With all of the things that stand in our way of extraordinary achievement, none can be harder to understand than procrastination. Why do we do it? Why is it that when we finally get an opportunity, we squander it simply by not acting on it?
Fighting procrastination and winning is not difficult… it is impossible. But no worries, fighting is not a good way to get what we want. In this case, what we need is cooperation.
Before diving into what to do, let’s dispel a few myths:
Myth #1: We need to gain control over our actions
I’ll just go ahead and say it: Control is an illusion, and a bad one at that. Ninety-five percent of the time, we are at the mercy of our subconscious. When we get dressed, carry on a conversation, make a decision, cook, eat, etc. – these actions just sort of seem to happen.
Of course, we all get a very strong sense that we can control things. We were told from a very young age that being in control is the means to success. In the material Newtonian reality it sort of makes sense: nothing moves unless someone pushes it, and so we constantly push. But if the agenda of our subconscious is to not allow us to succeed in a certain area, the subconscious will get its way.
Myth #2: Our actions determine our success
Actions determine success much like the motion of the golf club determines if the ball will make it to the hole and go in. But what determines the motion of the golf club is the golfer. The same thing is true for our actions.
Our actions are not something we control or should have to force. If we controlled all our actions, we wouldn’t get from the bed to our front door in a lifetime. Our actions are the result of our beliefs. Our subconscious is powerful, but it does not set the agenda. The agenda is set by your core beliefs. The agenda that determines what our reality looks like is simply what we believe life is.
If you don’t truly believe that something can happen, then it won’t happen. It makes no difference how much you want it. It doesn’t matter what actions you force, how much practical advice you get, or how many different things you try. However, if your core beliefs change, things start to fall into place. What was months or years worth of struggle suddenly comes easily.
Myth #3: You have to try to stop procrastinating
If all you had to do was try to stop procrastinating, procrastination would not exist. Of course everyone tries to stop procrastinating! Trying is forcing action against the natural flow of action as carried out by your subconscious. It is frustrating, short-lived, and should be avoided.
The goal is not to stop procrastinating; the goal is to achieve something meaningful during that time. You might want a degree, a ripped body, a healthy heart, or maybe a hot date. Those are all things that will make you feel good. They are the targets, instead of simply trying to stop procrastinating.
Myth #4: We are a product of our genes and our past
This is partly true: We may be a product of our genes and our past, but similarly, dry pasta in a box is inedible – it’s hard, dry, and tasteless. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make something delicious out of it! Yes, we are all a bit screwed up, and we can look at our past and see why. However, with some understanding we can turn ourselves into miracle-making machines. Not without effort, of course, but with the right kind of effort.
We may struggle with procrastination because we’re not living life the way it’s meant to be lived, and that is in the flow. Living life in the flow happens when you believe you can have what you want. This can be an easy life: working for yourself, having a nice relationship, being fit and healthy, or anything else you desire. Struggle is just the opposite, and occurs when you want one thing, but your core beliefs go against it. You will constantly and fruitlessly struggle to get anywhere.
So what are we to do? On one hand, we have this enormously capable side called the subconscious, but it seems to be doing more to mess up our lives than help us.
We need to get the subconscious on our side. Once you start making progress there, procrastination (and other methods of self sabotage) will slowly melt away. Gaining cooperation from your subconscious is very powerful.
Personally, I changed myself from a stressed-out freelancer running from job to job, to a financially independent writer, and from a couch potato to a fit runner crushing near marathon distances completely barefoot. I did this by simply getting my subconscious on my side.
There are two powerful methods of aligning what you believe with what you want. You have most likely heard of both of them because they have turned into new-age household phrases. They are powerful, and can produce unbelievable results if practiced regularly. They also don’t take long and are really easy to practice, which makes them ideal for procrastinators! The two methods are affirmations (things you say) and visualizations (things you imagine).
Two Ways to End Your Procrastination
A powerful affirmation is one that works for you. It is simple, and hits the spot you’re looking to improve.
Instead of trying to put a stop to procrastination, pick something related to what it is you do want and reaffirm that thing. For example, “I am fit and look great,” or “I make a living doing what I love,” or, “I am dating a smart, good-looking woman I love.” Notice the common thread: Affirmations are not “I want’s,” they are “I am” and “I have.” Affirmations should be worded as if you believe you already have what you want.
It’s important to use affirmations any time you can. Even if you’re stuck in traffic, you can advance your agenda by simply repeating your affirmations to yourself. Stop and say your affirmations a few times.
Visualization is almost the same as affirmation, but instead of a phrase, you build a new reality in your mind. Instead of saying a phrase, you imagine a story in your mind. For instance, imagine yourself as if you were already successful at whatever it is you dream of. You are with that girl. You are fit. You are a millionaire.
You may feel foolish at first, but really, next to being a procrastinator, you’ll look like a genius.
Hanaan Rosenthal is author of How to Lose Your Mind in No Time
and Founder of Custom Flow Solutions, a tech company with clients including Reuters and New York Times. He is an inspirational speaker, runner, happily married with two children, and lives an active, anxiety-free life.
Featured photo by hang_in_there
Originally published 7/17/12 and updated by the Inspiyr Team 6/17/13.