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Blog Exercise: New Years Reboot, Restart, Kick Ass

“It’s that time of year when the world falls in love…”
The Christmas Waltz by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn

I’d like to think that New Year’s thinking includes bringing back the love to your blog. You might not think that, but let’s go with that belief as we continue with this year’s Blog Exercises.

This is the year of the journal. Many thought it was last year, but it is this year as sales of the blank, dotted, lined, and designed journals continue to rise in the book industry due to the Bullet Journal and other related journaling and diary-writing techniques and tips flood the web. More people than ever are blogging, sharing their thoughts and opinions through social media platforms with the world, and documenting and tracking their life on paper, hopefully leaving a legacy of memoirs behind.

As the United States and many other countries around the world age, preservation of experiences, opinions, perspectives, and thoughts on their daily existence become precious. As the old saying goes, “When a person dies, it’s lie losing a library.” Let this year be the year you preserve your own library’s worth of knowledge.

Yes, it is time to reboot, restart, and get to some kick ass blogging. Make it now. Make it good. And start sharing.

As a reminder to all, blogging does not require a blogging. Blogging is the process of publishing and sharing your thoughts, experience, knowledge, expertise, and discoveries with the world online. You could be using a blog, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever publishing platform you desire.

Today’s blog exercise involves doing that reboot and restart by setting your blogging goals.

Now, there is a caveat to this exercise. Neuroscience has discovered that if you want to succeed, don’t tell anyone about your goals. I know this goes against the grain of blogging’s purpose, but according to a study by Gollwitzer, Sheeran, Michalski, and Siefert published in May 2009 issue of Psychological Science, as reported in Psychology Today, if you want to achieve your goals, don’t share them.

The researchers identified two types of goal choices: identity and career. A career goal is one that advances a person’s working life and decisions. An identity goal influences a person’s concept of who they are, their identity, to be a good parent, to eat better, volunteer and contribute more to society, be a better spouse or partner, be a better child and caregiver to older parents, exercise more, learn new skills, tasks associated with changing or reinforcing behavior, attitude, and self-identity.

They suggest that when people announce an intention to commit to an identity goal in public, that announcement may actually backfire. Imagine, for example, that Mary wants to become a Psychologist. She tells Herb that she wants to pursue this career and that she is going to study hard in her classes. However, just by telling Herb her intention, she knows that Herb is already starting to think of her as a Psychologist. So, she has achieved part of her identity goal just by telling Herb about it. Oddly enough, that can actually decrease the likelihood that Mary will study hard.

Gollwitzer and his colleagues provided evidence for this point. In one clever study, they had students interested in becoming Psychologists list two activities that they would perform in the next week to help them achieve that goal. Half of the people handed what they wrote to the experimenter who read it over and acknowledged reading what they had written. The other half were told that the exercise of writing down their intentions was given to them in error, and that nobody would be looking at it. The following week, all of the participants were contacted again and were asked to remember the goals they had written down the previous week and then to write down how much time they had spent on those activities. The people whose goals were read by the experimenter actually spent less time pursuing those activities than the people whose goals were not read. A number of follow-up studies were presented as well that ruled out other explanations for this finding.

The article suggested that it is best to “let actions express your intentions louder than your words,” which is our starting point.

In 2017, Angela Duckworth and Katy Milkman began a cross-industry research project called “Behavior Change for Good.” Explained in a Freakonomics podcast episode, which intends to follow their progress, people “repeatedly make decisions that undermine their own long-term well-being,” so how can science study the problem of self-destructive behavior to help behavior change for good, thus permanently influencing us to make positive and “good” decisions that impact our lives and the social experience.

One of the participants in the “Behavior Change for Good” conference, Wendy Wood, professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California, explained that science is good at changing behavior in the short term, but not good at changing long-term behavior. She gave the example of the five-a-day fruits and vegetables government program to encourage healthy eating:

This was really successful in one way. It was a tremendously large-scale intervention. It was successful at changing our knowledge. We now know that we should eat more fruits and vegetables. It had no effect on behavior. In fact, consumption has gone down since the program started.

Danny Kahneman, an award-winning psychologist and author from Israel, spoke at the conference, citing the work of Kurt Lewin, a German-American psychologist who developed the concept that people’s behavior is “driven by two main external forces.”

There are driving forces that drive you in a particular direction. There are restraining forces. Which are preventing you from going there. The notion that Lewin offers is that behavior is an equilibrium between the driving and the restraining forces. You can see that the speed at which you drive, for example, is an equilibrium. When you are rushing some place, you feel tired, or you’re worried about police. There is an equilibrium speed…Lewin’s insight was that if you want to achieve change in behavior, there is one good way to do it and one bad way to do it. The good way to do it is by diminishing the restraining forces, not by increasing the driving forces. That turns out to be profoundly non-intuitive.

He goes onto explain that instead of asking “How can I get him or her to do it?” reframe the question to define the obstacles. “Why isn’t she doing it already?”

It turns out that the way to make things easier is almost always by controlling the individual’s environment, broadly speaking. By just making it easier. Is there an incentive that work against it? Let’s change the incentives. If there is social pressure? If there is somebody who is against it, I want to influence B. But there is A in the background, and it’s actually A who is a restraining force on B. Let’s work on A, not on B.

…It seems to be that it’s a natural thing to do. That is, when you want to move an object, you move it. When you want to move somebody, you try to move them. But the idea of looking at the situation from that individual’s point of view, which is the only way that you can find restraining forces, that is really not very natural. It is primordial. It is very basic that when we want things to move, we move them.

Years ago, I learned that if others want you to change, you won’t change. You will resist. At least, until it is your idea. Yet, many of us want to change, we have to change, it can become a moral and physical imperative that we change our thinking, our lifestyle, our work habits. Still, the change is temporary, which is why most people give up on New Year’s resolutions within less than three months. Unless the desire for change is our decision, a choice made over and over again in a way that persists in our decision making, we lose focus, and we give up.

I learned that if you reframe your thinking from “I’m on a diet” to “I’m a person who would eat salad,” your brain shifts and becomes that salad-eating person not a consumer of fried foods. Once ingrained, you become that kind of person rather than someone struggling with changing eating behaviors.

Years ago, a friend had tried AA over and over again and couldn’t stay off the booze for more than a few months. Life would get complicated, and the excuse to drink would be the solution. I suggested he try saying “I’m a person who would drink soda” as part of his decision-making process when confronted with the need to take a drink. He was allowed to be more specific and replace it with a brand named soda or water, as long as he went through the motions of drinking something rather than resisting drinking. Ten years later, I heard from him out of the blue as our lives changed and shifted away from each other. He told me that he makes that decision even today, ten years sober, and thanked me. I’d say that was a pretty good testimony as to its effectiveness.

It’s a small thing but think about this for a moment. Everyone wants us to do something. Our families, our employers, clients, neighbors, governments, advertisers, doctors – the list is long. Each one benefits by changing those around them to their way of thinking, action, or behavior. The project “Behavior Change for Good” is just one of many diving into what motivates us to change, especially persistent change. The “Behaviour Insight Team” (the Nudge Unit) from the UK government and “Social and Behavior Sciences Team” (SBST) governmental unit associated with the US Federal Government are just a few studying this to determine how the federal government can influence human behavior for public policies. Both of these groups and their work were highlighted in another Freakonomics podcast episode. All these groups want us to change, they want to modify our behaviors, sometimes for our own good, sometimes for the good of society, sometimes for their own greed.

What’s been found recently and redundantly by these research groups is that people respond best to nudges not head pounding, which they called behavioral nudges.

…the most effective message was one that was personalized and that highlighted that even small investments today can lead to very large gains in the longer term.

How are behavioral nudges used? Marketers have already been using them. Ask a yes or no question. Remind people. Make only one point, not ten, in your arguments or proposals. Streamline and simplify the decision process and more people will actually make a decision. When I look at the “I’m a person who would…” reframing in the decision-making process, it is a clear behavioral nudge.

My mother was a how-to book addict. I teethed on them. I learned early at the printed knee of Dale Carnegie and others about how to succeed in business and life with extraordinary effort but simple steps, broken down into manageable bites, an excellent educational foundation for a blogger. I also watched my family deal with a variety of bad habits and addictions in spite of all the wisdom around them, which encouraged my continued fascination with behavioral science, marketing, advertising, and the science behind behavior modification. Here are my conclusions:

  1. If you want to change, act like you’ve already changed.
  2. Write it down. Review, modify, and reflect upon it frequently and regularly.
  3. Break things down to their smallest steps and move toward big goals in small increments.
  4. Be specific. “Blog more this year” isn’t specific. “Publish 3 posts a week” also isn’t specific enough. “Write and publish 3 posts on how my cat influences my blogging, 4 posts on how social media motivates my blogging, 2 posts on fake news blogging, 6 posts on finding inspiration on road trips…” That’s specific. Get out your editorial calendar and start scheduling deadlines to be even more specific.
  5. Do it because it is 1) the right thing to do, and 2) because it is the right thing for you to do. Make that your reward, not chocolate.
  6. Remove temptations. Seriously. Temptations are distractions.
  7. Reframe thoughts and choices. Every day, every hour, every minute, make a decision with the following statement: I’m the person who would…

Which brings us to your blog exercise today.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise is to write down your goals for your blog this year. Don’t tell anyone unless you need their help, and be specific with what that means.

Be specific.

Break things down into small doable increments or steps.

Remove all temptations and distractions. Add an app on your phone and computer for setting self-imposed deadlines and work hours, and another to turn off all notifications during your writing/blogging times. Clear off your desk and put only the tasks you need to do today on it, and set it up before you quit working each day so it is ready for you the next.

Tell yourself two things at least once every day, or at least when faced with decisions:

  1. I’m the person who would blog…
  2. I’m the person who would…

And report in on how you are doing. I don’t want to know your goals, but I do want to know your progress, as I do with all of these blog exercises and challenges.

Here are some resources to help you understand more about how the mind and behavior change works.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is an ongoing challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles. You may join us at any time, but I recommend you take a moment to visit past blog exercises to help invigorate your site.


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