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Posts Tagged ‘self-esteem’

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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