It’s Not All in Your Head

It’s Not All in Your Head—how our body changes when we change

It’s January, 2016—your break out year. You’re going to write the great American—no the great Universal—novel. Then next thing you know it’s December and you haven’t even started.

What happened? Why didn’t you even seem to make it to the end of January before you lost momentum?

We’re quick to talk about resistance, fear, writer’s block and all sorts of other emotional type things. But what if it’s not just all in our heads? What if it’s our entire body that aids in the self-sabotage?

Todd Herman, founder of the Peak Athlete, summarizes research into what happens when we try to change or create a new habit. Your body is used to reacting one way. When we make changes we change the chemicals our body uses to respond. The body likes change but sometimes it doesn’t feel this way at first.

As Todd explains it when you start a positive change or habit all these feel-good chemicals—like dopamine and serotonin—flood in and give the brain a big old high-five. It’s a party in there. You’re all full of fun and energy. It’s “I’ve got this.”

But the party can’t go on forever. The happy juice flood recedes back to normal –which is good, since we can’t ride the rainbow indefinitely. Now the work begins. Your positive change is asking your cells to literally alter themselves. And while they love the positive juju, it’s not easy to do. So it starts feeling not so good. You know how it gets three days into that plan to write every day—It’s too hard. I can’t think of anything to write. Feeling like this can’t be right.

But it is! This isn’t a happy juice hangover. It’s your cells stretching and growing. Instead of shutting down when things get unpleasant, change the way you think about it. Push through and let those cells get in to a different shape. Once you get past the awkward growth phase your cells gain momentum and feel amazing. Don’t give up!

Great advice but how do we push through change? In an interview with Marie Forleo ( Todd gives five prescriptions for creating lasting change. It can apply to anything in our lives, but I specifically adapted to helping create our writing lifestyle.

Lasting Change in our Writing Life:

  1. Have a vision that’s clear and specific—especially with small changes. Know the path to get there. Ex: by June 1st I will have an 80,000 word novel written.  I will do this by establishing a habit of writing at least 600 words a day.
  2. Set Trigger Goals. These are behavioral action steps to accomplish our bigger goal. For example, if your goal is write a novel, the smaller goal could be for five days sit down at the computer at 5pm for twenty minutes. The idea is that if you do something moving towards the action, you’ll actually do it.
  3. Set Improvement Goals—what we measure improves, what we measure and report improves exponentially. Ex: 4 weeks from now I will increase the number of words I write from 500 to 1000 per day.
  4. Gather a tribe around yourself—Critique groups, Bayou Writers Group – people for support and hold you accountable.
  5. Script your setbacks—Resistance and negativity will happen. Plan ahead how you will respond, what you will feel, and who you will call for support. Ex: “I would love to but this is my writing time. I’ll call you in an hour”

Do you have any writing goals for 2017? What actions will you take to accomplish them? Which of these steps will be most helpful for you?

Submitted by Beth Savoie