I have a superpower: For over twenty years, I have taught middle, high school, and college students how to overcome writer’s block and to write confidently. (And this actually has a lot to do with forming good habits.)
Students at this age have a lot of hang-ups about writing. They often believe that they cannot write or that they do not have what it takes to write well.
Many of them are terrified of writing and will do most anything to avoid it. So, it can be tricky to overcome their blocks and help them write papers.
I have found a process that works well for them.
1. Natural Ability: I assure students that everyone is born with the ability to write. If you can think and you have a desire to share your ideas with at least one other person, you have the ability to write. (This is true about pretty much all of us.)
2. Process Thinking: I tell them that people aren’t born either good or bad writers. People become good writers by following a process.
3. Small Steps: I break the process of writing down into small, non-threatening steps. A) We brainstorm about writing. B) We choose our best ideas from brainstorming and organize them. C) We write a rough draft of our ideas in which we focus first on getting our ideas out on paper, rather than how well they sound. D) We edit and polish our rough draft. E) We write a final draft.
4. Praising: I help, praise, and encourage students at each step.
5. Removing Blocks: I help them remove blocks that are getting in their way.
When I follow this process regularly with students, I find that it is about 99% effective in helping my students write. (I say 99% effective because sometimes students have processing problems that require further intervention and help.)
I discovered a while ago that following this process or method is actually extremely helpful in forming any new habit.
For example, I am trying to set the habit of exercising regularly.
1. Natural Ability: I have been reminding myself that movement and exercise are my body’s natural desire and ability. My body loves to move. Sedentariness is not its natural inclination. So, my body is 100% on my side and ready to help me exercise.
2. Process Thinking: I remind myself that I am not born a good or bad exerciser. I become a good exerciser by following an exercising process.
3. Small Steps: I break the process of exercising down into small steps. For instance, if I want to become a better runner, I don’t have to start out by running a mile or even a half mile. I can run a block. And then when I get good at that, I can add another block. I focus on doing the smallest step of exercise that does not overwhelm me and doing that regularly.
4. Praising: I focus on every exercise accomplishment I make, and I praise myself for doing so well on these steps. (To this step, I have recently added visualizing my success as an exerciser. This helps to build positive momentum).
5. Removing Blocks: I work on removing any blocks that are keeping me from exercising. My biggest block to exercising is that I make it too hard. For instance, I think I have to bring an entire other set of exercise clothes to work to change into to exercise. Or I think I have to get up and hour early to exercise. Or I think I have to exercise a really long time for it to be beneficial.
This makes exercise too hard, and this mindset becomes a block to exercising. So, I remove these blocks and make exercising as easy as possible. I go on a short walk or do squats or lunges in my office in my work clothes. I build in exercising naturally into my day. I exercise each day, even if it is just for five minutes.
When I follow this process, I feel much more empowered to create good habits.
How about you? What habit are you trying to create?
1. Natural Ability: What natural ability do you have that applies to your new habit? I promise, it is there.
2. Process Thinking: How can you recognize that this new habit is a process, rather than something you either are or are not good at?
3. Small Steps: How can you break this new habit down into smaller steps?
4. Praising: How can you praise yourself along the way?
5. Removing Blocks: What blocks are hindering you from developing your new habit? How can you remove them?
If you want to look at this topic from the opposite perspective (about the kinds of actions and thoughts that form bad habits, you might like this post):