Every year thousands of us make New Year’s resolutions that 99% of us break or don’t complete. Most prevalent are goals to lose weight and get in shape. But just like the chronic cigarette smoker who knows that smoking is bad but can’t stop because they’re addicted, losing weight and getting into shape needs more motivation than just your brain saying (along with everyone around you) that you need to do this to be healthy.
When you’re in the thick of it (no pun intended) the last thing you want to do is stop doing something that seemingly makes you feel better (i.e., smoking, eating that pint of ice cream, drinking that bottle of wine). Even though you know that these choices are not in your body’s best interest, your brain is used to these comforts to deal with life’s stresses. This is why we fail at new years resolutions. They’re made because it’s traditional to make them not because we have complete conviction behind the need to change. So, while the concept of a resolution is good – setting goals and starting them on a pivotal date – there is clearly not enough motivation placed on these goals to sustain our focus, and motivation is key!
So how then do you get and sustain true motivation? That, my friends, comes from within, when you are truly ready to acknowledge how unhappy you feel in the physical condition you’re in. It’s not about needing to get healthier for someone else; it’s not about wanting to feel sexier or more attractive; it’s not about wearing a different clothing size. It’s about YOU wanting to be different. YOU wanting to end the depression that follows you around because you feel unattractive or don’t have the energy to keep up with your kids or friends.
If whatever is to be gained by you changing is important enough to you, nothing will stop you.
Once you want the change for reasons so strong that nothing can deter you, then it instantly becomes a goal you can achieve. You don’t need a date on the calendar to get you started. You don’t need an extreme diet. You don’t even need a personal trainer (did I just say that?!). All you need to keep your desire for change always in the forefront of your brain. What do you stand to gain by this change? How badly do you want it?
Don’t focus on what you’ll lose, it’s too easy to say “well I don’t have that now anyway.” Focus instead on what you’ll gain. Gaining something is actually a stronger motivator than losing something. Take gambling for instance, we bet on what will win, not what will lose. Focus on what you’ll win, and then remind yourself that any progress towards this goal leaves you in a better place than if you’d done nothing. This wonderful quote by Winston Churchill sums it all up:
SUCCESS IS NOT FINAL. FAILURE IS NOT FATAL. IT’S THE COURAGE TO CONTINUE THAT COUNTS
So enjoy the holidays and your New Year’s celebration, but skip the resolutions. Instead contemplate what you want to gain and how badly you want it, then go get it! (And of course, if you DO want a trainer, or a tailor-made workout routine created by a professional trainer, give me shout. I’m here to cheer you on and help you stay focused!)
In April of this year I posted to this blog What’s Stopping You (https://lifefitnessbydane.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/whats-stopping-you/) where I addressed many of the reasons that people do not achieve their dreams and goals, with the biggest culprit to non-achievement being procrastination. Since that published that post, I have received many comments either defending or attacking procrastination as either a valid stumbling block or an overused excuse. Mostly, I have been asked to offer a bit more help to those stuck in the vortex of I’ll do it tomorrow. So here is my reponse:
Motivation: something that provides a reason for a person to act a certain way.
Procrastination: the act or habit of putting off or delaying.
Depending upon your personality, you might not need profound motivation to achieve your goals and aspirations. Simply the desire to be or have what you seek is enough to drive you from step A to Z. Whether it’s weight loss, a change of career or home, or the ending of a dysfunctional relationship, some of us can stand up, make plans (or not), and manifest a change.
However, if you are a procrastinator, making changes to your body or life can be difficult, if not painful. Planning may not be the problem, you may easily cogitate on ideas and pros and cons lists all day long, but if you maintain a state of reluctance to actually take action (i.e., procrastination), then changes never occur. Even if it there’s urgent motivation (your health, your finances, the needs of your family), to a procrastinator, obvious needs are often not strong enough to overcome a lifetime of chronic deferment.
Start by facing your fears. More often than not it’s fear that keeps you from action, rather than laziness. Cut to the core of the problem. Fears boil down to one of these four: Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of pain, or fear of the unknown. Once you name the fear, then acknowledge what limits these fears truly contain (i.e., it will be difficult, but it won’t kill you).
Next, pick the hardest task first. We all tend to number our steps starting with easy (baby steps), progressing to the big and more scary steps. Reverse this. Tackle that which seems like it will take the most of your energy right off the bat. It’s all down hill from there (in a good way).
Now keep your steps simple and brief. The longer things take the more likely you’ll loose motivation. Keep intermediary goals to something achievable in a short period of time (a few days or a week). Once you have several successes under your belt, you’re more likely to continue plodding towards your main goal.
Lastly, seek support. Find family, friends, or co-workers who understand the cycle of procrastination. You may think having a go-getter in your corner will keep you accountable and focused. For a habitual procrastinator a cheerleader is often a deterrent. But if you can find an ally who, like you, moves slowly and over-analyzes everything, you might find that while they’re stuck in their situation, they are great and helping you get unstuck. Then you can repay the favor.
In the end, remember that procrastination is a choice. If something in your life isn’t changing and you’re unhappy about that – make a new choice!
How many times a day do you put off doing something that you really want or need to do? A chore, a desired goal, an important conversation, or even something to enhance your life like exercising or reading a book? How many of those “somethings” can you look back and see trailing behind you like a ball and chain?
Yet still you put them off, procrastinating your life away. There is always a good excuse why we don’t take care of business right then and there. You are tired, you haven’t the necessary enthusiasm or focus, too many other things still need to be done, or simply that the moment’s not right. You want to start on a Monday, or a new month, or even a new year.
But the longer we put something off, the more daunting it appears. Even though we know there’s no time like the present, still we take no action. Instead we stress over these neglected tasks/goals, allowing them to weigh us down. We make lists and more lists, hoping that written organization will help lighten the load. That’s a good start, but we drop the ball on taking action from these lists.
It comes down to this: what’s stopping you? Procrastination! The dictionary definition is: to defer action; delay; to put off doing something, especially out of laziness…to procrastinate until an opportunity is lost. Why do we procrastinate? Because it’s easier. Taking action is scary, and more importantly, it’s hard when you are already spent to exhaustion.
Many clients have sought my help in teaching them how to end the vicious circle of desire vs. time vs. drive vs. knowledge. In other words, they have a desire or need, but feel so inundated with obligations they have no perceived time in which to tackle the new desire/need. If time is not an issue, then they have no motivation (drive) with which to handle the task. Lastly, they cite lack of knowledge as a stumbling block. How, where, when to begin?
While there are a lot of ways/tools that I can teach you to become a proactive “do-er”, here are a few quick tips to help you overcome procrastination:
1. Organize: Create two lists of all tasks/goals. Designate which are NEEDS and which are WANTS. Make sure that your goals are realistic and achievable.
2. Prioritize: Now create one prioritized list of your needs and wants. It is good to have wants interspersed with needs so that your time and energy is not exclusively spent on needs. We tend to feel a better sense of accomplishment when we take care of want to’s along with must do’s.
3. Start Fresh: Clean up your environment. Piles of papers, or disorganized drawers, cupboards and closets, should be your first line of attack. Sort the piles, throwing out everything truly unnecessary. Place the remaining into neat labeled piles (i.e., filing, receipts, projects, etc.). Organize rooms, desks, cabinets, closets – one at a time until your space is in order. It may seem overwhelming, but just grab a trash bag and start the process. If you organize just one room or space a day (a single drawer counts too), then before you know it your house is in order. This alone will go far in keeping you motivated for more aggressive goals.
4. Start Small: Tackle each task one at a time. As you get better at prioritizing and time management, then you will be able to multitask and handle more than one goal at a time. If any particular goal is multi-layered, break it down into manageable chunks. It is always better to have a week of mini successes rather than forging ahead towards one big achievement months down the line.
5. Stay Positive: Focus on what you accomplish rather than what you do not achieve. Remember, the cup is half full, not half empty! Crossing items off your list is a visual confirmation of successes.
6. Just do it: To quote Nike – JUST DO IT. Get up, take a step, and do what your brain and body is fighting against. Pick up the phone, grab that book, clean out your closet, go to the gym – whatever it is, just one foot in front of the other and do not accept a NO from your brain.
Please understand that resisting procrastination does not mean you must constantly be in action. It’s important to take time to relax and rejuvenate. But ultimately, nothing elevates your mood more achievement and completion. The opposite of procrastination is urgency. Urgency motivates us to achieve. So if you need rallying, just reclassify that need or want as urgent, and ask yourself what’s stopping you?
As a Life Strategies Coach, I work with clients to clean up the clutter in their lives, literally and figuratively. The “literal clutter” cleanup is easy: figure out your goals, come up with a systematic and achievable plan, get organized, and go for it! Clearing away the “figurative” mind and emotional clutter takes a bit more work. This type of clutter is usually the result of feelings not shared with a spouse, friend, co-worker, or family member. Holding on to these hurt, angry, frustrated, or confused feelings often results in low self-esteem, self-doubt, reluctance to take action, and even physical illness or pain.
The typical reason that most of us do not vent these vitriolic emotions is due to fear of the dreaded . . . confrontation. What’s so bad about confrontation? Isn’t it, after all, simply communication? Communication: good. Confrontation: bad! (Said the grunting monster.)
The problem is that most of us associate confrontation with aggression, anger, attack, sometimes even violence. According to the dictionary, the root of confrontation – confront – means: “to face in hostility or defiance, to oppose.” This is clearly what most of us wish to avoid. But it also states the following: “to stand in front of or meet facing; to present for acknowledgment.” That doesn’t sound so bad, to present for acknowledgment. To present your feelings so that they can be acknowledged. Surely that is the real core response we all seek, when “confronting.” An acknowledgment of our feelings. If you think hard about it, you’ll admit an appreciation of our feelings is far more important than who was right and who was wrong. (Do not forget, that there are two sides to every story, and the truth is somewhere in the middle!)
But where we get stuck when trying to communicate our feelings – where it turns into the negative aspects of a confrontation – is in our delivery and our recipient’s response. With attention spans so short, and everything else moving so fast in our society (from food to entertainment to cars), is it any wonder that we are predisposed to offensive and defensive modes of communication? Throw your words out there…feel attacked…respond defensively with an assault (or insult). Rapid fire words to hit where they hurt, then duck and cover. Muscles tighten, the body fills with tension.
That’s how I perceive many attempts at communication where hurt or frustrated feelings are concerned. This is not communication, it is confrontation in the “face in hostility or defiance” definition. I, too, would do all I could to avoid confrontations if that is how it would always result.
But what would happen if we all changed our delivery when a confrontation was needed? If we calmly articulated the facts of how we feel (for the facts about how you feel cannot be disputed), and did so from a perspective of understanding that the other person may well have felt their own levels of hurt or frustration.
We must let go of the battle over which came first (the proverbial chicken or the egg), and just acknowledge that both parties used poor communication or thoughtless actions. Promise to do our best to think before we speak or act in the future, and more importantly, acknowledge the other’s feelings in this situation.
Confrontation would loose its intimidating factor if it were nothing more than an intense communication between parties in which they stated their feelings, acknowledged each other, and moved on with a new awareness.
So if you have been avoiding confronting someone (in the old negative definition), try this new approach. You have nothing to lose, and plenty to gain. I can feel my muscles just relaxing thinking about it. How about you?