PROCRASTINATION IS THE KILLER OF DREAMS
Mark Twain once said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow“.
Americans are masters of procrastination. We can put things off until the last minute or avoid them altogether for years. We hope we can heed the advice of Nike and “just do it“ but that's easier said than done. It seems so simple but with so many options for distraction, it’s easy to find yourself an hour later deep in dog and cat videos on Instagram.
How can we combat this annoying dream killer? I’ve become somewhat obsessed with this question. What is it that knocks a person off an enthusiastic course to become a couch potato in a pizza-fueled Netflix binge? What can we do to push back against this? Knowing the source can help. I believe that fear is the main cause of procrastination. We are afraid of failure. Afraid of success. Afraid of judgment. Afraid of pain. Procrastination is our strategy to avoid pain, embarrassment, failure and perhaps responsibility. If you find yourself putting things off and procrastinating on a regular basis it is most likely part of your paradigm. Your paradigm is the multitude of habits that have been handed down to you through generations or embedded in your subconscious in childhood experiences. Changing your paradigm may take some work but there are many ways to do it. The best way is through repetition of new information and practices.
Here are some simple strategies we can use to push us towards what we want and stop procrastinating.
1. Make to do lists. Try making a list and checking things off to give you some satisfaction. A simple tactic that is highly effective.
2. Include action steps and beware of over preparing.
3. Face the fear and do things anyway. Sometimes the rush of doing something that scares you is exhilarating. It’s what will start the flow of change.
4. We can have several projects going at once and move back-and-forth between them. This helps with boredom and also can stop the negative dialogue that gets created after prolonged periods of working on a project.
5. Persistence. We must be persistent. And we can always start again when we find ourselves off course.
6. If you have the means, hire someone to help you get things done. Employ others who support and encourage you. Find others who have knowledge that you are lacking. Get a partner to help hold you accountable.
7. Stop waiting for the perfect moment as it will never come. Do it now!
No one wants to get towards the end of their life with lots of music still left to play and broken dreams rather than accomplishments. Don’t let procrastination take away the things that you want. If you don’t do it now someone else will and you will stand by and watch as someone else succeeds. Use whatever tactics you can to create motivation and avoid procrastination. Go out and do something towards your dreams today.
TAKE ACTION - DON’T GET STUCK IN THE PLANNING PHASE
There is another form that procrastination can take. The author Steven Pressfield calls it “resistance”. Resistance is anything that keeps you from your goals and dreams. One of the most prominent forms of resistance is planning. Often times if you have a goal that is big or bigger than you have ever accomplished, your fear can leave you stuck in the planning phase. The tasks are all about the plans and never about taking action. I know that the planning phase is important to anything we are trying to do but we can find ourselves spinning our wheels in sand making the same plans over and over again but never getting to completion for lack of action.
You can study and study and make list after list but if you don’t actually include action steps in your plan then you are left jogging in place at the starting gate. The action steps mean you aren’t going to be in the dreaming part anymore and it’s going to become real. I think many times we fear the action because with action comes responsibility. We are literally afraid of success. I think many people are comfortable in the planning mode. The operative word here being comfortable.
We must step outside of our comfort zone to take actions steps. However, once the initial step has been taken, we often find ourselves wondering what we were so afraid of! We just need to pick up the phone and make the call, sign up for the course, sit down at the computer and do the writing, put on the running shoes, get to the dance class and the rest will begin to flow. The unfamiliar will become the familiar and then the dream begins it’s move into reality!
So when you are planning, plan the ACTION. Make sure your “to do” list includes things that truly advance you towards your goal and are action oriented. If you just make lists of things to do your dreams will die on the page. Don’t let your fear convince you that you aren’t ready to take action. Face the fear and do it anyway!
SMALL STEPS FOR BIG RESULTS
Do you ever feel like you are standing at the bottom of a mountain looking at the peak? Sometimes the things we want can seem so far removed from where we are, we can get overwhelmed. We feel like there is just no possibility when we look at the size of what we are hoping to do. This can cause you to never begin or turn back when the fear strikes. The negative talk starts and the next thing you know you are scrolling through Facebook drinking your second glass of wine.
This is just another trigger for procrastination, a response to a feeling of discomfort and stress that pushes us back to our jail of habits and the so called comfort zone.
There is one definite way to help take the feeling of something being to large. Stop looking at the mountain and look at the step in front of you. Create a map that chunks it down to smaller bites. If you think “I can just walk this first part of the trail”, then you can pause to rest and then say the same thing for the next section of the journey.
This is the basic principle behind Alcoholics Anonymous with their motto “One Day at a Time”. Often it becomes one moment at a time. If we focus on the present moment and what we can do now and take our mind of the largeness of what we want to do, it can take the pressure off and get you rolling. An addict saying “I’ll never do it again” can feel devastated and the feeling of lack that it creates can literally send them back to the habit. If you have ever had or are in a destructive addiction pattern then you know this to be true.
I believe we are all addicts of a sort. Addicted to our comfort zone, addicted to our procrastination, addicted to our lifestyle - good or bad, addicted to our habits. We are creatures of pattern. We seek it out and get stuck in the groove and that groove can be one of overwhelm so we just stay put.
So in order to break free, just do something right now. One small step. Then once you’ve repeated that step a few times you will notice the familiarity and then you can take the next step and the next.
This is true of any creative process. You can learn and gather information for eternity, but if you don’t put it in to action there won’t be any change. You can study how to write, but if you don’t actually write, then you aren’t going to create a book. You can start by writing a paragraph which can turn in to a chapter, and then once you’ve repeated those steps and continued to take action, the next thing you know you have a book to take to an editor or publisher. If you just study writing you will not be a writer. You won’t become a chef by just reading the recipes. You must take action and the best way to do that is in small steps because each small step adds up to the journey. Each word adds up to the novel. Every dance movement creates a dance number. Each contact adds up to the sale. Start! If the mountain doesn’t motivate you, let the step in front of you do it.