An unusually empowering day for me today. I cracked open “The Now Habit,” which was given to me a few Christmases a back, and I find it to be incredibly insightful and on-target as to why I’m not getting to work on BYOND or other things I’ve been wanting to do lately.
A new definition of procrastination
Dozens of books offer pop-psychology theories about why people procrastinate. They encourage self-criticism by giving you additional negative labels, and they imply that you’re lazy by making greater demands for discipline and organization. But there’s a big difference between just diagnosing what’s wrong and providing a system that enables you to correct it. People who have been procrastinating for years on major life goals are already pretty good at self-criticism. What they need are positive, practical techniques for getting beyond the stumbling blocks and on to achieving their goals.
Some books offer prosaic advice such as “break it into small pieces” or “set priorities.” You already know this. You’ve heard the advice, you have the knowledge – you may have even paid dearly for it. But this kind of advice isn’t helpful because it misses the point: you would do these things if you could, if it were that simple.
People don’t procrastinate just to be ornery or because they’re irrational. They procrastinate because it makes sense, given how vulnerable they feel to criticism, failure, and their own perfectionism.
To overcome procrastination you need a positive attitude about the human spirit. This spirit’s inherent motivation and driving curiosity has gotten us out of our caves and into condos, up from the comfort of crawling to the risks of standing and walking. The human spirit drives us to what Maslow calls our “need for meaningful work, for responsibility, and for creativeness.” if we can harness it, it will ease the fears that cause procrastination and open entirely new horizons for human achievement.
The Now Habit is based on the fact that somewhere in your life there are leisure activities and forms of work that you choose to do without hesitation. You are more than “a procrastination.” You do not procrastinate twenty-four hours a day. When you turn your attention toward what you love to do – activities that foster your spontaneity, motivation, and curosity – you know that you are more than a procrastinator, more than just lazy. With these experiences you can begin to shed your identity as a procrastinator and reconnect with your innate human drive to produce.
If early training has caused you to associate work with pain and humiliation, then just approaching an intimidating or unpleasant task can bring on a relieving of criticism, not only from your current boss but from parents, previous bosses, and teachers. Ever insecurity bubbles up to your consciousness as you think about working on some project you feel you’re no good at. Pain, resentment, hurt, and feature of failure have become associated with certain kinds of tasks. When life seems to hold too many of these tasks it’s as if you’re driving with the breaks on; you’ve lost your motivation and doubt your own inner drive to get things done. At this point your self-criticism seems justified. You’re likely to think of yourself as a chronic procrastinator – someone doomed to experience anxiety and self-reproach when faced with certain kinds of projects
Your first step toward breaking the procrastination habit and becoming a producer involves redefining procrastination and coming to a new understanding of how and why we use it. Procrastination is not the cause of our problems with accomplishing tasks; it is an attempt o involve a variety of underlying issues, including low self-esteem, perfectionism, fear of failure and of success, indecisiveness, an imbalance between work and play, ineffective goal-setting, and negative concepts about work and self.
A complete treatment of procrastination must address the underlying blocked needs that cause a person to sort to procrastination. The Now habit starts with a new definition.
Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with stating or completing any task or decision.
From this definition it follows that those most vulnerable to procrastination are those who feel the most threatening by difficulty in starting a project; criticism; failure; and the loss of other opportunities that may result from commiting to one project.
Neil Fiore, Ph.D. The Now Habit. (pg. xiii – xiv)
The Now Habit, a brilliant book written by Neil Fore, Ph.D., and I heartily recommend it.
It’s interesting to me because I’ve received some advice from some rather clueless people (e.g. narcissistic friends, jaded forum denizens) in the past who fancied themselves psychologists and told me I’m just a lazy worthless son-of-a-bitch who would never amount to anything unless I toughened up.
Perhaps they meant well, but in doing this they pretty much soured my opinion of the human spirit, both in themselves and myself, and consequently pushed me even further back into my shell than I started.
As I thumb through this book, things are (for the moment) more optimistic. Here’s hoping that there will be a starting life change in the immediate future. Lets face, I’m so far back in my shell right now you’d need a mallet and a dull knife to get me out, and self-help book from a shrink is a slightly more affordable alternative than regularly seeing one.
Besides, this Neil Fore fellow is probably far more on the ball than your average social worker. The last shrink I went to – years ago when I was trying to deal with stress at the workplace – took days to eventually land on, “break it into small pieces.” Dr. Fore is putting that as “prosaic advice” on the introduction of the book.
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