Much of Lifestyle Change is Overcoming
There are many ways to avoid the important things you wish to accomplish in life. Stop smoking, achieving a healthy weight, and doing a better job at managing all those stressors in your life are a few examples. As human beings, many of us are very reluctant to make lifestyle changes. Our habits are something we can count on, and they give us a sense of security and certainty about life. Attempting to break a bad habit or acquire a new one, even if it's for the better, can make us feel uncomfortable and lead us back to the familiar.
One of the most sure-fire ways to avoid those changes we know we should make is procrastination. Procrastinators consistently sabotage themselves. They constantly put obstacles in their own path.
"Many people don't realize procrastination is an automatic habit pattern they use to avoid tension," says William Knaus, Ed.D, a psychologist and author of "The Procrastination Workbook." "It's kicked off by some form of discomfort, such as feeling uncertain or insecure about something. These habit patterns are the barriers to overcoming procrastination."
Diversions from Lifestyle Change
Dr. Knaus divides these patterns into the following three diversions.
Mental Diversions - If you think, "I can't do it right now because I'm too tired. I'm not alert enough. I won't be able to concentrate well enough. I'll get to it later when I'm better prepared to think more clearly," then you've fallen into a procrastination trap known as the Manana Diversion (pronounced (mä-nyä'nə) meaning tomorrow or at an unspecified time in the future. You've fooled yourself into thinking later is different from now, and that later will be better.
Action Diversions - With this barrier, you procrastinate by going to the water cooler, doodling, calling someone on the phone or doing something else on your computer.
Emotional Diversions - Many changes you want to make aren't inspiring or motivating--they're drudgery. If you wait to be inspired to do something you consider a drag, you'll be waiting a long time.
The Five-Minute System
Commit to the change for five minutes. For example, tell yourself, "I'll work for the next five minutes on gathering the information for making this change." At the end of that five minutes, decide whether you'll commit for another five. Continue this pattern until you complete the task, run out of time or have a good reason to stop. "By doing the task for at least five minutes, you're already living through the frustrations that are a part of the change, and you're making a series of forward-moving decisions," says Dr. Knaus.
Plan in Reverse
Many people set goals to make changes in their life, but don't have a plan. To create a clear, directed and purposeful plan: First, visualize your goal as a target and imagine shooting an arrow into the target's center. Imagine the arrow's trajectory as you pull it back, release and hit the center. In other words, visualize your outcome first, then work back from there. Where do you want to end up? What do you do just before that, and before that? By doing this, you're automatically creating a plan at the same time you're reminding yourself the plan is a series of small parts.
Building Frustration Tolerance
If you can develop a higher frustration tolerance, you'll achieve more in life because fewer things will burden your mind. By persistently tackling challenging tasks until you complete them, you build frustration tolerance.
"Even if you don't overcome the discomfort, you've lived through the frustration, which creates this powerful message: You can organize and direct your activities for a productive result, and you do have control over yourself," says Dr. Knaus. "It's better to recognize that doing reasonable things, in a reasonable way, within a reasonable time, gets things done--and you end up doing rather than stewing."
LIFELINE Can Help
Sometimes a little help can be useful when you are trying to overcome procrastination. The LIFELINE Program understands how hard it can be to make significant changes in your life. Every year we help hundreds of employees and their family members make meaningful change. Please call LIFELINE confidentially at 800-284-7575 if you think we could help.