I was going to write this blog about procrastination last week, but I put it off….(ba dum pah!)
I used to be a “just get it done” kind of person, but for some reason I find I am becoming more and more of a procrastinator. I sincerely apologize to all of you whom I’ve judged un-mercilessly about your procrastination tendencies.
Now that I have training and tools and experience working with people, (and myself!) I’ve noticed that there are a few common reasons for most forms of procrastination. If you are staring down the barrel of a big project or even a laundry list of ‘to do’s,’ some of the following may help you.
The first most common form of putting things off is most likely to do with a belief or a thought. I call them: The Procrastinator’s Hit List. Including tunes such as: “The Last Time I Tried, I Failed.” “What if I Make A Mistake/It’s Not Perfect.” “It’s Gonna Take A Long, Long, Long, Long Time.” And the ever-popular “I Know This Will Probably End Badly (So Why Even Start).” These are all classic thought songs which are likely played on a 24/7 loop around any project or ‘to do’ list you have before you. I am telling you, these appear to be ‘excuses,’ but they are just plain lies.
The second most common procrastinating tool is Distraction.
My house gets cleaned. My plants get watered. I find tons o’ things that suddenly warrant my attention that had been lying dormant and un-noted for months, even years before now.
Next up: “I’m SO busy,” has become so socially acceptable it is almost treated like an honour. It’s not. It is our egos having us believe that we are Important (capital I) when we have so much to do, but is terrified of actually getting things done. Because, you see, if we get everything done, then what will we do with our time? How will we feel Important? 'Doing' is a procrastinator’s kryptonite.
Another popular distraction is weariness. Just the idea of tackling a project or list can send me to the couch with a blanket.
Notice that I did not say Conquer or Banish or End. I’m not sure procrastination can ever be eliminated, but it can certainly be managed. (if you are very, very tuned into your inner voice, procrastination may be protecting you from moving forward too soon)
1) Break It Down. Instead of looking at the whole, monstrous project, take your list or project and break it down into manageable pieces. Make a daily to do list of specific tasks related to the project. One sentence. If you can’t describe the do-able task in one sentence, it is too big, break it down further.
2) Fifteen Minutes. One of my favourite ways of ‘dealing’ with my lists is to set my A** down in my chair and set the timer for fifteen minutes. I give myself 15 minutes to work on what needs to be worked on. After the timer goes, if I’m on a roll, I will keep going. But, if I’m feeling like I can’t do any more, I give myself permission to stop. Then, I am more likely to do it again tomorrow. Fifteen minutes of doing something is better than days of days of doing nothing!
3) REWARD THYSELF. Every time I work on a project that causes my procrastinator self to complain, I give myself lots and lots of rewards. I plan them before I even begin. I have a great coffee and good music playing while I’m working and I give myself a bigger reward when I’ve completed my daily to do. I will read a book or email. I will watch a favourite TV. show and even make myself something especially lovely to eat. I never skimp on my rewards, or else I would never get my projects started!
Well, lookie there! I was just going to work on this for 15 minutes and I’m already done! Woo hoo. It’s playtime; catch ya later.
Go Forth and Procrastinate later!
I want to add the word ‘should’ to the ‘bad’ word list. ‘Should’ is such a wily, crafty thing. It’s a culmination of the all of ‘those’ voices that constantly bombard us from outside, frighteningly absorbed and now talking to us from the inside. We are mired in ‘shoulds.’ The thoughts are so subtle, so creepy, and so insidious they are hard to notice. How many of your thoughts begin with ‘should?’ Think about it. I should lose weight. I should be nicer. I should be better, having more sex, farther along in my career, being/doing something other than I am being/doing right now. How is this helpful? It’s not. Our ‘shoulds’ are keeping us stuck. They weigh us down. They drain the energy that we would be using to move us forward or to keep us happy where we are. I am donning my powerful, fancy Life Coach cape (it’s red and gold and very shiny), planting my knee-high boot clad feet, hands firmly positioned on my hips, chest thrust forward and declaring war on the evil, nasty “Shoulds.” (I am completely trained for this and have full authority. Also I have (too much!) experience fighting these evil ‘shoulds.’ Trust me.) You too, can fight the Evil Shoulds by following these instructions carefully.
Only you can answer these questions. The important thing is to take the power of deciding for yourself out of the hands of those 'others out there.' You can move forward or stay where you are with more clarity and focus having been released from the strangle hold of the ‘Evil Shoulds.’
- Identify and Track the Enemy. Observe them lurking in your thoughts. It takes training and tenacity, but you can do it. Notice how they float through your thoughts when you are on-line, watching t.v., when you look in the mirror, or when you find out your mother is coming to visit.
- Counter and Resist. Ask questions. Is it true? ‘Should’ you be thinner, happier, faster, smarter? Who exactly is telling you this? (Is the ‘voice’ your mother’s? the all-knowing ‘They’ a.k.a. advertisers, media, celebrity-land, Facebook.) Does this ‘should’ motivate me or make me feel just awful? Then, just say nuh-uh, nope, no way, not gonna go there.
- Martial Artist Dance Move. Here it is! The bullet-proof, ‘should’-destroying, guaranteed success secret weapon: (Are you ready? Brace yourself!) Replace ‘should’ with ‘could’ or ‘I choose to.’
How does that feel? If inserting I ‘could’ or I ‘choose to’ do not feel ‘right’ or like a ‘hell yes!’ then the idea is not for you. For example: I should go back to school becomes: I ‘could’ go back to school. Definitely. I’ve done it before; I can do it again. I ‘choose to’ to go back to school. Well, that would require I make some changes. How inspired am I? How motivated am I? What are my reasons for doing it? By spending time and effort on this, will it be moving me in a direction I want to go?
It snowed over the weekend in the area where I live. The temperature has plummeted. Things outside are frozen. Then daylight savings time happened. All this has me thinking about hibernation. Which leads me to want to talk about sleep. The majority of my clients are plain old tired. When I ‘prescribe’ sleep, they look at me like I’ve asked them to confess to a crime. Like it’s somehow cheating or being a bad lazy person when you choose to sleep over doing more stuff. You know it. People are chronically tired. We work too much, have too much on our schedules, have no idea how to relax and have terrible bad sleeping habits.
The way we have set up our society – according to a factory workers schedule – has tossed us into unnatural wake and sleep cycles. Some societies, believe it or not, still have a rest time built into their afternoons! I began napping when I had babies. At first I did what most moms do, try to cram a whole lot of chores into the baby’s down time. Then I got the brilliant idea to nap too. It was tough at first. There was guilt involved. But, I’m so glad I did it. I still nap every chance I get and have it down to a fine one-cycle–of-sleep science. We are designed to wake, work, rest, and play in cycles. Cycles in a day; cycles in a week; month, and year (think seasonal). Our bodies, if left to a more ‘natural’ cycle would easily flow within these cycles. However, we do not live in the jungle and are not waking/sleeping according to daylight/night-time hours and moon cycles. But, there are some ways to grab the essential rest we lack.
Step 1: Pay Attention
Just for a day or two, a week if you can, keep track of the times throughout the day when your energy level drops. You will most likely notice a pattern. Mid-morning. Right after lunch. When the sun sets. Notice how the changing seasons affect you. Step 2: Mini Break
If you are otherwise engaged in life’s activity when your power dip happens, excuse yourself if possible, take some deep breaths, stretch and shake (rattle, roll). Drink some water. Wash your hands. This will at least give your body some attention and most times that is what it wants. Step 3: Close Your Eyes
Even just for a few minutes. Allow yourself to sink into your chair. Slacken your muscles, especially your jaw.
Step 4: Take a Nap Already!
I know people who go to their cars during their lunch break and snooze. Close your office door. Turn off all your communication devices. Except, maybe a small alarm. Even 5 minutes helps. Tell your kids that mommy needs a nap. They will be thrilled to tuck you in.
Step 5: Go to Bed When You Are Tired
A no-brainer, right? But we almost never do it. You have too many things to do. It will mess up your schedule. I know, I know. I’ve told myself all of them. Sure for the first while it may alter the way you do your life, but over time you will find that if you honour what your body is telling you it needs, you will land in a cycle that works for you. You may wake up at 4 a.m. because you went to bed at 8, but that’s ok, you can do your stuff then.
Step 6: Do Research; Get Help
If insomnia or other chronic (non) sleep conditions are your problem, please spend the time to research what you need and get the proper help. Lack of sleep over a long time truly does shorten your life expectancy.
The single greatest self-help, self-improvement, self-advancement, life-changing technique is SLEEP. And it is the last thing people seem willing to invest time in. Now I want to work on instituting hibernation for the months of December and January….
Between naps and early bedtimes I am accepting new clients. Especially tired ones.
It is Halloween this week, so I thought it might be fun to take a look at fear. Fear can either be a motivator – exciting and adrenaline producing or it can paralyse – stunting our growth and forward progress.
Fear is one of 4 BASIC Emotions – the others are; joy, grief and anger. (I call them happy, sad, mad, scared.)
Real (authentic) fear has a clear source and motivates clear action. A zombie jumps out from the bushes?
Fake (inauthentic) fear is a blanket anxiety or worry that paralyses instead of mobilizes. The darkness. The haunting music. The general atmosphere of suspense while wading through the halls of a haunted house...
Authentic fear activates your instinct to stay alive. The zombie jumps out of the bushes? You will most likely fight or flee. You may even drop to the ground- ‘play dead.’
Unfortunately we are a society plagued by inauthentic fear. Living in the concrete jungle with all of its stressors keeps our fight or flight trigger constantly on alert. Whenever your brain perceives a threat, it does not distinguish between real or imagined threat, you will go into some form of fight, flight or paralysis. Think suspense-filled haunted house hallway. You are just waiting for something to jump out at you. Imagine what that does to you over time.
So what’s a regular, fun-loving, evolving monster to do?
Once it is established that you are not in mortal danger (no real life zombies trying to kill you), you can get on with the business of deconstructing the haunting anxiety of regular life.
1) Thoroughly research your fear. What, if anything is threatening you?
On a much more subtle level; what don’t you want to know? Facing up to something in your situation that needs to change in order for you to move forward in your life can be very scary.
2) Feel the fear. The only thing worse than fear is the damage suffered when you’re afraid to feel it. There will be an initial reaction to whatever is scaring you, and then a resistance to feeling scared, which increases anxiety, which further increases resistance, and so on.
3) Accept that you’re going to feel scared many times in your life. It is impossible to know what’s ‘around the corner.’ Our imaginations are great and wreak havoc on our survival brain. (Remember, it can’t tell the difference between real or imagined fear!) Don’t let anxiety prevent you from experiencing a full life.
4) Make fear your ally. Fear is the raw material from which courage is manufactured. As you move through life – which is a series of overcoming obstacles and expanding boundaries, you’ll notice that fear is never absent. You’ve heard the phrase ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway?’ That’s the truth. Once you've researched as much as you can, and reduced the threat to your life as much as you can, there will come a time when you must take a the leap. Do it.
5) The Serenity Prayer. Accept the things you cannot change. Find the courage (help, resources, tools) to change the things you can. I also like Byron Katie’s precept: Things are either; 'Your' Business, ‘Their’ Business, or God’s Business. The only business you can rightfully be in and change is Your Business.
As you push through the fear and anxiety that appears as scary, possible zombie-like shadows in your way, you will become stronger and more resilient. Quite possibly your life will become extremely exciting as your bravery grows. Who knows? You may one day become so fearless that zombies will run from you!
So, you have been meditating for two weeks now! Way to go! You may have
started to experience some inner calm, some sense of peace, maybe a feeling of
connection? Hopefully you have become a bit hooked on meditating and have resolved to make it part of your routine.
No? It’s not too late. If you do no other change or add nothing else to your life, you will never regret meditating. I promise. Start again; start now. (Go back and read Get Inspired #1
For all of you who have been anxiously awaiting Part 2.....Step # 2 for getting inspired is all about your thoughts.
As I indicated in step #1, engaging in your thoughts and observing your thoughts are very different activities with very different results.
When we follow our thought trails we easily become entangled and very likely stagnated. By observing our thoughts we come to realize that we choose
them, not the other way around and that, my friend, is huge.
How To Observe Your Thoughts
As you are meditating or right after you finish meditating, try to capture a thought. Perhaps
choosing one that consistently invades your mediation, or one that has a particular emotional charge.
Then, ask this thought some questions. (I actually write these out – ‘have a conversation with my thoughts,)
What exactly are you saying to me?
Is what you are telling me absolutely true? (Hint: There are really only 2 things we can know for sure; 1) we exist and 2) whatever we think we know for sure, we could be wrong.)
How does this thought I’m thinking make me feel?
How do I behave when I feel this way?
What are the consequences of this behaviour?
Are these the results I really want in my life?
Is there a better thought I can think or a better story I can tell myself, right here, right now?
If this results in better feelings, resulting in better behaviour, then I choose this new thought.
This seems that it would take a long time, but it really doesn’t. Once you get over feeling weird talking to your thoughts, you will be amazed at how much fun this is and how good you feel after.
Once your thoughts have had a chance to be ‘heard,’ it is as though you’ve done some mental house cleaning and you have now made room for inspiration to knock, or move right on in.
What should you do when you get an inspiration? Let’s think on it and talk next week!
Today, I am interrupting this series on Inspiration for another special inspiration announcement!
My brilliant daughter, Ali Lynn Washington, has written and just published a most amazing
book called The Perception Diet. http://perceptiondiet.com/
It is her story of recovery from anorexia. But, more than that, it is a hands-on, how-to book for changing your relationship with your body and with life. Alyssa explains exactly what processes she used to not only recover, but how to live her very best life.
As any mother knows, when your child is suffering, you suffer too. The journey that Alyssa went on has also been my journey. She and I discovered the work of Martha Beck at around the same time. I pursued the coaching certification, which changed my life. Alyssa pursued the tools, made them her own and used them to heal her life.
I highly recommend this book, of course because she’s my daughter and I’m so very proud of her, but, because it is filled with effective, hands-on, tried & true practices for change and growth and joy. I believe it is a must-have manual for everyone with a body. I know you will be very glad you when you buy it. http://perceptiondiet.com/
P.S. Let her know I sent ya!
Last week I wrote about the difference between an idea and an inspiration. I stated that I had
some ideas about how to increase the possibility for inspiration. In my extensive study of self-care, self-improvement, self-help and self-awareness and from my very own years of experience I have concluded there are 2 things you can practice that will increase the likelihood of inspiration.
The first step is the topic of today’s Blog.
Get Inspired Step #1
Sorry folks. You know deep, deep inside that you can’t avoid this any longer.
You have been bombarded, I know, from multi sources telling you that anyone who’s anyone is meditating and you should too. Well, ‘they’ are right.
But, before you angrily jab the little ‘x’ on this window, let’s consider how we might make this a more palatable thing to do.
Meditation, like exercise, like diet, like everything in your life can be done in a way that works for you. Your task is to try a number of ‘methods’ until you find one that you can incorporate into the thousands of other habits that you have already enfolded into your day.
The following are just some suggestions.
You may find something on your own that works much better and is more fun for you.
Try YouTube. There are a million videos with voices leading you to relaxation, abundance, money,
happiness, etc. The list is endless. You can even choose the amount of time you want to spend being guided.
A word about the amount of time here: If you are new to meditation, it is a good idea to start out in small increments. Set a timer (or a video) for 5 minutes. Once you get comfortable
with that, increase it a minute at a time until you can sustain at least 15 minutes a day. Once you begin to see miraculous results from meditating you will want to decide how much time you
Again you can search the Internet for recorded mantras. Or you can make up your own. It can be an affirmation, a poem, a prayer (not praying, that’s different) and song. Anything
repetitious that allows your mind to remain occupied.
Any activity that is repetitive and doesn’t require complete attention will do. Swimming, walking,
running. Again the mind goes on autopilot
Once you are engaged in a guided or repetitive action for your busy, monkey mind, you will begin to become aware of your monkey mind thoughts. This is good. It’s the beginning of becoming ‘awake.’ Instead of following the path of your monkey thoughts begin to observe them as a:
A) A news ticker tape scrolling across your mind.
B) A parade, each word in a wagon on wheels.
C) A cascading waterfall in front of you. (Especially if your thoughts are tumultuous
and too many to catch).
By practicing daily, it allows what’s on the surface of your mind to get detached attention. We
are very easily distracted by our thoughts when we engage in them; but, when we observe them,
the ‘real’ stuff that’s in your heart/soul/spirit (you choose), laying underneath these thoughts, has a chance to be heard. This is the beginning of possible inspiration!
I will give you 7 days, starting now, to begin your meditation practice! Go!
Tune in Next week when I will have Get Inspired Step #2 for you!
My inspiration becoming real is 'in the works' right now! So excited.
Last night, while watching an entertainment news program, an artist being interviewed gave me an idea. I went on the Internet to research the idea that was forming and whamo! I got a huge ‘hit’ of inspiration!
Which led me to wonder, because I like to allow distraction, whenever possible...
I wanted to know: What is the difference between a great idea and inspiration?
Idea: Any conception
existing in the mind as a result of mental understanding, awareness or activity.
-A thought, conception or notion.
-An opinion, view, or belief.
Inspire: To fill with an animating, quickening or exalting influence.
-To produce or arouse (a feeling, thought, etc.)
-To influence or impel.
The artist interview gave me an idea – a thought resulting from mental understanding. The resulting Internet search led to yet another idea. Whilst I was mentally constructing a concept from those ideas, I was instantly filled with animation and quickening. I suddenly imagined a whole, complete ‘something’ that may or may not have already existed.
My ideas are very mental. I mechanically build a concept a block at a time – like this Blog. I get ‘ideas.’ I jot them down. I ruminate on them. Then I construct them into sentences/communication. Then I throw them out and start again.
Inspiration feels like a download of a complete vision. A fully constructed ‘something’ that already exists somewhere, I just need to begin the journey to get to it.
I took what I believe is a step toward a really cool ‘something’ today. I’ll let you know how it
Is there a way to provoke inspiration? I have some ideas about that! Next week I will share with you the ‘method’ that works for me.
Here’s something you can try at home. Right now even. I call it:
The In Longing Or Loving Experiment.
Call to mind the last time you felt irritated. Maybe it was someone cutting you off in traffic; something someone said to you that wasn’t nice or something just didn’t go the way you wanted. When you get the memory, then, feel the irritation. Really let it surface. You are irritated. What happened was crappy or just wrong. Right? Now think of your to do list today or the people you will be engaging with today. Can you picture all the ways you’ll be irritated today?
Ok. That was fun. Now take a big breath. Let it go. Shake off the irritation. One more.
Breathe, in and out.
Now, remember the last time you were head over heels in love. If it’s happening now, great! If not, don’t feel bad, just recall a romantic moment or a time when you felt the ‘sweet ahhh.’
Nice. Now feel how that feels. Let the blissfulness envelope you. When that happens, think of your to do list. Think of the people you will be seeing today. Can you feel the awesomeness
This, people has been my latest practice. I have been taking note of the times I am looking through lenses of lack and I'm seeing how it is affecting my experience. The minute I tell myself that something is missing or that there’s something wrong with me or someone else, I become very small and closed off. My actions from that place affect my day, big time. When I catch myself, (which is a challenge, believe me!) I immediately call up something for which I am grateful or I consciously bring up the ‘in love’ feeling. And presto, changeo! Miracles happen. Suddenly things are
beautiful. People are beautiful. Life is no longer hard but amazing. This too absolutely
affects my day.
In every moment, you and are either in longing or loving.
Go on. Try the experiment yourself. Let me know what happens.
What will it take to make you feel you’re enough?
This question stopped me dead in my tracks. Wow, I absolutely do NOT believe/feel/think I am enough, on any level. It stunned me to realize that I am constantly driving myself with
thoughts of inadequacy and self-improvement.
This question came up in my ‘community’ where we are deeply into the contents of Brene Brown’s new book: Daring Greatly. Brene Brown, if you don’t already know, is a social worker/researcher. In Daring Greatly she reveals what her research shows about vulnerability and shame.
As with all the ‘self-help’ books I read, I look for how what she says applies to what I do and to me personally. Her ‘answer’ to shame and vulnerability is feeling like there is enough and that I am enough. So, how do I do that? What does that look like?
“I am not enough” comes up in my sessions with clients all the time.
If you and I are measuring our enough-ness based on outside recognition
and approval, then we are never enough. The values that drive this kind of enough-ness are motivated by fear. Fear of lack – not enough. I will never be young enough, thin enough, rich enough, friended enough on Facebook, etc., etc. My fear under all of this is I am not worthy of belonging. Once that fear is triggered I am in survival instinct mode and I either hide away and make myself small (flight) or become angry and bossy (fight). You may recognize this in the people around you?
It appears that enough-ness is based on courage, compassion and connection. And it’s an ‘inside’ job. If I am willing to make ‘trying new things’ and ‘taking risks,’ instead of measurable goals, as my measures of success, I am more likely to be vulnerable and participate in life. Did I put myself out there today? (vulnerable). Great! Did I challenge myself today? Yeah! Did I try and fail at something? Oh Yeah! Did I connect with someone today? Yes! The participation/showing up doesn’t have to be anything huge. It can be as simple as phoning someone who needs encouragement. Talking to someone in line. Posting a blog! The shift is not based on ‘results’ and feels amazingly good. Life is fun again. It also appears that feeling like enough in this “you are not good enough yet” day and age takes strength training.
Based on what I’ve learned coaching (teaching connection) and what I’ve read of Brene’s work, I have made for myself a list:
Enough Muscle Exercises
1) Accept who I am right here, right now. My Mantra: I AM ENOUGH (this is a constant ticker tape news crawl in my brain.)
2) Gratitude instead of fear. If I can catch myself freaking out or feeling negative about myself I counter it with a gratitude thought.
3) Compassion. I give myself a break when I screw up. I acknowledge that I’m learning. I’m
human. I take responsibility and then move on. Only then do I have the capacity to be kind and compassionate to others.
4) Connect. I have a tendency to isolate myself in order to recharge, but too much isolation
leads me to crazy town! I phone or meet a friend. I make contact with my loved ones. I participate in my community. I re-enforce that I belong.
There is much in Brene Brown’s books and TED talks. I highly recommend taking a look at them. In the meanwhile I am strengthening my ‘enough’ muscle.