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  • Writer's pictureNikki Lee Taylor

Lesson Five - It's time to get familiar

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

You’ve all heard the saying ‘familiarity breeds contempt’, but I am here to tell you there is another, very important, way to consider familiarity – and that is how it can help you achieve your goal of becoming a published author.

There are plenty of catch phrases and sayings about how you need to ‘get out of your comfort zone’ and the like, but in my opinion those sayings, while holding some truth, are completely back to front.

In fact, what you need to do is avoid being out of your comfort zone at all costs.

I hear you, and you think that’s really bad advice, right?

Well it’s actually not, so long as your comfort zone is where you need to be.

So, what do I mean by all that?

What I mean is, once you realise your brain is hard-wired to embrace what is familiar and resist what is unfamiliar, the importance of staying within your comfort zone becomes a lot clearer.

But what if your already in your comfort zone and not achieving your goals?

Well, that’s when you need to start considering creating new comfort zones. Now I don’t mean living on the edge where things feel new and scary, but creating new comfort zones that feel familiar.

That’s when you need to start considering creating new comfort zones. Now I don’t mean living on the edge where things feel new and scary, but creating new comfort zones that feel familiar...

Let me explain it like this...

Do you remember back in lesson three when we talked about the importance of self-praise and how by making praise familiar it would help us actually believe it when people paid you a compliment?

This is the same ideology.

You see, our brains are hard-wired to ensure we make decisions that remain within the realm of the familiar. That is why so many of us repeat patterns of behaviour that are detrimental despite so desperately wanting to change.

This is a residual need, stamped into our DNA from our primitive ancestors who risked death if they dared to do something unfamiliar like wandering away from their tribe.

Being alone out in the prehistoric world was extremely dangerous, and so, as we have already learned, our brain is hard-wired to keep us alive, and that means sticking to what feels familiar.

You see, your brain doesn’t realise the world has changed, that it’s safe to try new things, to change your behaviour, and live whatever life you choose without the risk of dying as a result.

You see, your brain doesn’t realise the world has changed, that it’s safe to try new things, change your behaviour and live whatever life you choose, without the risk of dying as a result...

Your brain is programmed to keep you safe, and as such, is hard-wired to keep you doing what is familiar on the premise that what is familiar is safe.

What your brain doesn’t realise - and here’s the catch - is that whatever feels familiar to you, isn’t necessarily good for you – or even safe.

For example, let’s say you were unfortunate enough to have a father who was abusive toward your mother while you were growing up.

While you were growing up, your childhood your brain would have received messages that an angry, shouting, imposing man felt familiar. It’s no surprise then to find many women who grew up in an abusive home, end up with an abusive husband of their own.

It’s hard to understand because as people who have not experienced this type of abuse, it is easy to ask ourselves why would anyone put themselves in a situation they know all too well is extremely painful, both emotionally and often physically?

The answer is simple. Because that is what feels familiar to them.

It’s the same with dieting.

If since a young age you have indulged in eating sweet treats, desserts, or take-out, regularly it will feel very familiar to you.

Maybe you can even stick to a healthy eating routine whilever things are stable, but the moment you are angry, hurt, sad, celebrating, or experience any other type of emotional peak, high or low, you resort back to what feels familiar despite how much you want to lose weight.


Think back… As a child were you rewarded with sugary or fatty food? Did you use it to celebrate? As a teenager or young adult did you find comfort in sugary or fatty food when you broke up with someone, got bad grades, or just needed the sense of comfort an over-full tummy provided?

There is your answer. Familiarity.

Think about lottery winners.

Did you know statistics show that double the amount of lottery winners go broke compared to millionaires who earned their fortunes?

Did you know statistics show that double the amount of lottery winners go broke compared to millionaires who earned their fortunes?

It’s true. In fact, here are some examples:

  • Michael Carroll a garbage collector won 9.7 million pound in the 2002 British lottery and within five years was back living with his mother and working in a cookie factory where he earns $300 per week.

  • In 1988 American Bud Post won the Pennsylvania State Lottery and took home a total $16.2 million. In less than three years he had not only lost it all, but was in debt to the tune of $1 million.

  • Sharon Edwards, a Canadian single mum won more than $10 million in the Canadian lottery in 2004. She now lives in a rented house, takes the bus, and works part-time.

While there are sometimes other reasons people lose it all, most of the time it is due to the simple fact that before they won, they were living week to week, pay cheque to pay cheque, all their lives.

Their familiarity with money could easily be described as spending all of their pay and then starting the cycle over again when they are next paid. Due to the sky-rocketing cost of living these days, this cycle is true for many people.

So, when a lump some of money falls into your lap it becomes all too easy to do what is familiar – spend it all.

You see, the heartache in all of this, is that sometimes even though we so badly want to change, we cannot stop doing what is familiar. And it’s not your fault. It’s simply because that’s the way our brain is hard-wired. It thinks it’s keeping you safe.

Remember the dog on the riverbank, ready to drown you with good intentions. Your brain’s relationship to familiarity is another case of the same situation.

Familiarity, just like emotion, will always win out in the end.

So, if what is familiar to you does not line up with the behaviour required to achieve your goal of becoming a published author, what do you do?

You make the unfamiliar, familiar.

Research shows it takes about 21 days to begin creating a new habit. And there’s only one way to create a new habit. Repetition.

One of the best ways to do this is by using the If, Then statement.

Psychological research tells us that changing or creating a habit using the If, Then method is two to three times more likely to be successful than trying it any other way.

In fact, according to Psychology Today, Peter Gollwitzer, an NYU psychologist who first articulated the power of If-Then planning, recently reviewed results from 94 studies that used the technique and found significantly higher success rates for just about every goal you can think of, from using public transportation more frequently, to avoiding stereotypical and prejudicial thoughts.

These plans work so well because they speak the language of your brain: the language of contingencies. Humans are very good at encoding information in "If X, then Y" terms, and using this process (often unconsciously) to guide our behaviour. Deciding exactly when and where you will act on your goal creates a link in your brain between the situation or cue (the if) and the behaviour that should follow (the then)’. – Psychology Today.

So how does all this help with your goals?

Well, the point is, now that we know that making the unfamiliar, familiar is the path to creating new habits that will take you closer to reaching your goal.

Now that we understand why making things familiar helps us succeed, here's what we need to do:

  1. Think of one habit that by changing it, you will draw closer to reaching your goal. Just for an example let's say it's allocating two hours a day to write.

2. Now we are going to create an If/Then strategy you can use to make sure you

follow through on that behaviour.

3. Download and print Page 10 of your Workbook and write down the habit you want to make familiar.

4. Using the two hour writing example we might write an If,Then statement like If my allocated writing time comes around and I instead feel like watching Netflix – Then, I will remind myself that if I don't stay on track I will never finish my book and my family will never have the benefits I could have provided as a successful, published author (or one of the motivating statements you wrote for yourself in lesson 4.

Or, maybe something more practical works for you. In that case your Then could be something like: If my allocated writing time comes around and I instead feel like watching Netflix – Then, I'll look at some of my favourite authors books, website, social media for inspiration to keep moving forward.

5. Now, write your own If, Then statement that relates to the habit you chose. It's fine to have more than one.

6. Do this new If/Then behaviour for 7 days. If you mess up and give in to the familiar, remember to forgive yourself and try again the next day. Change is hard and it’s okay to mess up now and again but you have to keep trying until you get it right.

7. Once you complete your week, try to go two weeks and then all the way to the full 21 days.

8. It doesn’t matter how many tries to takes. What matters is that you don’t make messing-up become familiar. Try again as many times as it takes until you make it all the way through with one habit. Make success familiar and it will snowball from there.

Only choose one habit at a time. It can be tempting to try and implement a whole range of supporting behaviours, but stick to one at a time.

For example, if we stick to the allocated time example it will be tempting to also allocate a certain number of chapters to complete in that time, but for now just stick to writing for 2 solid hours. Whatever you achieve in that time is progress toward your goal.

Once you have one thing down pat, you can move on to the next using your success as evidence that you can achieve it.

You will be able to say to yourself:

"Well I changed my habits and have been writing two hours per day for the past week without even thinking about it. There's no reason I can't add a new goal of finishing a chapter a day (or whatever your next goal might be) and I know I can change my behaviour because I already have, so it's totally possible. I have that ability and skill because I've already taught it to myself and it stuck."

You can download Page 10 of your print-friendly Workbook below:

Workbook page 10
Download PDF • 29KB

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