I discovered last night why I am struggling so much to make the changes I need to make to create a garden in the common area of my block of flats: habits.

It all comes down to the rider and the elephant, behavioural change expert, Bri Williams, explained to me and many others last night in her powerful seminar, How to make and break habits.

Williams drew a delightful picture of an elephant with a rider on top on the whiteboard. The rider is our conscious mind. The elephant is our habitual way of thinking.

As the rider, I have decided to change my ways, to create time in my life to create a common garden in my block of flats. This really fits with my values. It is who I want to be: the woman who makes beautiful gardens for everyone to enjoy. To be that woman I have to do the work – make the garden – and then I will have a lovely garden to enjoy.

What could be simpler?

Doing things the way I have always done them, actually.

That is simpler for my mind, Williams explained. When my mind has to change from one habit to another, it takes mental effort, and the elephant is there to help save my energy. Everything I do that I don’t have to think about, saves me energy.

My habit is to put work first

Work is not, of course, just writing stories. It is talking to clients, planning stories, interviewing people, organising production, pitching for new work, briefing other writers, keeping on top of the accounts, technology, website, and doing the marketing. It takes a lot of energy – mental, physical and emotional. When it comes time to do the gardening, it just seems too hard.

The process of changing habits

It turns out to be pretty hard to reschedule our neural pathways, both to break bad habits and to create new ones. But Williams told us how, and gave us all a handy tool to guide us through the changes, and lots of references to follow up. No, I am not going to tell you all how to do it. (Check out Williams’ website for more details.)

But it does kind of boil down to a fairly simple idea: if you want to break a habit, make it harder to do, and if you want to make a new habit, make it easy to do.

My next task

After talking to my neighbour tomorrow about the garden and seeing where we can reach some consensus, I am going to have a look at some of the key habits I need to change in order to get the garden made.


• Have written one of my three weekly blog posts.

• Have attended a seminar to help me change my habits so I can get the garden made.