Updated: Dec 16, 2019
Surprisingly or not, this is a very time-sensitive question – a year has only 365 days! Whether you have made any New Year’s resolutions yet, or, have written down your goals, I can answer this question with 95% accuracy after a relatively brief conversation with you.
Procrastination is not the root cause, but rather a symptom of poor habits or mental barriers.
Who am I to be telling you this in case you wondered? Not a fortune-teller! I work with people who feel they procrastinate too much. Some of them, in fact, face other challenges which turn out to be side-effects of procrastination. Procrastination is not the root cause, but rather a symptom of poor habits or mental barriers. My mission is to galvanise people to understand their challenge and actually make the change which they talk and think about quite often every day, consciously or unconsciously, for years. They postpone, find excuses, they lie to themselves that they don’t have the time or are too tired (and procrastinate by doing nothing about it) and they watch themselves failing to take action over and over again. They disappoint the closest and most important person in their life – themselves. Why would they do it and why wouldn’t they stop? It’s usually because they think it will resolve itself once “something” changes – which it will - if they change first. Unless you want to be in the same place as today in a year’s time, you may need to make continuous improvement (an important) part of your everyday life.
Change doesn’t have to be super hard, in fact, it should be small, easy and fun. Imagine trying new ways of doing things and finding out they work much better than the current ways. Imagine saving the time and effort, or getting better results having invested the same amount of time and effort. Would that not be fun? As for small and easy, that requires a bit of awareness, planning, doing and consistence.
If you feel making those incremental changes is still too much, yet still want results, perhaps it’s a sign you have some homework to do around your mindset.
To make the challenge of change smaller, easier and more fun, let’s look at what a habit is. Here are some fundamental facts.
1. Habits are not only repeated behaviours, but also thoughts and language. It’s entirely up to you whether you choose to entertain the positive or negative ones.
2. Our brain makes us develop habits so that we don’t have to think too much and burn too many calories on making too many decisions every single day. We used to have to save those calories on thinking long time ago when obtaining food was more complicated than opening the fridge or popping down the supermarket (so needed a lot of thinking).
The bottom line is the tribe we choose needs to be aligned with who we want to be.
Our habits have been mainly acquired through being raised in or exposed to a certain environment. As an example, research says those who are surrounded by obese friends, sadly, are more likely to become obese. Demotivated people attract demotivated people. Ambitious business owners hang out with successful business owners. Whatever is a norm in your “tribe” becomes the norm for you and if you don’t conform, you risk being pushed out of the tribe. If your self-esteem is low, you might choose not to risk it. Thankfully, we can improve our self-esteem and choose to leave the "uninspiring" tribe. We will be then less conflicted by joining a different one, having outgrown the old one and made a conscious decision to move on. The bottom line is the tribe we choose needs to be aligned with who we want to be.
3. Evolution has also equipped us with the love for the familiar and, in particular, the predictable. The trade-off is personal growth, being creative and flexible, for a rather high price of freedom and flexibility in your life.
Familiarity gives us a sense of security which is just one level up from physiological needs on Maslov's pyramid representing the hierarchy of human needs. The only challenge is, if we stay in our comfort zone too much and for too long, we won’t learn new things which we need to do in order to live a satisfying and fulfilling life (the top of the pyramid). How, in this case, to learn to ignore the discomfort of change and minimise the chances of failing in making progress?
1. If you want a change to be really effective, you will need to start by introducing a set of micro-changes in your life, which will create a system. You will be aiming at new actions that perhaps don’t take longer than 60 seconds, which will be easy to do. For example, if you want to start practising mindfulness, initially, do it for 60 seconds every day. Or, if you want to start working out, do push ups or sit ups for 60 seconds every day in the first couple of weeks. You will naturally progress towards doing it for longer if you stick to your 60 seconds every day. The key is regularity and consistence.
2. Understanding the process of developing new habits well and patience are your friends. Habits take longer than 21 days to form. More recent research says it’s closer to 262 days. If you think it’s too long, would you rather create a sustainable change over 262 days with tiny steps and see the results, or work hard for 21 days only to start slipping back into the old habit after 3 or 4 weeks?
3. You can try stacking habits to make it easier. For example, if you want to regularly read a book and you have a habit of watching tv, why not to do it before turning on the tv and set up the alarm clock in your phone for 20 minutes? Put the book next to the remote control to make it easier.
To be effective and sustainable, change needs to happen at the identity level.
4. To be effective and sustainable, change needs to happen at the identity level. Behind every system of actions, there’s a system of beliefs, says James Clear, the author of “Atomic Habits”. That’s because our behaviours are a result of our beliefs and as such have to be consistent with them. Work on your beliefs first. Or ideally, start from your values. To find out what your core values are, ask yourself what is important to you and what it actually means to you.
5. Temptation bundling is another great technique to change a habit. Say you love travelling and reading about travel and dream of studying a foreign language to make travel an easier and more profound experience. Why don’t you let yourself plan for a nice holiday which you will make once you have learned that language a little bit by reading about the country of your destination for 10 minutes each time you learned three new words in the language.
6. Human beings strive for continuous improvement by default, so make the most out of this natural inclination. For example, if someone tells me I always smile, I feel even more motivated to live up to it and smile at people. Decide who you want to be and aim for it every day. Act like that person, think like that person, speak like that person.
7. Beware of self-sabotage which may come from you doubting your ability to change or underestimating the importance of commitment and motivation building.
So yes, I can predict your future pretty accurately if you tell me about your habits. In other words, the proof is always in ... the habit!
Happiness is a journey, not a destination, so make it easier for yourself and fall in love with continuous improvement in 2020.
Wishing you a beautiful festive season and a successful Year in 2020!
Kaizen Continuous Improvement Coaching Studio