I remember the first time my ex-girlfriend took me to a proper hair salon. It wasn’t something I was ready to do when I was nineteen and broke, but she said she’d pay, so I went.
It was the first time I didn’t get a haircut alongside Old Master Q comics and Japanese hairstyle magazines. They even served tea and actually washed my hair, something I wasn’t used to, having grown up with Indian barbers or those dingy places where the aunts in flip-flops looked more like they belonged on the set of Kung Fu Hustle than at the salon.
After leaving the salon smelling of hair wax and shampoo, I remember seeing hairdressers in a new light, and because I didn’t attend the entire final year of secondary school, I decided that picking up a trade was the most appropriate thing to do.
The journey begins
I went home, wrote down ‘Become a salon manager’ on a piece of scrap paper, and left it forgotten for the years to come, unaware that it would guide all my subconscious decisions to making it come true.
I have no idea why I wanted to become a salon manager though. Maybe it was because working your way up the corporate ladder was the only way I saw the world at the time. Never mind the fact that the starting pay for hairdressers was USD300 a month.
Throughout the entire time in the industry, all I did was I was go through the motions. I didn’t care about the art and only worked because it paid the bills. Despite this mentality, I still managed to work my way up as a salon supervisor.
Just write it
I’d like to say that simply writing down my goal was all it took, but that would be too woo-woo. I don’t want you associating me with The Secret or anything. Still, I remember finding that piece of scrap paper hidden in the darkest corners of my drawer and wondering if it was responsible for getting me to where I was.
During this time, with a steady supply of magazines for our customers, I began reading and taking an interest in lifestyle writing. So I tore out another piece of scrap paper and wrote ‘Become a writer’ on it.
They say that your goals have to be specific. They say you should impose deadlines. It’d also be great if you have actionable tasks that you can tackle one by one. Yeah I had none of that.
What I did have was doubt—after all, who was I to be a writer? Me, a high-school dropout—indifference, and the dread of having to work sixty-hour weeks for the rest of my life.
The magic happens
Again, I won’t say that simply writing something down instantly turns your goals to reality, but maybe it helped solidify something in the back of my mind. Maybe it was the commitment I needed to show myself in order for me to start taking action.
For some reason, I signed up for a remote writing course, started blogging, and took up reading again. Most importantly, during a turning point in my life, I actually hit the ‘Submit’ button for a writing job that required a degree in Mass Communication or Journalism. I never even had the one year’s experience they wanted.
I’m glad I sent my application anyway, because that snowballed into me writing for huge publications and companies. Throughout the entire time, I kept writing down lofty goals just to see how much I could push the envelope. Apparently I didn’t dream big enough, because they all came true.
Be a travel writer. Write a novel. Write on a balcony overlooking a great view, in a place far away from crowds (this was more of a picture on a mood board). Have a remote lifestyle. Break into the fiction industry.
Every one of those goals were written down with the same doubts in mind. Yet most of what I put down on paper had this weird tendency to just materialise out of thin air. Of course, all this is purely anecdotal, so I can’t just keep saying that goals ‘just come true’. But perhaps a study could sway you?
Large bodies of goal achievement research encourage written goals for good reason. When we write down our goals, we transform what we imagine into reality.
You could Google the details, but Dr Gail Matthews from the Dominican University in California found that people who wrote down their goals actually did increase their chances of reaching them by 42 percent. Not too shabby.
I guess that bodes well for the other unchecked items in my goals list, such as “Write a bestselling novel” and “Become an inspiration to other writers”. Only time will tell if those will ever come true.
There’s always a way
I’ve been lost in life, but I’ve never truly lost my way thanks to a few pieces of scrap paper. It’s one of the few ways I found my gift, the thing I’m willing to do despite the odds being against me.
I don’t mean to over-romanticise the industry, but give me a choice of starving as a writer or finding success in a career I’m not interested in, and I’ll gladly choose the former.
Looking back, there probably would’ve been some benefits of staying in auditing, such as a boatload of extra money, a brand new car to replace my dying junker, and being generally more ‘put-together’ than I currently am as a 37-year-old.
But they’ve somehow never made my goals list, so I guess they’re not as important to me as I think they are.
In fact, by writing this article, I’ve actually discovered something new about myself. That I can finally tick ‘Be happy’ off the list.