Ask Yourself This Question and See What Happens

What would THAT version of you do?

I recently read James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. In it, I came across a little idea in it that I can’t stop thinking about.

He says that one way to affect change in your life is to ask yourself continuously what someone who has already achieved what you want to achieve would do.

In his example, he talks about a woman asking what would a healthy person do, and eventually losing 100 pounds.

So this morning, I thought about what my question should be. Maybe what would a healthy person do. But I want so much more than that for myself. I want to be healthy. But I also want to be a writer who signs a contract for new books this year. And I want to be debt free. And I want to be more zen and less stressed.

The perfect day exercise is one of my favorites. It gives me such a clear idea of who I want to be. So, I wonder if it would work, asking myself as I go through the exercise of imagining my perfect day, what would that Shaunta do?

What would I do, if I was already debt free? What would I do, if I was already training for an Ironman? What would I do, if I was a bestselling author?

I know, intimately, who that Shaunta is.

I’ve been working toward becoming her for a long time. Decades. And it’s working. I’m healthier. I’m less poor. I’m a published author. I support my family by writing.

But what if instead of wanting to be her, I started behaving as if I already was her?

It worked for writing. I just decided one day in 1997 to start telling people I was a writer when they asked what I do. I started by writing it under “Mother’s Occupation” on my oldest daughter’s kindergarten registration form.

It was one of the scariest, most audacious things I’ve ever done.

A couple of years later, Stephen King said in his book On Writing that anyone who has ever written a story, sent it to a publisher, and received a check in return that they used to pay a bill is a real writer. I’d been paid $10 for a freelance article about dog-friendly restaurants in Las Vegas, so maybe he would have approved.

Now that daughter is in graduate school. And I am a writer in a way that I don’t know that I could have even dreamed of in the mid-90s. And that happened because I expected myself to behave like a writer, everyday for decades before there was any real evidence that I could actually earn a living doing it.

So, I’m going to try it. When I make decisions, I’ll ask myself what that Shaunta would do. We’ll see what happens.

Here’s my secret weapon for sticking with whatever your thing is.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nationand the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.