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Cheryl Reif

Cheryl lives and writes with her inspirational family, two energetic dogs, and a small mammal menagerie, all of which are fairly tame. She writes about cool science stuff for children and adults, daydreams about stories and characters 87% of the time, and tries not to plot novels while driving. You can also find Cheryl on Twitter @CherylRWrites, Pinterest., and Google. Come say hi!


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What’s Weighing You Down

This past week has been one of tremendous ups and downs.

bunkejer4Photo bunkejer4 on Flickr Creative Commons

Ups, because I returned from the Pikes Peak Writers Conference bubbling over with ideas, inspiration, markets to pursue, and leads to follow,

Downs, because

  1. I had way too MANY great ideas, leads, and inspirations to pursue, and was struggling not to feel overwhelmed, and
  2. Because, well, conferences are physically and emotionally exhausting, and it was taking me a bit to get back into the swing of things.

But I read this fantastic book a few months ago thanks to the recommendation of creativity coach Sue Mitchell called One Small Step Can Change Your Life: the Kaizen Way. The philosophy explained in this book is that change can be overwhelming—in fact, that the human mind is programmed to resist change, which it perceives as threatening—but that there’s a way around that automatic resistance:

Make incredibly SMALL steps toward change.

This thinking has helped me in the past, so I decided to put it into practice. What small change, I asked myself, could I make to decrease stress?

I picked a few very, VERY small steps I could make.

  • I finally scheduled the hair appointment I’ve been putting off for the past three months. My hair had reached that point where it was WAAY too long, bothering me even when I pulled it back in a braid or ponytail (which I did pretty much all the time at this point).
  • I returned one phone call. (I hate talking on the phone.)
  • I dusted one room, thus making progress toward the goal of getting the house under control again.
  • I wrote one scene.

Okay, I wrote way more than one scene, but only because I wanted to do so. And why did I want to do so? Because all this WEIGHT had been lifted from my shoulders.

Sometimes, we carry around the so much metaphysical weight in the form of undone tasks that it’s hard to get ANYTHING done. All our energy is wrapped up in these things we feel we need to do. And, if you take a good look at whatever’s weighing you down, it’s often something so unmanageably huge that of COURSE it’s weighing you down.

Things like:

  • The house is a mess!
  • My book isn’t finished!
  • I’m way behind on paying bills!

With problems this huge, our minds tend to leap to huge, overwhelming solutions:

  • Clean all the things!
  • Write all the chapters!
  • Pay all the bills!
  • Or, as my 13-year-old (and resident meme-expert) likes to tell me, “X all the Y!”


Image from Hyperbole and a Half

It’s no wonder the poor brain shies away from these solutions.

There’s a trick to get past feelings of overwhelm—the trick explained in One Small Step

You can lift the weight of undone tasks by taking miniscule steps toward the goal. Not huge steps. Not massive to-do lists.

TINY steps.

You have a plan. You’re in control again. And the weight lifts.

And instead of writing one page, maybe—like me—at the end of the week you will find yourself with three new chapters, two dusted rooms, and a clean desk.

Or maybe you will only accomplish those small steps, but maybe that’s more than you would have accomplished if immobilized by overwhelm. You’ll be in a much better position for facing the week ahead.

Who knows what you might accomplish?

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