever! The process makes ‘writing’ just another chore, something to be ticked off your list and then disregarded.
The Write Your Life programme that I have created and teach in workshops and one to one coaching sessions, now proves that the actual physical act of writing is a powerful and impactful method of auditing, editing, curating and creating new lives, new plans and new ambitions.
As well as writing down goals for the future, we can write what we are grateful for-as a reminder of how much good we already have in our lives. By bookending our day writing down just three things we are grateful for, we will have better days of inspired activity and better nights of sleep-constantly checking your social media feeds before bed does not offer the same soporific effect-in fact the impact on our health and wellbeing is quite the opposite.
So exactly what is the science behind the power of the pen and the paper?
How is it that two such simple objects and one simple action can create such incredible stuff?
The strength and power of writing stems from the fact that writing is the primary basis upon which communication, history, record keeping, and art begins. Writing is the frame work of our communication system and punctuates every part of our lives in one way or another.
We encounter writing in many forms every day of our lives, and often dismiss the importance of it and how it helps us because we are used to seeing office memos, meeting agendas, reports, or restaurant menus. We disregard its simple energy and ability to motivate us to do things which are relatively mundane, and yet if we all used writing more as a self -development tool we would see astonishing results and significant change.
Writing is incredibly pliable; you can use it to give information, an opinion, ask a question, or write creatively to create poetry or literature. Words can take a bounty of forms within writing. The words you use can show who you are as a person, the things writing has done in our lives and the world is profound. I cannot personally imagine a life that didn’t involve writing in one way or another and I am at my happiest when I am actually and actively engaged in writing projects-whatever they may be.
Although we inhabit a world of digital information technology with screens and keyboards as our primary ‘writing’ tools handwriting still has a very important role to play. The most crucial, important binding contracts and agreements that we manage in our lives are still written and signed by hand. Writing is part of a creative project, whether it is a film, the design of a building, or a piece of literature. Without writing the flow of ideas halts sharply beyond the initial creative source and ideas and concepts simply never grow.
Writing also entertains us and has intrinsic creative value as we can delve into our subconscious to conjure up fantastic imagery and create everything and anything we want to-from imaginary creatures and characters to entire worlds and ultimately the life that we want to live. We can convert what may be seen as daydreams into reality and documenting our dreams, thoughts and ideas in this way gives us perspective and offers our ideas a feeling of permanence that they may actually become reality.
Writing makes us smarter!
Writing helps us to think better, plan more effectively and perhaps even improve our intelligence and intellectual abilities-making us smarter. In the same way that dreaming can fire our imagination, writing allows us a way to curate our random and scattered thoughts and ideas, and edit them into a single beam of useful, powerful and impactful information. It opens up a new otherwise closed dimension for the mind to occupy and, consequently, creates a space for unparalleled expression and imagination, which opens up unrivalled opportunities for new ideas, goals and plans to be made, formed and achieved. The sense of satisfaction that writing offers is overwhelmingly awesome!
There’s definitely some science to the idea that wring can make us smarter. Studies show that old fashioned pen to paper writing is what leads to improved cognitive ability, whereas not surprisingly, typing skills do not have the same results.
A study in the U.S that compared the different brain processes used for writing by hand and typing found that there are cognitive benefits to putting a pen to paper. These findings give support to the continued teaching of penmanship and handwriting in schools.
Children who don’t learn the skill of handwriting, like generations before them had to, may be missing out on an important developmental process. Compared to using two hands to type out letters on a keyboard, writing with one hand uses more complex brain power.
Writing is more complicated because it integrates the following three brain processes:
- Visual: Seeing what is on the paper in front of you.
- Motor: Using your fine motor skills to actually put the pen to paper and form the letters to make the words.
- Cognitive: Remembering the shapes of the letters requires a different type of feedback from the brain.
There have been very few studies that address the various modalities of writing, such as the difference between writing with a pen on paper and a keyboard and a mouse. The American research project attempted to differentiate between handwriting and keyboard writing and their different implications on children’s learning; in addition the researchers looked at adult reading and writing behaviour and experiences. Results from analysis of previous literature on various writing methods and their implications showed that there is a significant difference between handwriting and the use of a mechanised device. Neuroscientists have noted that the shift from handwriting to mechanised or technical writing has serious implications on cognition and skill development.
There are two aspects of writing; one is the visual aspect and the other is the perception and motor aspect, otherwise known as “haptics.” Some studies have revealed that in the actual act of writing by hand you must use your motor skills to copy a letter graphically, a slower process that actually aids in cognitive development. This review examined the effects of technical or mechanised writing on cognitive development and writing and other finer skills in children; and also how daily mechanised writing has affected the hand/brain relationship in learning.
Evidence from studies has shown that writing skill is a process that needs an integration of visual, motor, as well as cognitive or perceptive parts. The perception allows one to remember the shape of the letters that is written while sight and motor skills of the hand enable the writing. Present brain imaging shows that the nerves are also connected to these three components.
When a person writes uses a typewriter or a computer, he changes this pattern to a great extent. For example, typewriting involves both hands while handwriting involves one, and handwriting is slower and more laborious than typing. Handwriting needs a person to shape a letter, where typing does not.
Some Japanese studies have shown that repeated handwriting aids in remembering the shape of the letters better. One study showed that when children learned words by writing, they remembered it better than if they learned it by typing.
So, despite the lack of research on the subject it is clear that good old fashioned writing with a pen and a piece of paper does have profound effects on our cognitive and intellectual abilities. Surely then it is obvious that this is something we all need to do more of!
Whatever our age we can all benefit from a daily writing practice and above all writing is an enjoyable and relaxing thing to do. It is time to forget about your past experiences and preconceptions of writing and start afresh with a new attitude to this simple but powerful artform. Writing can change your life-if you let it.
Only about 3 % of people bother to write down their goals and plans for the future. Those of us who do-achieve great things so make sure YOU are part of the 3% !
“The non-negotiable process of having to commit to writing every day for 30 days was not something that I ever thought I could do. I now can’t imagine not doing it. It has helped me immensely. I have clarity and a plan for the future and have already achieved some of my goals.” Sophie.
The simplest way to start the process of manifesting change in our lives is to start regularly writing down our goals-by regularly I do, of course, mean DAILY!
Daily writing habits are the key to:
- Staying focussed
- Setting a clear intention that you want to make changes to your life
- Manifesting change by paying attention to your reticular activation system
- Investing in yourself
Your daily writing practices don’t have to be an exercise in perfectionism, and should never be a chore. Writing is a simple exercise, but don’t be fooled by its simplicity! It has tremendous abilities to really make us all think very carefully about our lives and what we want to keep and what we definitely want to change.
It really doesn’t matter how neat your writing is-daily writing is all about allocating time each day to reaffirm your goals and edit out anything that you no longer need or believe will be helpful to you. Setting goals (and writing them down kick starts the Reticular Activating System (RAS). This controls mental agility and alertness and performs as a filter as it has the ability to edit out anything that is not needed and edit in things that are needed. It is a way of training your brain to recognise what you need and what you don’t need and when we set goals this is very important because our RAS presents us with opportunities and resources that will support those plans and goals. When we are aware of what we want to work towards we start taking positive and inspired actions that will get us there. The process of writing every day really supports that process.
This FREE e book will help you understand more about HOW daily writing can help YOU.