Change One Thing

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The best advice I’ve ever been given for getting unstuck is not specific. Whatever it is you have been doing, you have to change one thing. It truly doesn’t matter what you change. If you’re right-handed, try brushing your teeth with your left hand. Do it for a week. Just as an experiment. You’ll experience other shifts as well. There’s something psychological that goes on, something at the level of the synapses.

I’ve known this for some years. I learned it while parenting toddlers. (I remember someone defining insanity for me, back then, as “Doing the exact same thing and expecting different results.” That could also, of course, define parenting toddlers — insanity, I mean.) I learned this lesson again when I was team-teaching a psychology/ college composition class. But there’s a difference between knowing a thing and practicing it.

My friend Liz asked me this morning how the time off is going. “Good but not as good as I’d like,” I told her. “I keep over-scheduling myself and spending time doing everything but writing.”

Liz is my mom’s age, and she is very wise. She looked thoughtful for a moment, and then she told me that when she is trying to get something done, when it really matters that she get it done, she writes it on her calendar. “Actually write it down,” she advised. “Write ‘8-12 writing’ on your calendar. Then when someone asks you to do anything, say, ‘Let me check my calendar.'” She patted me on the shoulder. “Give it a try,” she said.

I think I’ve just found my one thing.



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