When you say “take charge,” you are actually defining the obstacle, not the solution. You are setting up the situation so that it takes effort, will and fortitude to face life’s challenges. As long as you confront a daunting obstacle, quite naturally you will take the course of least resistance. The same setup causes millions of people to overeat because the alternative is too much effort and trouble. Let’s put it off until tomorrow. Meanwhile, pass the chocolate cake.
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The solution is to keep making it easier to overcome your resistance. If you could face life’s challenges, including your fears, with enthusiasm and energy, that would be ideal. You can’t achieve the ideal overnight, but you don’t have to. Taking positive steps every day is good enough. Better than good enough, really, because most of the resistance we encounter inside comes down to old, outworn habits and inertia. Getting past them is more than half the battle. Here are the steps I have in mind.
Step 1: Look at your procrastination. This is an ingrained habit, but why do you cling to it? Because putting off unpleasant things offers itself as a kind of “solution.” It’s a feeble solution, on the order of “out of sight, out of mind.” But the things we put off aren’t really out of our minds. Just below the surface, they nag at us and make it impossible to be carefree. Sit down and absorb this concept: Procrastination is a false friend. Recall all the times in the past when you faced up to a problem and felt good about yourself. Realize that procrastination never feels good. It is based on wishful thinking, that somehow a problem will solve itself. Believe me, any outcome is better than waiting, because the longer you wait, the more your mind will invent worst-case scenarios.
Step 2: Make a list for how to have a good day. First thing in the morning, write down what you are going to eat, the errands you are going to run, the bills you are going to pay. Don’t extend this list beyond one day. Include on it at least one thing you want to accomplish that you have been putting off. As you write, check in on your comfort level. Everything on your list should lead to the same result: You will feel good today.
Step 3: Carry out your list, and as you accomplish each thing, check it off. At that moment, see how you feel. If you wind up feeling tired or bored or anything negative, revise your list. The whole point of the list is to build yourself a new comfort zone, one based on fulfillment and accomplishment. These things can come about only when your life is manageable. Nobody is happy when their day is overwhelming and exhausting. When you get into the grip of procrastination, all the things left undone build up until they truly are overwhelming, yet you can’t break out of this vicious circle until you begin to act. Once you learn you can face a few challenges while still feeling good—in fact, facing them makes you feel even better—then that little voice inside that says, “Put it off. One more day won’t hurt anybody,” will begin to lose its power to persuade you. […]
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Jim Woods is president of InnoThink Group and Leadership Matters. He has consulted and coached firms for more than 25 years. InnoThink Group is a global management consulting firm that works with leaders to transform strategy into reality. To arrange for Jim to come to your organization and help you develop talent, organize people to be more effective and motivate them to perform at their best select this link. Our focus is on making change happen and helping people and organizations realize their potential.