Rewrite Your Life

Here’s something I’ve been trying recently that you might find useful. It’s helping me grow more comfortable and competent in social situations.

Basically, whenever I have a poor interaction with another person, I sit down and rewrite what happened. I try to pinpoint what I could have said or done better, then write it out as if I had actually spoken and acted in that way.

I’d tried similar in the past, but only in my head. I’d lie in bed at night and think back through the day, editing out the parts I didn’t like and replacing them with ideals. That helped, but I’ve now found that taking the extra step and actually writing everything out forces me to visualize those ideals in greater detail. The edits feel more real.

Why bother doing this?

Because your brain has a hard time telling the difference between imagination and reality. Imagine yourself being a well-oiled, socially-adept machine often enough, and your brain will accept it as truth. As a result, you’ll feel more comfortable and competent in social situations, and you’ll act accordingly.

Also, it’s therapeutic. Until we get this time travel thing invented, rewriting a bad interaction is as close as we can get to a do-over.

Instead of dwelling on that awkward moment where you nervously tried to strike up a conversation with the cute girl in the coffee shop, only to have her think you were some kind of weirdo and give you the stink eye… you get proactive and crank out a rewrite. It’s there that you approach her confidently, ease into a friendly conversation, make her laugh, flirt a little bit, and leave with her phone number.

Dwell on that imagined version of events instead. You’ll be better for it.

A few tips

For those of you who want to give this a try, I’ll leave you with some pointers:

  1. Focus first and foremost on rewriting your own words and actions. If that cashier at the supermarket was rude to you for no apparent reason, don’t rewrite him as some dude with a super-friendly default state. Instead, imagine what you could have said or done to turn the interaction into a positive one. You don’t want to remove the challenges; you want to envision yourself handling them better.
  2. Combine this practice with free writing so it doesn’t take forever.
  3. Keep it realistic. Don’t imagine yourself a foot taller or thirty pounds lighter in a situation that just happened. Focus on words and actions. What could you have said or done differently to trigger a better response?
  4. Experiment with rewriting other parts of your life, not just social situations. For example, if you’re struggling to build self-discipline, rewrite your day as it would have been if you were highly self-disciplined. Get into the details as much as you can.

Let me know how it works for you.

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  1. This is really a good tip. I don’t literally write things down but I definitely hone in on what works and what doesn’t tend to work in dating situations (not pickups, dates).

    For example, I realized that 90% of the girls I’d care to hook up with will be sarcastic, witty, and handle a joke well (even if it’s a good natured tease at their expense). If a girl can’t handle a joke about her “hideous liberal Toms shoes” or her “over the top Louis Vuitton purse that could feed a small African nation for a week – but hey at least you impressed me on our first date” than chances are she’s not going to be the type of girl who would get along well with me.

    I think that realizing what you could have said different is most useful and important on random meetings – a cute girl at a bus stop who asks about your dog, or a girl at the end of a body pump class who kids you about being the only guy in the class… that’s where your words could mean the difference between a girl you can date regularly or simply a missed opportunity.

  2. I don’t know why I never thought of this. I’m definitely one of those people lying in bed at night dwelling on social mistakes — even social mistakes from a decade ago — so this is waaay more productive. Next time I’ll rewrite it. Thank you, Niall!

  3. Great tip Niall. Thanks.

    I am cooking up an article on rewriting one’s life – as in the whole freakin script! You beat me to it, but I will write nonetheless. Of course.

    Peace! 🙂

  4. What a wonderful idea, Niall! As a shy person this is exactly the type of thing that helps me out 🙂

    I love this article and would like to share it with my Spanish readers, but most of them don’t speak English… is it OK if I share the main ideas in Spanish on my blog? (Linking them to this blog and post, of course!).

  5. This is great, for rewiring the brain into changing a negative experience, into a positive one. How many times, do we go over and over old situations in our minds, never to resolve them and to keep reliving past experiences as Jillian mentioned above? This simple exercise in writing out our thoughts into empowering ones is so productive and enhancing to our lives. Thanks Niall for sharing this insightful idea. 😀

  6. Niall, this is really good stuff. I’ve actually never thought of doing this before. I will set a timer and do it for 5 minutes next time I have a bad social interaction.

    Thank you for the tip.

    PS: Getting JACKED, as I can see.

  7. Awesome idea. I just recently started the habit of journaling before bed. I was planning on analyzing what happened during the day, and why. But now I realize that’s a waste of time and I’m spinning my wheels. I’m going to try your method for the next month. I’ll let you know how it goes. Love your blog dude, keep up the good work!

  8. I like this a lot. Writing things down is proven to calm ourselves from whatever is bothering us. Unrelated note: You are bulking up well.

  9. Pingback: » Writing Your Love Story Love. Life. Practice.

  10. Niall,

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post – it led me to take it a little further, from specific situations that we’ve been in to the idea of where we want to go, specifically in our love lives.

    I recently started a new relationship, and while talking about it with someone else I found myself stumbling over words. We’re so “new” that we don’t really know how to describe the parameters and focus and reality of the relationship. What your post made me realize is: It can be whatever we decide we want it to be. Our roles within it, and what those characters do, is entirely up to us.

    Pretty exciting, eh?

    Cheers – Gray

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