Why It’s More Effective To Write Out The Work Than To Do It In Your Head

Think of your trip to the supermarket. You got the milk, you got the cheese, you got the pasta. Darn! Why did you forget the olives? You should have remembered the olives considering the olives were the reason you set out in the first place.

Many people don’t want to write down their shopping list. And it seems logical not to write it down. After all, you’ve got things right most of the time. But it’s when you get it wrong that it becomes a real chore to go back and forth.

Same Thing Happens When You Do The Work

You may think that you’ll be much more likely to do The Work if you can do it in your head instead of writing it on paper. You may think, “It takes time to write it out. It’s too much work.”

After all, you think, “It’s better to do The Work quickly in my head than to not do it at all.”

But If You Take This Tactic, You’ll Be Missing Out

Even Einstein would have had trouble doing The Work in his head. That’s because it is much too easy to skim over the important parts when you do it all mentally. And because it’s much harder to be objective.

Let’ s look at these two problems individually.

1. You Tend To Skim Over It When You Do The Work In Your Head

You may have every good intention to sit down and question a stressful thought that you believe. But when you do The Work in your head, it’s easy to get distracted.

Even at the best of times, there may be a million thoughts running around your head. This makes it hard to keep things straight. How can you turn the thought around when you can’t remember what the original thought was?

Writing has the advantage of giving you a snap shot of the mind. This makes it much more easy to keep track of things. And when you keep track of things, you can go much deeper in The Work.

But this is just half of it. The second reason is even more important.

2. It’s Harder To Be Objective In Your Head

This is the inevitable problem of subjectivity. When you do things in your head, you can’t always be objective. The problem is that the mind has a vested interest in preventing you from seeing the truth.

The mind really likes to be right. In that sense, it’s not objective at all. In fact, it has a strong bias for holding onto it’s beliefs. It has a huge network of support for each and every belief that it holds dear.

It doesn’t matter to the mind if a thought causes you stress or not, it fights with everything it has to hold on to what it knows. That’s why the mind resists The Work.

It Resists It Because The Work A Challenge To The Mind

In essence, when you do The Work, you are considering if the mind might just be wrong. The mind does not take this sitting down. It must defend itself. And to defend itself the mind has a million tactics.

For example, it can simply change the subject. It can offer up an example that proves it’s right. It can make you feel tired. Or it can tell you that you’re hungry just when things get interesting.

The mind can become a very devious character when its beliefs are challenged. That’s why doing The Work on paper is much more effective than trying to navigate the mind’s stormy seas without assistance.

A stressful thought on paper, doesn’t change and morph the way it does inside your head. Paper brings accountability, and it strongly aids you as you question the foxy mind.

This Is What Professionals Do

Scientists don’t just observe things, they keep good records of what they see. This greatly increases their ability to draw reliable conclusions.

Business owners don’t just say, “We’re doing pretty good.” They hire accountants to nail down exactly what is going on so they don’t get fooled.

Even artists keep good records. A chef takes notes so she can refine a recipe. A photographer takes notes of f-stops and shutter speeds so that he can learn from his mistakes.

If You Try To Do It In Your Head You’ll Probably Not Make It Very Far

The Work is a challenge to the mind’s beliefs. Those beliefs may be completely wrong, but it doesn’t matter to the mind. It will do everything it can to fool you.

The only way to loosen the mind’s grip on it’s stressful beliefs is to be completely objective. And a good way to be more objective is to write down the stressful thoughts, and do The Work on them on paper.

When you write things down you’ll go further in The Work. Just as you do when you go shopping. When you write a list it’s much harder to forget the olives.

Here’s An Experiment

Find two stressful thoughts. For example, “John should call more often,” and “Molly should treat her mother better.” Find something stressful for you. Something that’s on your mind.

For the first thought, sit in a chair, close your eyes, and run through the four questions and turnarounds of The Work without writing anything down.

For the second thought, go through the same process, but this time write everything down. Write in complete sentences, like you would if you were talking to a facilitator.

Then, go back and compare the experiences. Which one made it easier to be objective?


Todd Smith is a facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. He has been helping people question their stressful thoughts for over four years. Just as writing helps keep things objective, so also facilitation helps you be objective when you do The Work.

You can make an appointment to do The Work with Todd here.

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