Update: following the success of the mindframing article, I published a literature review that explores the science of personal growth outside the school and work environments, and how makers can use mindframing to manage their personal growth.
Writing is wonderful. Thanks to the generation effect, it helps you better remember what you read—even if it’s just by taking notes—and is good for your mental health. Building a writing habit is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself as a maker.
It’s also a central component of the mindframing method I use to get things done without losing my sanity. Writing ticks all the boxes when it comes to personal growth. Whether to help you come up with new ideas, setting goals and targets, keeping a journal, or just increasing your ability to understand, you can use writing at every step of the mindframing process.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”Anais Nin, Essayist & Novelist.
Mindframing is about actively shaping your mind frames to achieve your goals. Instead of considering your mind frames as fixed, you cultivate the mind frames you need to do your best work while taking care of your mental wellness.
If your goal is to learn or to create something new, the three mind frames that will yield the most progress are growth mindset, self-authorship, and metacognition. Having a growth mindset means that you don’t see your abilities as fixed, and you consider mistakes and failures as growth opportunities rather than insurmountable obstacles.
Self-authorship is about seeing yourself as the author of your own life, without relying on external authorities to define your beliefs and values. Even though reality is out of your control, you know you can control how you react to it.
Finally, metacognition is a fancy word that means “thinking about thinking”—it’s being able to take a step back to know what you don’t know, and devise strategies for learning and problem-solving.
Writing to shape your mind frames
Taking the time to write can rapidly enhance your ability to shape your mind frames so you can achieve your goals.
- Growth mindset: especially if it’s not something that comes easily to you, writing can be a great way to cultivate a growth mindset. Because it would be absurd to always write about the same exact thing, writing regularly will push you to progress and keep on learning.
- Self-authorship: the act of writing about your work is an act of self-authorship in itself. It means defining your own voice and expressing your own values and beliefs. Even if you can’t control everything that happens to you, you can control the narrative through your writing.
- Metacognition: writing your thoughts down will force you to think about your thinking. Any fuzzy thoughts need to be clearly defined in order to be written down. That’s why many people say that writing helps them better formulate their ideas.
Of course, writing is also a fantastic way to keep track of your progress and to stay accountable, especially if you write in public. Writing will provide both engagement and ownership in your personal growth. Plus, looking back at what you wrote will help you stay motivated when things are challenging.
How to incorporate writing into your mindframing process
Mindframing is made of the four PARI steps. First, you create a Pact, either with yourself or others. Second, you Act on it, for example by studying the topic you committed to master. Third, you React to the content you studied by producing and publishing your own content.
Finally, you create something or work on a project with bigger Impact—something challenging and fulfilling that puts everything you learned into practice.
Writing can help you at every step of the way:
- Pact. Writing down your commitment will help you better stick to it. Even better if you write it somewhere public. It could be something as simple as a Tweet, or an article on your blog.
- Act. Documenting your learning or creative process is also a great way to keep on working towards your goal. You could tweet a weekly summary of what you studied—for example, some people use a specific hashtag with a few bullet points listing the modules they went through. Even better, create a newsletter with a fixed schedule to document your progress. You wouldn’t want to have nothing to send out to your subscribers.
- React. This step is all about producing content, so it naturally lends itself to writing. Even though mindframing works with any type of content you produce about what you learned—videos, slides, etc.—writing is a quick and easy way to put your own version of what you learned into the world. For instance, you could publish your own tutorials and thoughts on your personal blog.
- Impact. In the last step, the objective is to create something bigger. A web application if you’re learning to code, a pack of illustrations if you’re learning design. Writing about the process can both help you cement the knowledge into your mind, and has the added benefit of increasing its impact by making it easier to share with the world.
As the poet, novelist, and short-story writer Sylvia Plath put it:
“Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
So get a notebook, fire up your favourite text editor, set up a blog, and start writing more regularly. Not only will you develop a useful skill, but it will drastically accelerate your personal growth.