Eliminating Behaviors that Hold You Back

When we’re starting out on a path to living the writer’s life, we inevitably develop behaviors along the way that hold us back.

Like being in a perpetual “study mode” where you never get out there and start working with clients, or those personal distractions commonly found in a work-at-home environment that keep you from doing the concrete, actionable steps that will grow your business.

A few years ago, my husband and I felt we were failing as parents.

We were beyond frustrated.

Our son was displaying behavior that we knew had to change for him to be successful in life.

Months went by of trying different things. But no matter what we did, nothing seemed to improve.

Finally, after trying many different solutions, I found the answer in a book called The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child by Alan Kazdin.

It only took a few weeks to change his behavior.

We also used it to change our other son’s behavior. I even apply it to myself.

In the Kazdin Method, you positively reinforce good behavior to replace the unwanted behavior. The idea is to identify just one or two behaviors and focus on them until they’ve changed. Tightening the focus like that brings quick results.

One of the keys to success is to praise attempts at the good behavior, even if it’s only done partially right. If the behavior is done entirely correct, you give a reward too.

By using this method, each child made tremendous progress, eliminating even their worst behaviors in only a few weeks.

Why did this work so well?

It’s the focused effort on detail.

Kazdin says, “Success and failure are determined in the details.”

The same is true for everything in life, whether you’re cooking, playing golf, or building your freelance writing business.

Practicing one or two focused items at a time will help you make more progress in your business than anything else you can do.

For example, if one of your goals is to fine-tune your writing skills, you could spend a few weeks focusing on creating better headlines using the 28 ideas outlined in Secrets of Writing High Performance Business-to-Business Copy. Apply all 28 strategies to every headline, subject line, or tweet you write. You’ll become more competent, which will make you more confident in your writing.

So how do you decide what you should work on?

Take a look at your most important goals.

Do you need to identify a niche?

Do you want to become a B2B copywriter?

Do you want better paying clients?

Decide the single most important goal that will move you closer to the writer’s life you desire. Be realistic about your goal.

Examine where you need to improve.

Once you have your goal in mind, consider what specific things you need to do to reach your goal. What skills do you need to improve? What new techniques do you need to study?

For instance, maybe you need new clients. But you don’t have much experience or are a bit rusty and haven’t used this skill in awhile.

A great tip from Zig Ziglar is to first pay close attention to the things that make you feel uncomfortable because you aren’t used to doing them. Only pick one or two things to focus on at a time.

Once you’ve identified your self-limiting behaviors, here are three strategies to help you eliminate them …


After you’ve identified what you need to improve, practice this skill until it becomes second nature. It might feel uncomfortable at first. But just like everything we’ve ever learned, with practice, it becomes easy.

To get better at speaking with prospective clients, you could create a script that outlines exactly what you will say. (You’ll find several options you can use in AWAI’s getting clients resources.) Practice it on your own or ask a friend or family member to role-play, with them taking the role of a potential client. Then challenge yourself to approach prospective clients every day using your script.

Consistently practicing a specific behavior will help you to experience success. And that will make you feel more comfortable.

Best of all, focused effort will help you make significant progress in a very short amount of time.

Focus on what you want to improve in a positive way.

Don’t get down on yourself for what you do wrong. Instead, be proud of yourself for what you did right.

Perhaps your goal is to make five new contacts this week, but you only made three. That’s three more than you would have done before you started and a step in the right direction.

Reward yourself.

Decide on rewards you’ll give yourself only after you complete the desired behavior. For example, after doing the behavior just once, I might reward myself with a 15-minute break to enjoy my garden or go for a walk on the beach. After you’ve done the behavior consistently for a couple of weeks, give yourself a bigger reward, like lunch out with a friend.

Once you are regularly doing your desired behavior without skipping or avoiding it, repeat this process, focusing on another behavior you want to change.

You’ll find yourself conquering your most difficult obstacles. Conquer those obstacles, and you’ll find yourself living the writer’s life you dream of sooner than you thought possible.

Drop me a note below and let me know what one thing you are focusing on. I’d love to hear the progress you’re making.

Modern B2B Copywriting

Modern B2B Copywriting

Learn everything you need to know to succeed as a B2B copywriter from marketing your services to writing copy and everything in between. Learn More »

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Published: July 20, 2011

7 Responses to “Eliminating Behaviors that Hold You Back”

  1. Thanks Cindy, That's what I started today. You re-inforced my theory and gave me a boost.

    Guest (Gene Yoder)

  2. Great article, Cindy! I've been stuck in the "learning" mode for way too long and need to move forward. I'm working on it and have a coach to help me move beyond the learning rut I'm stuck in, so that's a step in the right direction. One thing I struggle with is creating blog posts for my website. For some reason, I freeze up when I think of writing a post for it. I'm a writer, so this makes no sense. My goal is to get to the point where this is easy for me. Thanks for the post!

    Kendy Sproul

  3. I am focused on learning to write leads really really well in our COS class with Will Newman. I lke that Michael Masterson says that mastering headlines & leads are the top skills for writing anything.

    Guest (Tia Dobi)

  4. Thanks, Cindy! As I was reading this I could see myself at a recent business meeting as people took a few seconds to introduce themselves and share their business. For some reason I psyched myself out that I would do a poor job, this time, in presenting my business. And this was a group I wanted to appear well before. I stumbled all over myself. Minutes later I was completely confident in one-on-one and small group situations as I networked the room. I realized later, I have neglected my all important elevator speech. And your article brought it back. I'm now correcting that oversight.


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