Keli Gwyn
The #1 Tip for Successfully Establishing a New Habit

Are you one of those people who writes New Years Resolutions and dreams of making them all come to pass?

I was.

But I got older. Hopefully I’m a little wiser, too.

What I’ve learned is that New Year’s Resolutions rarely work for me.

Why is that?

Basically it has to do with the letter “S.”

Yes, you read that right.

Often we fail to follow through on our New Year’s ResolutionS because, in our exuberance, we draw up such a lengthy list of goalS (plural) that not even the Energizer Bunny high on 5-hour Energy shots could hope to achieve all of them.

The best way to form a new habit or follow through on a New Year’s resolution is to focus on one at a time.

Forget making lists that rival the final four Harry Potter tomes in length. Pick one new habit you want to acquire or one resolution you want to embrace, and give it your all.

Going singular increases your chances of success. Your efforts and energy are focused.

I was diagnosed with osteoporosis a month ago and given three treatment choices: hormone replacement therapy, Rx medications like the one Sally Fields advertises, or a supplements-exercise combo.

Even though I used to dread the Activity That Will Not Be Named–aka the e-word–I chose to go with the third option. I left the doctor’s office, drove directly to Curves, and signed up. Three days a week I go there for circuit training. The other four days I walk for at least thirty minutes.

I’ve not missed a day since I embarked on my exercise regimen.

As I trekked up hill and down on a recent walk, I got to wondering why I’d succeeded in establishing my new routine this time when “get exercise daily” had been one of my New Year’s resolutions for many years running.

I came to the conclusion that I’d been scattered before, attempting to form many new habits at one time, whereas this time all my efforts and energy are focused on a single goal. And that has made a remarkable difference. Other factors have increased my chances for success, but the primary factor is my single-mindedness.

Based upon what I’ve learned, I came up with a better way to approach resolutions. I’m going to write a list of habits I’d like to acquire and focus on them sequentially rather than simultaneously. If I were to resolve to form three new habits, I’d shift to a new one every four months. If I felt ambitious, I could double the number to six and transfer my efforts to a different habit every two months.

I’m excited about my new exercise regimen (although not quite as exuberant as the young woman pictured), but I’m even more excited about discovering a way of establishing a new habit that really works.

• • •

How do you go about establishing a new habit?

Do you have any “habit-forming” success stories?

Are you a New Year’s Resolutions maker or breaker?

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Keli Gwyn
Facing Our Fears

What are you afraid of? Spiders? Heights? Losing your job?

One of my biggies is snakes. Particularly large, poisonous ones.

I set off on a walk one recent afternoon and soon found myself immersed in the beauty of the glorious fall day. My mind whirled with blog post ideas. A sense of peace filled me.

When I crested a gentle rise, two men on mountain bikes were parked, one next to a fence the other on the shoulder opposite, engrossed in conversation. There was plenty of room for me to pass between them, so I forged ahead with a determined stride.

Upon reaching the cyclists, the bushy-bearded man nearest me said, “Are you going to walk right by the snake?”

“What snake?” I asked.

He glanced at the left side of the trail, and my gaze followed.

There was a snake all right. A five-foot-long rattlesnake took up half of the trail. With the bikers parked on each side of it, the only way for me to get past that snake was to walk beside the diamond-backed reptile, one that was very much alive.

In the past I would’ve screamed, run, or both. I’ve grown more courageous in recent years, though. I saw that the snake was presently immobile, its head pointed away from me. I remembered my husband telling me snakes move more slowly when the weather cools. I realized I could pass by it and finish my walk or give in to my fear and turn around.

With a boldness I didn’t know I possessed, I strode right by that rattler. It didn’t move, but the heads of those men did as they followed my progress. I caught a glimpse of the bearded man’s face as he gaped in disbelief.

He wasn’t the only one shocked. I’d surprised myself. Thoughts raced through my mind. I just walked within two feet of a live rattlesnake. It could have bit me. It didn’t. I’m OK. Wow! I’m as brave as my heroine who faced one of the poisonous creatures.

My feeling of victory stayed with me throughout the next two miles.

And then I remembered that I had to pass that way again.

As I approached the portion of the trail where I’d encountered the snake, I had to force myself not to slow my steps. This time I knew what I might find, and fear slithered into my over-active mind.

No one was around, so I talked to myself. You did it before; you can do it again. Courage is simply facing our fears and doing it anyway.”

I remembered something my husband has often said to me. “Eighty percent of what we fear never happens.”

The Lord’s words to Joshua came to mind. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.”

I marched up that hill, and guess what I saw?


The snake was gone.

I completed my walk, feeling a sense of accomplishment. That’s not to say I’m OK with rattlesnakes now, but I realized I can allow my fears to keep me from getting where I want to go, or I can face them as I did that day and achieve my goals.

• • •

What fears and phobias do you have? How do you choose to deal with them?

Can you recall a time when you faced a fear head-on and felt a feeling of mastery?

(rattlesnake image from istockphoto)
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Keli Gwyn
Three Tips for Writing When the Words Won’t Come

One of the first things I learned about life post-contract is that waiting is part of the publishing world no matter where we are in the process. Selling a book doesn’t magically change things. We still wait.

And we wonder. Since each step in the process is new, we deal with the unknown on a regular basis. Even though I have friends who’ve gone through the process before, each publisher does things differently. No two situations are alike.

I wish I could say I took the waiting in stride and forged ahead, but I didn’t. I battled a severe case of Second Book Syndrome.

I don’t like to admit it, but the truth is that I duke it out with doubt on a daily basis. Having a contract hasn’t changed that. If anything, the pressure I feel and the doubts I experience have intensified.

For more months than I like to admit, getting any words written was a struggle. The voices in my head shouted messages like, “So what if you sold one book. Do you really think you can write another one?” or “You’re nothing but a One Book Wonder.”

Three things helped me get through the tough time when I tweezed out words.

1. I wrote even when doubts plagued me.

Many days I sat at the computer, plunked words on the page, and felt sure they were lousy. I didn’t allow myself to edit them, though. Instead, I forced myself to finish the story. I told myself I could fix what was wrong once the story was done. Since I had to rewrite three-quarters of the book that sold, I learned that I can make a story better. I just have to get the first draft written.

2. I reported my daily word counts to my accountability partners.

My critique partners offered to serve as my accountability partners. Each evening I’d report my word count. Knowing that I’d be checking in with them gave me the push I needed to write even when the doubts messed with my head.

3. I asked the Lord to go before me and help me tell the story He’d given me.

Since I’m a Christian, I find prayer to be a tremendous source of encouragement. The Lord has been my writing partner from the day I wrote the first word of my first story, and I know He’s there for me. Admitting to Him how scared I was and seeking His comfort and guidance helped.

I’m happy to say I survived Second Book Syndrome and completed my new story. What makes me more excited is that I think it may even be better than my debut novel. In spite of my doubts, I have the satisfaction of knowing I did my best.

• • •

If you’ve yet to sell a book, how do you envision life on the other side of the contract?

If you’ve sold a book, did you battle Second Book Syndrome?

How do you persevere in the face of debilitating doubts?

Image from istockphoto
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Keli Gwyn
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