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Henriette Anne Klauser

Write It Down, Make It Happen
by Henriette Anne Klauser

Help from Your Brain

Writing down your dreams and aspirations is like hanging up a sign that says, "Open for Business." Or, as my friend Elaine puts it, by writing it down, you declare yourself in the game. Putting it on paper alerts the part of your brain known as the reticular activating system to join you in the play.

Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser

At the base of the brain stem, about the size of a little finger, is a group of cells whose job it is to sort and evaluate incoming data. This control center is known as the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS sends the urgent stuff to the active part of your brain, and sends the nonurgent to the subconscious. The RAS awakens the brain to consciousness, and keeps it alert—just as surely as your baby's cry in the night, from all the way down the hall, can waken you from a deep sleep. The RAS evaluates the nonessential nighttime noises—the dripping faucet, the crickets, or neighborhood traffic—and filters out the nonurgent, waking you up only for the urgent. The baby cries, and in a split second you are bolt upright in bed, wide awake and ready to rescue the infant in distress.

The keenest, most familiar example of the reticular activating system at work is an experience all of us have had at one time or another. You are in a packed room; you can barely hear the conversation of the person you are talking to above the din of the crowd. Suddenly, someone clear on the other side of the room mentions your name. And that one word cuts through the sea of sound and your ears immediately perk up. You turn your head toward the speaker, eager now to tune in the rest of what he or she is saying about you, straining to hear if it is good news, ready to defend the bad.

That is a prime example of your monitoring mechanism, your reticular activating system, at work. You have just tuned in to something specific and useful to you.

Although you may think you are giving your conversational companion undivided attention, the fact is your attention is fragmented and subconsciously taking in the tower of babel around you, sorting, sorting, sorting, even as you speak. Your name when spoken stands out as prominently as a speck of gold in a miner's pan of gravel.

The RAS is like a filtering system of the brain. Writing it down sets up the filter. Things start to appear—it's a matter of your filtering system.

If you have never owned a Honda before, and you buy a blue Honda, all of a sudden you see blue Hondas all over town. You might wonder. Where are all these blue Hondas coming from? But they were there all along; you were just not paying attention to them.

Putting a goal in writing is like buying a blue Honda; it sets up a filter that helps you be aware of certain things in your surroundings. Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: "Wake up! Pay attention! Don't miss this detail!" Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to the signs and signals that, like the blue Honda, were there all along.

Polishing Coconuts

Often a goal, once written, will materialize without any further effort on your part. But it doesn’t hurt to "prime the pump." The more attractive you make whatever you ambition, and the more you approach it in a spirit of fun, the more others will want to play along to make your dream a reality.

I call this playful spreading of the word "polishing coconuts."

Scientists in the sixties were monitoring monkeys on a remote Japanese island who were cleaning sand off sweet potatoes by washing them in a stream. When the critical mass of monkeys doing this activity reached a certain number, primates on another island began doing the same thing. Ken Keyes Jr. took this experiment as a metaphor for an individual's personal responsibility to think peace. You never know if you might be the "hundredth monkey" exploding the common consciousness into mass understanding.

I use the expression "polishing coconuts" (somehow it is more catchy than "getting sand off yams") to mean how activity in one area generates movement in another. When you show your earnestness and intention by writing it down, something opens up. The word gets out. My sons, James and Peter, own and operate a graphic design firm. They are imaginative, creative, and indefatigable workers and their business is thriving. At the beginning of each month, they have a planning session where they write down their goals for the month. Then every Monday morning, they select and write on a dry erase board the goals for the week. From that point on, they know that their activities—often indirectly—will feed those goals. What delights them constantly is the amount of work they get from untapped sources.

Peter and James are gleeful when they talk about the successes they have "polishing coconuts"—when they are wooing one account and another opens up from an unexpected place. Peter gives an example: "We wanted to generate more business for Bullseye Graphics, so we put together a newsletter and sent it out to our existing clients. Almost immediately, we started getting phone calls, but interestingly enough, the phone calls weren't from clients; they were from people not on our mailing list. We were putting the energy out there, and the phone started ringing—from new contacts."

They wrote down the goal: We want more exposure, to get our name before the public. They set up a booth at a trade show; they sent notices out to area companies who might need design help; they approached new businesses with an introductory offer giving them a deal on an identity package. Many of these efforts and expenditures did not pan out directly, but what was totally unexpected and could not have been predicted was that one day they got a call from the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street journal was doing an article on successful small businesses and had been given their name by a local Kinko's copy shop as two "movers and shakers." The article went out on the Internet and gave them all kinds of exposure.

Finding a Perfect Marketing Match

My friend Holly was interested in hiring someone to help her do an infomercial. I told her to write down her goal, and then I started "polishing coconuts" for her on my little island. I called several fellow speakers for referrals and they in turn led me to some of the best in the industry. I contacted each of them, told them about Holly, and got good advice from all of them. Then I brainstormed some ideas with my pal John, who had just done an infomercial, to get some tips from him to pass on to Holly.

When I called Holly back with all this information, she had hired someone—the perfect match had called her. Did that mean my time was wasted, that I was of no help to her at all, because the answer came from a different quarter? Not at all. Bob McChesney, my friend and teacher, calls it, "stirring the pot."

Holly stirs up the pot by calling me; I stir up the pot for Holly, and her former publicist, who is now directing infomercials, calls out of the blue, and offers to help Holly do exactly what she needs. That's the way the world works, and how the wheels are set in motion when you write down your goals.

"Polishing coconuts" creates a kind of Jungian synchronicity, a convergence of meaningful events. Write it down to be clear in your commitment to its possibility, and then activity here will create related movement there.

Write it down to make it happen.

You never know when your signal will be picked up on another island.

Copyright © 2000 Henriette Anne Klauser Ph.D. Excerpted from "Write It Down, Make It Happen: Knowing what you want -- and getting it!" by Henriette Anne Klauser (Simon & Schuster). All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in any form.

Henriette Anne Klauser, Ph.D. is one of America's leading authorities on communications and writing productivity. She is the author of the best-selling books Writing on Both Sides of the Brain (HarperCollins, 1987, now in its 20th printing) and Put Your Heart on Paper (Bantam, 1995, now in its 6th printing). Her new book, Write it Dawn, Make it Happen, (Simon & Schuster, 2000) is now available. 

Henriette is the president of Writing Resources (www.henrietteklauser.com), a seminar and consulting organization in existence since 1979 with offices in Edmonds, Washington. She has taught at the University of Washington, California State University, Seattle University, University of Lethbridge (Canada), and Fordham. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, universities and national associations throughout North America. A past trustee of the Northwest Writers Conference, she is listed in the International Who's Who in Business and Professional Women. Her workshops have taken her around the world, including Cairo, Egypt and the island of Skyros in Greece.  

Dr. Klauser has been featured in such diverse publications as Glamour Magazine, Good Housekeeping, The New Age Journal, as well as an interview by USA Today. 

In a world that is becoming more high-tech by the day, Henriette has dedicated her life to helping people think, write and work together more efficiently while keeping the element of high-touch and humanity alive in their communication. 






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