We’re nearly ready to begin a new writing year! Or ARE you ready? This year you don’t have to get behind on your goals or quit. Why? Because this time you’re going to take time to understand the dynamics of change.
Did you know that 75% of New Year’s Resolutions (or goals) are abandoned by the end of the first week? The number is higher at the end of January. There’s a reason for that.
From Temporary to Permanent
I spend much time on the blog encouraging you to make changes and deal with feelings that are holding you back. So I thought it might help us stay on track as we move through this new year to do a short series on the dynamics of change–or how to make permanent changes.
How do we make changes that stick? How can you be one of the 10% to 15% who keeps on keepin’ on and accomplishes his or her writing goals?
Change in Stages
One mistake we make is thinking that change happens as an act of will only. (e.g. “Starting today, I will write from 9 to 10 a.m.”) If our willpower and determination are strong, we’ll write at 9 a.m. today. If it’s very strong, we’ll make it a week. If you are extraordinarily iron-willed (and never have life interruptions or get sick), you might make it the necessary 21-30 days proven to make it a habit.
Most writers won’t be able to do it.
Why? Because accomplishing permanent change–the critical step to meeting any of your writing goals–is more than choosing and acting on willpower. (And if you master the mini habits way, you won’t need much willpower either.) If you want to achieve your goals, you need to understand the dynamics of change. You must understand what changes habits–the rules of the game, so to speak.
Making Change Doable
All of the habits we’ve talked about in the past–dividing goals into very small do-able slices, rewarding yourself frequently, etc.–are important. They are tools in the process of change.
However, we need to understand the process of change, the steps every successful person goes through who makes desired changes. (It applies to relationship changes and health changes as well, but we’ll be concentrating on career/writing changes.) Understanding the stages doesn’t make change easy, but “it makes it predictable, understandable, and doable,” says Neil Fiore, Ph.D., author of the The NOW Habit.
Change takes place in four main stages, according to numerous government and university studies. Skipping any of the four stages lowers your odds drastically of making permanent changes that lead to sucessful meeting of goals.
Here are the four stages of change that I will talk about in the following four blog posts. Understanding–and implementing–these consecutive steps is critical for most people’s success in achieving goals and permanent change.
Stages of Change
- Stage 1: Making Up Your Mind (the precommitment stage). This stage will involve feeling the pain that prompts you to want to change, evaluating risks and benefits of the goal you have in mind, and evaluating your current ability.
- Stage 2: Committing to Change. This stage involves planning the necessary steps and considering possible distractions and things that might happen to discourage you or cause a setback.
- Stage 3: Taking Action. This stage includes several big steps. You must decide when, where and how to start; you must show up to start despite fears and self-doubts; then you must focus on each step.
- Stage 4: Maintaining Long-Term Success. This is your ultimate aim if you want writing to be a career. It will involve learning to recover from setbacks and getting mentally tough for the long haul.
(For a thorough discussion beyond the blog posts, see Chapters 11-14 of Neil Fiore’s Awaken Your Strongest Self.)
So…that’s the plan for the next few blog posts. Do not despair if you’ve struggled with meeting your writing goals in the past. Help–and hope for permanent change–is on the way. I probably struggled with this for twenty years, despite desperately wanting to write full-time. But until I learned that there was more to it than Stage 3 actions, I failed repeatedly.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s make the writing discipline permanently effective so we can move on to the fun of daily writing!