Procrastination and Change

April 12, 2017

Change clearly happens from the inside out. We are often like Sisyphus, whose fate was to push the rock up the hill every day and it would roll back down at the end and he would start over for eternity. We want something, so we push the rock harder… but we eventually get tired. This resistance can often lead to us delaying the things we want to achieve. So how do we stop procrastinating?

Our time is better spent chipping away at the rock. What are the defenses that keep you stuck? You will always be pushing against them until you dig deep to understand what holds you back. Many times deep shame or self-hatred keeps us paralyzed or self-destructive, or childhood pain leads to numbing or self-soothing in harmful ways instead of facing our feelings head-on. Whatever your version of resistance to your own health and success, learning to care for yourself in a way that allows you to get rid of your rock and reach your goals, is well worth your time, whether through therapy or some other internal healing journey.

Our therapist Owen O’Brien has been teaching the athletic trainers at her brother’s company, Central Athlete, motivational interviewing and how to help people find the willpower to make lasting change. Her brother, Jesse O’Brien, says, “It is a fallacy to assume that clients do not know what to eat. Yes, it is important for coaches to have a solid handle on nutrition. But this is not the missing link. Diving into behavioral psychology to understand why clients are following or not following what they have been prescribed is the secret ingredient.”

You want to discover what your rock is. Were you hurt by your father and therefore don’t like yourself so you look for confirmation that you aren’t worthy by unconsciously failing to accomplish things? Or maybe you are scared of closeness, so your body language or way you treat yourself repels others and keeps you safely alone?

The research shows that people perform better when they feel supported and appreciated instead of criticized. They will even stay in low paying jobs longer in caring conditions and leave high paying ones when unappreciated or criticized. Why would our relationships with ourselves be any different? We can’t even think straight sometimes with the amount of cortisol we create through stress and pressure. If we motivate through negativity (“If you don’t get this paper finished you are a failure!”) we often collapse or freeze with shame and self-doubt. The best way to motivate is through love and appreciation of ourselves, just as with others.

In addition to the deeper work that usually has to do with actually valuing and caring about yourself and feeling safe enough to have life success and connection with others, Jesse offers the following practical perspective:

Remember, less is more. Arguably the most important principle of change psychology is this one: Give clients only one new habit at a time. One of my favorite books, The Power of Less, shows how you can accomplish more by doing less. Author Leo Babauta shares this interesting data:

  • Adopting one new habit at a time results in an 85% chance of success.
  • Adopting two new habits at once: a 35% chance of success.
  • Adopting three or more new habits at once: less than 10% chance of success.

Now think of how many new habits are required when we tell clients to “eat right and exercise regularly?” Grocery shopping, cooking, joining a gym, learning new exercises, drinking more water, getting to bed earlier… literally dozens of new habits!

The challenge isn’t not knowing WHAT to eat, how much sleep you need, or how to exercise; the real challenge is knowing how to relate to yourself emotionally so that you can eat, sleep, and exercise in a mindful and consistent manner that will lead toward your objectives.

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