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How to Use "Sentence Stems" to Solve Problem and Achieve Your Goals

How to Use "Sentence Stems" to Solve Problem and Achieve Your Goals
By Rich Schefren

Today I'm going to show you a simple yet incredibly effective thinking tool.

I was first introduced to this technique by famous author and Ayn Rand protégé Nathaniel Branden.

It only takes a few minutes a day to do, and it will help you generate great ideas to solve problems, seize opportunities, and gain greater insight.

It's known as "sentence stems."

A sentence stem is a partially complete sentence. It contains your desired outcome... but leaves blank your method for achieving it. Here are three examples...

"I'd be more productive today if I...."
"I could conquer procrastination by..."
"Eating healthier would be easier if I..."

The concept is incredibly simple, but sentence stems can be extremely effective in helping you improve your performance and accomplish your goals.

Here's how it works...

You start with a sentence stem. The sentence stem should be based on the problem you want to solve, an area you want to improve, a goal you want to achieve, or anything else you might want to use this process for.

Every day for a full week, write 6 to 10 different endings to the sentence stem.

At the end of the week, review all your answers, select the best ones, and get rid of the rest. Prioritize the answers that are immediately actionable and begin taking action on them. Create your next sentence stem from the answers that need further exploring.

You need to adhere to a few rules in order to make this technique as effective as possible.

- Do not look at what you've written previously before writing. You'll review all your answers when you are done for the week. This way you don't allow previous answers to guide your new answers.

- Write your endings as quickly as possible - the first thing that comes to mind. Don't worry about spelling. Don't worry whether your sentence makes sense. This helps bypass your conscious mind and tap into the awesome awareness of your subconscious mind.

- Strive to make each answer unique. In other words, don't use the same ending twice.

- Ideally you should do this exercise in the morning, and for at least seven days. For maximum results, complete it every day for 14 days.

When you've completed this exercise for the number of days you decided on, have a look at everything you have written. Naturally there will be some repetitions from day to day, but there will also be many new endings.

Take all your unique endings and consolidate them. Look through them and see if they trigger any additional ideas. If so, record them as well. Then look over your entire list of answers and decide what action you're going to take. It might be just one of the ideas... or a combination of several.

If you're unsure, you can repeat the process to gain greater clarity on your next move. You'd then use stems like: "If anything on my list is true, then it might be helpful if I..." or "I can use this list in my life by..." Then see what develops.

Here's an example:

Situation: Let's say you've got to work on an important presentation that's a month away. You don't want to do what you've done in the past, which is to wait until the last moment to prepare. So you decide to use sentence stems to help you move into action.

Sentence Stem: It would be easy to work on my presentation if...

Initial Answers:
...I didn't watch any TV until I worked on my presentation for at least an hour.
...I started with the section that was easiest for me.
...I laid out everything I needed to work on the night before.
...I did a free-writing exercise pretending I was doing the presentation and writing the transcript.
...I doodled and diagrammed the presentation in my journal.
...I called a friend, recorded the conversation, and talked about what I wanted to present.
...I created an outline of the presentation.
...I assembled the images I wanted to use in my slides.
...I opened PowerPoint and simply started writing.
...I recorded myself giving an impromptu presentation.

And so on...

I guarantee that if you did this for an entire week, before the week was even over you'd have already started working on your presentation. That's the power of sentence stems. They help you tap into your subconscious mind and brainstorm solutions... and at the same time, they bring important priorities into your conscious mind.

But that's not all that sentence stems can do for you.

You can also use them to get greater clarity on important issues in your life. Here's an example from my journal from about eight years ago...

You'll notice I also listed my top 10 goals at the top. I do this quite often in my journal. I'll write my top 10 goals from memory to make sure I remain conscious of them throughout the day.

As you can see, I was doing important self-development work with these sentence stems. I was reflecting on what (1) independence, (2) thinking for myself, and (3) trusting my own mind meant to me.

So you can appreciate how easy this is... and understand the impact it can have on your life... take a moment now to create your first stems.

1. Think through a challenge you are currently experiencing.

2. Construct your sentence stem with the outcome you desire.

3. Write down six endings to the stem.

See how easy that was?

To keep it up, follow the directions I laid out for you. And watch the magic happen!