• tarahthornburg

The Breakthrough 10-Day Mental Detox for Writers

Last week on the podcast, I mentioned that I was reading “Awaken the Giant Within” by Tony Robbins. My copy is so old and yellowed that his name actually appears on the cover as Anthony Robbins. He’s dressed like a 1990s door-to-door vacuum salesman and some of the references are outdated, but the meat of the book is timeless.

I’ve really been digging in over the last few weeks, and there is just so much good stuff in the book that I can’t even fully absorb it all. This is why I’ve been reading it one bite at a time and digesting the concepts as I go through my week.

The idea that “quality questions create a quality life” has rocked my world since I read that chapter (more on this in a minute), and today I wanted to share another principle I’ve been applying since Monday.

It’s Tony Robbin’s 10-Day Mental Diet.

Now I don’t love the term “diet” — diets are soooo 1991. I think maybe “detox” is a more apt word to describing what this is. Yes, we’re giving something up as with a diet, but the overall purpose is to cleanse and purify our minds over a period of 10 days.

Here’s how it works:

For 10 days, you commit to avoid indulging in or dwelling on unhelpful/destructive thoughts or emotions.

You also avoid asking any disempowering questions or using energy-sucking metaphors. Examples of disempowering questions are:

  1. Why even bother?

  2. What if no one reads it?

  3. What if I get a ton of bad reviews?

Examples of disempowering metaphors include:

  1. Writing feels like pulling teeth.

  2. It’s an uphill battle.

  3. I’m feeling blocked.

  4. I keep hitting a wall.

  5. I’m drowning in work.

  6. I just can’t keep my head above water.

Whenever you feel an unhelpful or destructive thought/question/metaphor crop up, you immediately redirect your focus to potential solutions — not the problem.

If you find that you continue to dwell on unhelpful, unproductive, or destructive thoughts, you have to “reset” the 10-day timer starting the following morning.

Tony Robbin’s logic for changing how we think is pretty logical:

“The same pattern of thinking that has gotten us to where we are will not get us to where we want to go.”

For us writers, for instance, if we continue to think that it’s difficult to grow our income, it will be difficult because we’ll be focusing on all the ways we’ve been making money until this point. If we don’t change our thinking, we won’t even consider other streams of income that could help us reach our goals.

Or if you want to get your book published but you keep getting rejections or radio silence from literary agents, you may start to think, “Well, no one wants it” or “I’m never going to find an agent…much less a publisher.”

If you keep on thinking this way, you won’t — and you’ll eventually stop submitting your work. But what if instead of dwelling on the problem (e.g., you can’t find an agent), you started thinking of alternate solutions, such as self-publishing, writing another book, finding a publisher without an agent, or tapping into your network for connections in the publishing industry.

When we start asking new questions, we begin to come up with new ideas. Not all of these ideas are going to be gold, of course, but just generating fresh possibilities can get us excited and help us stumble upon solutions we’d never even considered before.

Here’s another Tony maxim to chew on:

“In life, never spend more than 10 percent of your time on the problem, and spend at least 90 percent of your time on the solution.”

So how can we do this realistically? I’ll be honest: There are days when the writing just flows, my sales are up, the sun is shining, and everything seems to be going great. And then there are days when I feel as though I’m not making any progress, my sales are stagnant, it’s gloomy outside, and I get caught in negative thought patterns.

It doesn’t help that my husband and I are building a house right now. We’ve had a really long winter here in Colorado, and the ups and downs of house construction combined with the ups and downs of the writing life have been giving me emotional whiplash.

This is a big part of why I decided to try this 10-Day Mental Detox. It won’t be easy, but I’m committed. And there are three tools I am using to help myself along the way…

Tool Number 1: Asking my Power Questions

This is one tool of Tony’s that I’ve just recently adopted that I think is going to be a game-changer. He calls them the Morning Power Questions and the Evening Power Questions. These are questions that you ask yourself every single day (morning and evening, respectively) to help you change what you are focusing on.

Instead of focusing on stress, negativity, fear, and feelings of inadequacy, you start to focus on happiness, gratitude, pride, excitement, and love.

Morning Power Questions

Pro Tony tip: If you’re having one of those days where nothing feels good, try changing “am I” to “could I be” in the questions. For instance, ask “What could I be happy about right now if I wanted to be?”

  1. What am I happy about in my life now?

  2. What am I excited about in my life now?

  3. What I am proud of in my life now?

  4. What am I grateful for in my life now?

  5. What am I enjoying most in my life right now?

  6. What am I committed to in my life right now?

  7. Who do I love? Who loves me?

Evening Power Questions

  1. What have I given today?

  2. What did I learn today?

  3. How has today added to the quality of my life or how can I use today as an investment in my future?

Start asking yourself this series of questions every morning and every evening. It’s going to have a big impact on what you focus on and how you perceive your current situation — guaranteed.

For instance, no matter what I’m struggling with on the “business” side of writing, there is always a project that I am just so excited about and proud of. Reminding myself how fired up I get about my creative projects helps me remember why I do what I do. It also helps me not to get discouraged when my metrics don’t reflect my progress and effort. It’s not the external metrics that matter anyhow since my mental state is what affects how I feel on a day-to-day basis.

Tool Number 2: Adopt a Mantra

Traditionally, mantras are words, sounds, or phrases in Sanskrit that were believed to protect the mind. (Yogis will be familiar with Om — the most sacred sound in Sanskrit.)

In the west, we tend to use the word “mantra” and “affirmation” interchangeably, but affirmations are different. While mantras are sounds that produce sacred vibrations, affirmations are personalized statements like “I am creative” or “I am successful.”

However, I like the idea that mantras are words or sounds that protect the mind — in this case, protect the mind from destructive thought patterns. So when we adopt a short phrase to keep ourselves thinking positively like “everything is going to work out” or “I am producing my best work” or “I am fulfilling my life’s purpose,” this is actually an affirmation.

Even though I intellectually understand the distinction, I still think of my affirmations as mantras because I like to imagine that they have protective properties for the mind.

Tool Number 3: Post Your Goals Where You Can See Them

This is one thing I used to practice, but I kind of stopped when I moved in with my husband. (I figured it would be weird for him to find all of my self-motivational sticky notes all over the house.) But I posted my goals in my bedroom when I was trying to tackle the huge goal of replacing my day-job income with book income, and so I’m going to start making them visible again.

This morning, I went through Tony’s chapter on goal-setting and set new concrete goals for myself in four core areas of my life: personal development, business/money, adventure, and family life.

Instead of keeping these goals in my notebook as I’ve been doing for the last year or so, I’m going to post these goals in my office where I can see them. The reason this is more effective than keeping them tucked away somewhere is that when they are visible, we are constantly reminded of our goals. When we get these reminders often, we are able to stay focused on taking small daily actions that will bring us closer to those goals.

Pro Tony tip: Don’t leave any goal-setting session without taking one positive action that brings you closer to your goal. I took one positive action toward my goals as soon as I finished setting my goals yesterday, and you should, too.

In case you can’t tell, I am really stoked about this 10-Day Mental Detox. As writers, we spend so much of our time living inside our own heads, but how often do we actually monitor our thought patterns?

You know the thought patterns I’m talking about: the running commentary from the Inner Critic who tells us that our work isn’t good enough or that people won’t like it or that we might as well not even submit our work for publication.

What if we literally gave up these destructive thoughts? What new empowering thoughts might replace them? How much more helpful would our thoughts be if they were full of positivity, pride, joy, and gratitude? And what might we change in our behavior to help carry us closer to our goals?

I have this quote from the Buddha hanging in my office, and it perfectly reinforces this idea:

What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.

What are you thinking and feeling on a weekly, daily, and hourly basis? More specifically, what thoughts do you have playing on a loop in your head day in and day out? How could these thoughts be impacting the type of person you are becoming? How could they be impacting the work you are creating — or not creating? How are those thoughts limiting you and the amazing writing you could produce?

You’ll never know if you don’t give them up.

Will you join me on this 10-Day Challenge? It starts right now.

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