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Posts Tagged ‘procrastination’

When I started my coaching program and began attending the classes (in English), one of the first words I had to check in the dictionary was “procrastination”. I was listening to other people’s problems and at least 50% of them where mentioning being a procrastinator or having problem with overcoming procrastination. For some of them procrastination was something only related to one issue in their life (mostly exercise), others were just labelling themselves as regular procrastinators (this word really doesn’t sound nice!).

I checked Internet for a good definition. APA- the AmericanPsychological Association gives a complicated one, so I will skip it and quote Wikipedia. “Procrastination is a behavior which is characterized by the deferment of actions or tasks to a later time. (…) For a behavior to be classified as procrastination, it must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying.”

Psychologist are still making many researches to find out why some people tend to procrastinate. Some of the possible reasons that generate such behavior might be:

  • Low Frustration Tolerance: we, in wealthy societies, are so used to get what we want without much effort that anything that is boring, difficult, needs time and effort in order to be achieved generates frustration. It is the feeling that children are used to- they can’t get this or that, they are not allowed to do certain things, etc. At this stage of their lives they should learn how to cope with frustration. Nevertheless, many adults still experience it and never learned how to overcome frustration. Some of us are prone to let themselves experience frustration and therefore give Low Frustration Tolerance a greater influence on their actions. It may lead to procrastination.
  • Low self-esteem: if deep inside you you think that you can’t be a great parent, you can’t have an impressive career (or a career you would be happy about), you can’t do A, B or C, or you feel like you don’t deserve, are not good enough to achieve, to have in your life A, B, or C etc. then you will end up… procrastinating. Because what’s the point of putting effort, of trying, of investing your savings in something, if  you can’t succeed at it? Such behavior makes lots of sense to the procrastinator.
  • Fear of success: yes, I know it can seem ridicule. But we often fear success because succeeding in something implies a change we might not be ready for. Or a change that we fear simply because we don’t know what will happen if we achieve our goal. Many people don’t even realise that they fear the success. They might also feel bad at the idea of succeeding at something because they didn’t set new goals to realise after this one. In an attempt of running from success, they just procrastinate.
  • Perfectionism: as I mentioned before in my blog, perfectionism might not be a quality at all. Individuals who want everything to be perfect often end up not finishing the tasks they were given at work because they are still working on them (no matter how many hours they spend, it never seems good enough). They can also be housewives who want their house to be perfectly clean- a thing obviously impossible, and even less if you have children. In consequence, perfectionists often deal also with anxiety. A day has only 24 hours and it’s never enough to do what they have to do. A behavior that can adopt a perfectionist so he wouldn’t have to deal with anxiety is to procrastinate. If the project will never be as good as he wants, why should he lose his time on it? If the house will never be clean, why try?
  • Other anxiety or fears

Those were only examples.

Most of the cases listed above could be solved with a behavioral “disputing”, which means taking the action we dislike, fear, or see as pointless, even when knowing that it will be unpleasant or will generate discomfort or anxiety.

You were given a project and have 3 weeks to realise it. If you procrastinate, you will spend the 3 weeks being anxious about what will happen when your boss finds out. You can also tell yourself “I will start tomorrow”, and the next day you postpone it to another day, etc. but you are conscious that you have less and less time. Your anxiety level is bigger and bigger, while the deadline is closer.

So instead of being anxious for 3 weeks, you could take some action today, a little bit more tomorrow, a little bit more the next day and you should start to find out that whatever it is that you have to do, it is not as terrible as you thought. Spending your time thinking and feeling anxious about something you don’t even plan to start is self-defeating. Take baby steps- brake the big goal into smaller steps and it will seem much more achievable (and it is more likely that you will succeed!).

If you are the perfectionist, you could not only take those baby steps, but also accept the fact that things are not always perfect and you don’t have to be perfect. You will see that the consequences of not being a perfect human being are not as disastrous as it seems to you right now. If you fear success, give it a thought. Why? What is exactly that you fear? What do you need to have prepared for when you succeed? Should you set some new goals to achieve?

Again, I am not a psychologist, just a life coach interested in positive psychology and in cognitive behavioral therapy. If I could help at least one person understand themselves and take some steps, I will be extremely happy. And if you can’t deal by yourself with procrastination- it’s ok. Think about who would be the person that you could talk to- a psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor or maybe a life coach.

Good luck! : )

Ola, Life Coach, occasionally procrastinator

PS. A “To do” list, made each evening for the upcoming day might also help!

PS2. This knowledge didn’t come to me by “magic”- check my Book Shelf. Sarah’s Edelman book was particularly helpful.

Ola, the coach

Ola, the coach

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I am well aware of the consequences of writing a post which is meant to make people thinking by criticising all (or almost) that the wealthy and hedonistic societies represent.

I have been confronted this week with the death of my beloved aunt, a 92 years old lady whose life was full of pain, disappointment and difficulties. She was the strongest person I knew.  The generation of my grand-parents, people who participated in the World War II, who fought for their countries, for the freedom for the upcoming generations- these are the strongest, most brave, courageous and kind people I have seen. I tend to think about them as the “lost” generation. They sacrificed their lives, their youth, all they had for what they believed in and for us. If you ask most of them whether they feel like they are a “lost” generation, they wouldn’t understand. You ask them if they can say that they were happy and most of them will answer “yes”. Do they think of themselves as martyrs? Neither.

Now, for me, today’s teenagers and people in their twenties seem like the “lost” generation. No values, thoughtless, interested in getting easy pleasures and fast, we (and this is a generalisation, because I still believe some of us are not “lost” at all) are weak and have what  our grand-parents might have called a meaningless lives. We have no purpose and we don’t look for it. We are less aware of what is and what is not important in life, what we really want, why and what will make us happy. Because we often don’t even know what happiness means.

Our grand-parents gave us safety, comfortable lives, a better world (in the wealthy countries). And still, here we are, wasting all their sacrifices, unable to be happy, even though we have the tools to feel so.

Some of the wealthy societies and life style lead us to:

Low Frustration Tolerance:

Basically, it means that we can’t tolerate, we can’t stand when things don’t go the way we expect them to go, when life doesn’t run smoothly, when we have to do hard instead of easy. This is something that children feel very often and in the process of growing up they are supposed to learn that they just can’t have all they want or that they have to put some effort in order to achieve what they want. Children don’t learn that anymore and, in consequence, when they become adults, they experience the Low Frustration Tolerance.
In practice, it means that whatever obstacle we encounter, we just don’t know how to find a solution and keep in mind the goal we want to achieve. We get angry, anxious, and experience all kind of feelings that impede us to feel good and to concentrate on really important things.

Low Frustration Tolerance often creates procrastination and self- defeating behaviours. We are frustrated with our jobs, with our relationships, with our lives in general and still, we do nothing to overcome LFT. We prefer to stay in what is called the comfort zone. Someone unhappy in his marriage doesn’t do anything to change his or her situation because this would mean stepping out of the comfort zone. This person is used to feel unhappy and what seems worse to him or her is to confront himself with the fear of being alone, of never meeting a true love, of making a huge mistake, etc. Another person can successfully procrastinate any attempt to get fit- just because the idea of exercise is something he can’t stand, makes him feel frustrated. So even though he commits to exercise, he never sticks to his own commitment “because I will fail anyway, because I hate sports”.

A world where superficial actions and immediate pleasures are more valuable than a meaningful life:

People stopped reading true literature. Most of us didn’t have a classic literature book in our hands for years. Instead, we just pick an easy bestseller and call the author a genius. Kids watch on DVDs the adaptations of the books they are supposed to read. All this assuming some of us read more than 2 books per year. All that’s easier, faster and seems like more pleasure is what we prefer.

We use computers all the time, so many of us are forgetting handwriting. If the computer crashes, it seems like the end of the world- we can’t work, we don’t know our agenda, we can’t function properly.

We eat junk food and fool ourselves that we’re cooking. Because we don’t care that the sauce we use for the spaghetti is all ready and has more of E-something inside than natural products. We “bake” cakes and cookies- from a box: just mix everything together, add some milk and one egg, put it in the oven and you “baked” a delicious cake! But does it really has the taste of your grandma’s cake? Is it even close to the taste from your childhood???

We “go green” in so many hypocritical ways- separating some plastic from paper from time to time, using special bags instead of the plastic ones, turning off the light, etc. All of this would be great if in countries such as USA, Canada and Australia it would be possible to live without a car. Not only because of the big distances, but also because of the costs of public transport, its availability (come on, Warsaw’s suburbs have better public transport availability than Sydney’s suburbs!) and the fact that everybody has to have a car. And not just A car, but a big one which polluates 10 times more than most of cars that people buy in Europe. Please, call yourself an ecologist.

Healthy life style? When? How? Going by car to work, from work, to pick the kids from the school and, of course, the shopping centre.

Our superficiality is also reflected in our relationships. When we have problems in our marriage, we can consult some specialist, we are taught to communicate and, still, more than 50% of marriages finish with a divorce. We just give up so easily when the problems that any normal couple experience show up. We don’t know how to deal with difficulties, with misunderstandings, we don’t think about what our values are and don’t know the values of our partner. I am not saying that we don’t try. But are we really trying hard enough?

We don’t recognise happiness:

We want things. Our society is a materialistic one, so it’s natural that we want this or that and that we automatically associate having something with being happy. And then comes the disappointment, because what we dreamed of is not enough. So we want more and more and more… Without ever feeling truly happy for more than a week or two. Our grand-parents couldn’t have all those things. They were more preoccupied about a good health care, getting enough food and a good education for their children. They were more satisfied than we are. Why? Because often our lives, sadly, totally lack of meaning and deeper purpose.

We are not grateful:

We don’t think about being grateful for the things we have. We often don’t even know what we could be grateful for. Those things can be so simple, but we don’t pay attention; the sun is shining for the first time this year, someone unexpectedly smiled to us, the morning coffee we shared with the one we love…

I could keep going on and on… I am not saying that my life is not superficial, that it’s not easy for me to be grateful for what I have, I do have LFT but will try to do something about it. This post is not to point others with my finger, while I think I am different. These are just some reflections that you can agree with or not. And the generalisation is huge, I know.

My questions is: how proud of us would our grand-parents be if they could see what we are doing and how, the poor choices we make and all the great things we have or could have and that we don’t even notice?

recognise happiness

recognise happiness

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