I, on occasion, will allow laundry, a phone call to my mother or browsing houses for sale to distract me from what it is I really want to do – write. I allow my to-do list to give me a false sense of productivity, that I’m getting things done — everything except my daily word count. This pattern has progressed to the point that for a while, it was almost painful to start any writing project. In short, something had to change.
According to Chip & Dan Heath, “for things to change, someone somewhere has to start acting differently. Maybe it is you, maybe it’s your team. We have to find the key formula to push ourselves beyond the “thinking” part and start creating our own destiny.
In “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” the Heath Brothers state that each of us has a rational (Rider) side that holds the reins, but lacks a bit of power. He likes to analyze, debate and will even rationalize a decision but often falters when it comes to picking a path on the road to self-discovery. This side works best with specific goals or an action plan.
There is also an emotional side (an Elephant) that responds to feelings. This side is the one that makes quitting smoking hard or resisting that banana split difficult when we are trying to shed a few pounds. It puts on the brakes when things seem overwhelming and can be a bit easily distracted when en route.
Sometimes the rider and pachyderm need a bit of outside help. “Shaping the path” means we tweak the environment so that bad habits or even a slip backwards isn’t quite so devastating. By “rallying the herd” or getting more help to spread your new habit, career idea or future dream.
I actually feel like I allow my Elephant to run amok. Some would say that this is right versus left brain. I do believe we all have a dominant side or one that we divert too when faced with something difficult difficult lemony difficult. I’ve learned to embrace my inner elephant — even when it acts up.
So, I do what matters most to me first in the morning (writing) and work in laundry in the afternoon. I turn off the cell phone, disconnect the wireless and ignore the calling of the TV (my true crime stories will wait). Do I slip into past bad habits? Sure. Every now and then I feel the urge to check MLS listings. But every day is a new day and a new ride.
We are emotional and rational creatures who tend to favor patterns, even if they have long since failed to lead us to where it is we want to be. Think about where you want to be, do or end up. Put it into words, pretty pictures or something that inspires you. Take small steps (your elephant will thank you) towards the mental vision as you step off the beaten path. Take note of changes as you step out of the box. What worked? Milk your successes. Learn what you can do to build upon it.
Your journey starts now.