Time for a Change

My extremely beneficial and entertaining chapter of Romance Writers of America knew I was struggling with getting my writing on track, so the program chairs brought in Joe Hardell to give us an Influencer Workshop — The Power to Change Anything. As you can see from the link, he works for Abbott Vascular and reminded us that when you make boxes or shoes, you might be able to have a 10% error rate. When you make machines that will be inserted into live people, your error rate must be zero.

With that in mind, Joe began teaching the Influencer style of changing things. He used the process in his own life, too. But we’ll get to that. First of all, you need to be aware of the negative influences around you. Get out of a conversation that’s going badly before it gets worse. Stop and walk away.

020319 community

People resist change. Even change that will make things better. For your changes to work, you have to tell people exactly what you want from them. And you have to influence them to go that way. Take, for example, the Guinea parasite worm. The parasite is found in the water, especially stagnant ponds. When consumed, the critter lives in the intestines of the host and produces larvae. The larvae mate and the female begins releasing acid to create a path to the lower limbs of the host. The sufferer develops painful blisters and seeks relief by soaking the feet or legs in the water. Contact with water causes the worm to burst and release hundreds of thousands of shiny new larvae.

020319 guinea worm

The creatures mostly seem to prey on humans. The first object of a plan to eradicate the worm was to convince people to endure the pain and NOT put their legs into the water. Second, to make sure people only drink filtered water. Education began to make the people aware of these needs. And cash rewards were used to make it worth while. A switch to dogs as hosts was seen and now the program focuses on keeping them worm free.

Now think of what you want to change in your daily routine. Where do you start? As has often been suggested as a way to write a novel, start at the end. In order to map your journey, you must know where you want to end up. The format of the map, as it were, is something like this:

MOTIVATION

ABILITY

Personal

Social

Structural

Using this chart, you should be able to figure out the six sources of influence that hold you back from your goal, as well as the lack of details in your plan. You want to know the Results, what are you going to achieve. Defining that drives the rest of your efforts. Let’s say you want to lose ten pounds by working out. But the details are missing. How long will you exercise? And when, where, what exercises? Maybe you join a gym but only go there by mail to make payments. That’s not really an answer because you never go there. So look at a better way to accomplish your goal.

020319 home gym

First, clarify measurable goals. Smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound. Short term goals work best to start. Analyze from there our Vital Behavior. Joe wanted to lose weight. He knew he wouldn’t go to a gym on the way home, he was just too tired. So he and his wife agreed to turn their living room into a home gym. Now, when he walks in the door from work, he doesn’t turn left into the kitchen to look for a snack, he goes straight back to the bedroom and puts on workout clothes. How did he know to change that Vital Behavior?

020319 dream bigger

Going back to the grid above, his Personal Motivation was to lose weight so he didn’t have to take medication for high blood pressure. His Personal Ability did not include stopping at a gym. He had to move the gym to his house. His Social Ability was involving his wife, so she stopped buying potato chips. His Social Motivation was talking his work friends into walking to a healthier lunch option instead of driving to a bad food choice. And his Structural Motivation included not needing the living room for any other purpose so it could be re-purposed as a gym and his Structural Ability included the fact that once he was home, working out wasn’t as difficult as it seemed when he thought about going to a gym.

With these changes to his usual routine, he could now change the Vital Behaviors. For Joe, that was when he walked into the house after work and made a choice of what to do. For me, it’s sitting at my laptop and deciding to write instead of playing solitaire, surfing Facebook, or watching dog rescue videos. I own that weakness.

011919 Joe Hardell chart

Crucial Moment can then be found and worked on. At what point can I break the old cycle? Will Power does not work by itself. I need to change at least four things I do now to work for my goal. If you think about things ahead of time, that can create a gap into which your new Vital Behaviors can slip.

Of course, speaking to a group of Romance Writers, Joe knew the goals would be writing-focused, either a word count daily or a page count. He took input from the group as to what keeps us from that goal. One was not stopping another activity. Why not go to sleep and don’t keep reading? That way you can wake up fresh. Keep designated writing time. Don’t allow a couple of games of solitaire first.

020319 no finish line

I’m working on mapping my goal of finishing my Work in Progress and sending it out. I want to write every day for an hour on the book, before doing the other writing chores I have. To do that, I need to downsize birds, evict boarders, clean the house. Or do I? I came across a term that I think will help me through a lot of what’s going on in my life. Radical Acceptance. I can accept the reality of my messy house, overflowing birds, and boarders who were only supposed to be with me a few weeks and are now hitting the two month mark. In spite of all that, I can stop being bitter or angry and just write.

I am personally motivated to write because I need to get over my own trauma. And acceptance is the first step toward change. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

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