Tell me if this sounds familiar…
You’re with your coach/therapist/friend, and they look at you and ask, “What do you really want from life? What would make you happy?” And you freeze. Your mind goes blank.
You don’t know what you want or how to articulate it.
This can be so frustrating, because we are told over and over that the universe loves it when we get specific in our intentions and actions. It’s an essential key to manifesting! But how can you get specific if things always become too gauzy when you try to imagine what it is that you really want?
Thankfully, there is a way to bypass the deer-in-headlights brain freeze and unleash all the good things that the universe wants for you.
It’s by writing about yourself like a character in a story.
This is a process where you imagine yourself as an author writing a story about a character who just happens to be you. The idea is to “storify” all goals and dreams associated with this “character” and use the third-person instead of the first person.
In my case, I would think about the character of “Lara” and begin to write about her as if I were a novelist.
I might begin by asking how Lara would like to feel in her story. What are some of the things that happen to her in this story? What does she feel? What kind of relationships does she have?
It sounds deceptively simple, but it absolutely works. And as fantastically imaginative as it may seem, it’s actually rooted in lots of cognitive science.
3 Reasons Writing This Way Works
1. This type of writing exercise fuels pattern recognition. When you write down what you want to have happen to you, it helps you see more clearly the things that are holding you back. The tension is right there on the page for you in real life, the same as it would be for a character.
2. Writing ourselves as a character helps us understand our stories. Dr. James Pennebaker from the University of Texas has done research that shows how storifying experiences helps people approach what’s happened to them more objectively and can ultimately provide perspective on and understanding of these experiences.
3. We create more possibilities. According to researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, the third-person perspective helps people think about themselves as they would others. And often, it’s easier to believe things are possible for others versus ourselves, so in this way, we can trick ourselves into believing in bigger possibilities with the third person.
An Accidental Discovery
I accidentally discovered this writing method a few years ago when I was drowning in unhappiness. I was the heaviest I’d been in years, and I was drinking a lot. My work writing novels, which had once been thriving, had also dried up, leaving me questioning who in the world I was, since being a novelist was the only thing I’d ever wanted to do.
My husband and I were living paycheck to paycheck. And while we liked each other a lot, our relationship wasn’t exactly thriving.
In this dark place, I began a book I unimaginatively titled Lara’s Life. Every day I wrote about myself like a character, and I wrote about the things I wanted to have happen to Lara.
Within one year, my life felt markedly different. In practical terms, I lost 20 pounds, and our finances made a U-turn for the better. I stopped the heavy drinking and launched a successful business. But beyond that, I went from being half numb in my life to embracing it and living it fully. I feel totally connected to my purpose and on a better path.
Try This for Yourself
If you’re eager to try this for yourself, it’s pretty simple stuff. Get a notebook and grab a pen. Title your story and write what you want to have happen to you, the same as you would a character in a story.
- How does your character feel?
- Where do they travel?
- Who are they with?
- How do they change for the better?
- What do they see, smell, and feel?
- What happens to them today? How about this week?
Don’t worry about plotting out the entire arc of the story. The arc will take care of itself. The “how” will take care of itself, too. In other words, don’t worry about how you’re going to take that dream vacation to Hawaii, just start writing about your character being there with her toes in the sand and the warm breezes on her skin.
This process changed my life, and I believe it can do the same for you, too.