If you want to write a book make decisions not wishes

Stop Wishing You Could Write A Book…

What’s the difference between a decision and a wish?

Are you finding it hard to get traction on your ideas? Do you find yourself making the same plans and goals every year, every quarter, every day? Have you been writing your book for a few years? Have you been ‘on a diet’ for ever? Do you download loads of tracking apps to synch up your fitbit, with your iPhone and still spend hours watching back to back Game of Thrones? Are you tracking your meditation hours? Your water intake? The colour of your poop? Are you still overweight, non-famous, non-authored?

I don’t think your lack of traction is anything to do with willpower (or lack of), nor the wrong tracking apps, nor the people you hang out with, the books you’re reading, the mantras you tell yourself daily. I think the problem is that you haven’t made a decision, you’ve made a wish. And unless you’re in a Disney film, wishes don’t come true.

This is a follow up article to: Debs’ Little Book of Big Decisions, that focused on focus.

A while ago, I had the feeling I was making the same decision(s) frequently, and then (conveniently?) forgetting I’d already made them, so I wanted to record the ‘decisions’ I made and track my progress. I decided (!) to write down my decisions in my Little Book of Big Decisions (aka my big book of wishes).

What do I mean by ‘decisions’? You know those things you wake up at 4am thinking about? Like, I must write a book. I must lose 14 kilos. I must get better at my work, buy a(nother) horse, marry my partner, video a course, draw cartoons, do three handstands a day [1]. Those are all the types of things I’ve been recording in my little book of wishes (oops, decisions).

Why should you write down the decisions you make? Well, let’s look at a popular one: writing a book.

You might wake up at 4am with the best idea for a book, you think it all through (especially the parts about how famous you’ll be and what you’ll wear when you’re sitting with Oprah), you’ve probably even thought about the killer opening sentence that’ll hook your readers and make them say, ‘Oooh!’ You make a decision right there and then at 4:05am to write your book. Then you go back to sleep. Wake up at 7:30am with a dog licking your face, feed the horses (that you bought!) and get on with your day job. All thoughts of your decision put aside till… 4am! Again!

You need to break this wishing cycle (like the washing cycle but much less useful).

I propose you get up (at 4am, or whatever time you ‘make the decision’) and write the decision down in your big book of wishes. Put a date and time right next to it. Then go back to sleep or carry on with whatever you were doing. Do this for a couple of weeks – let’s say a month.

Next, review your ‘decisions made’ – are you seeing any patterns? Do you keep making the same decisions? Have you made any progress on any of them? Are you feeling despondent? Frustrated? Surprised?

Wishes are not decisions.
If you really want to write that book or lose 15 kilos you have to take action. If you’re not taking action, you haven’t made a decision, you’ve made a wish. And wishes only come true for Disney Princesses.

You need to decide right now, what’s the first next step to make your wish come true? And then put that in your decisions book!

My client, Ann Latham from Uncommon Clarity, says: “Make a decision once and for all by establishing rules and routines.”

These rules and routines are the constraints you need to enforce, create, and stick to that move you to action. Remember, constraints are good for you, boundaries are essential.

Read these two articles for help with setting boundaries, working within constraints, and making progress in the chaos.

  1. The MoSCoW Priority Slide to simplify your decisions
  2. Why are you still wasting time with a plan? For the “Plan -> Do -> Happy You” Chaos Graph & ADA planning tool

It’s the action that makes the wishes come true!


PS: This article came from a decision I made – November 2017: Write article on why you’re doing your decision book – make it funny. Want to take a bet how many times this appeared in my Decisions book? Eleven.

PPS: I made up some words again – you’re getting used to that by now!

[1] Why handstands? – because I broke my arm a few years ago (falling off the horse I bought) and I read (on the internet, so it must be true) that doing handstands helps build bones in broken arms – the weight bearing of a handstand builds calcium. And I like seeing the world from a different perspective, and my Dad was a champion (in our house) handstander. Seriously, handstands are the best all round exercise for strength, balance, and fun.

Thanks for sharing!

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments
Uncommon Clarity® What Kind Of Decisions Do You Make? - Uncommon Clarity® - 15th November 2019

[…] friend and colleague, Debs Jenkins, got me thinking with one of her recent newsletters. She proposed the idea of keeping a Little Book of Big Decisions. The idea is to record your […]

Adam Samuel - 19th November 2019

Debs, you know I can walk the walk here (three books on the shelf)!

One key is to remember that the reason you want to write a book is because you have something to say to people beyond those you chat to. Some of the best books are written out of anger or a need to be heard.

Another key is to appreciate that writing a big book is the nearest thing men do to giving birth with all the attendant pain and post-natal blues. Prepare for it.

None of this is easy. You have to be prepared to embrace the dark side or red zone where it all hurts although you must never live there.

Have a book buddy: someone on whose shoulders you can cry buckets and with whom you can celebrate. Strangely, I’ve never been good at this last one although I’ve performed the role for others.

Finally, if you don’t finish, nobody gets to hear your message, thoughts and ideas.

Best wishes


    djenkins - 19th November 2019

    great ideas Adam, I love the idea of writing out of anger – that passion will come across in your book


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