Welcome to Procrastinator’s Anonymous!
Deciding vs. Doing
Believe it or not, living a healthy lifestyle does not mean just deciding to eat more fruits and vegetables and exercise more. There’s a catch. It’s that gap between deciding to do something and actually doing it.
Raise your hand: How many of you have a series of “New Year’s Resolutions” that involve just changing the goal date from last year’s resolutions to this year’s?
I’m going to estimate that nearly 80% of you have your hands up now–either physically or mentally. Of course, I can’t see you but if you’ll click the link below to actually ‘raise your hand’, we’ll find out if I’m close or not.
If I am close, then we could make this a ‘Procrastinator’s Anonymous’ group. I guess there aren’t any because no one’s gotten around to putting one together yet. 😉
Ongoing motivation is a Challenge, with a capital C.
We want to do it. We have the knowledge and at least some of the skills. We’ve maybe even invested money, certain that if we spend that much on a weight loss program or piece of fitness equipment, we’ll really do it!
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. If it were, we would know many more healthy and fit people than we do. Behavior change isn’t as easy as buying a product and hoping it does the trick, or like Nike says, “Just Do It”.
Behavior change involves changing your mind. That doesn’t mean deciding to do or not do something. It means changing the way you think about and interpret things. That takes a little time and effort but it can be done.
The way to begin is to take the focus away from the bad habit. It’s common to tell ourselves “I have to stop/quit/get rid of this habit.” Instead you turn that thought into, “I enjoy being/having/doing this (good thing) because it’s helping me achieve (goal).”
For a procrastinator, this could be: “I enjoy the satisfied feeling of getting things done.”
The experts in behavior change say that we should phrase our goal statements–the things we want to do, have or achieve–in the present tense. Saying “I am/have/do” rather than “I will” sets our brain to acting as if we are already doing that.
When your brain believes you are/have/are doing something, your body naturally follows. This is also one of the principles behind the Law of Attraction or “what you think about becomes real”, which we’ll be examining in future lessons.
Thinking in ‘present tense’ helps shift the brain’s gears away from what we don’t want toward what we do want. When you find yourself beginning to do your bad habit (reaching for another cookie or putting off a task), stop and remember your “I enjoy being/having/doing (this)” statement. You’ll find it difficult to carry out the old habit while thinking of the good one.
Sit down and write out a list of positive things you can do instead of the bad habit. Phrase them in the positive, present tense: “I am enjoying walking outside in the fresh air instead of inhaling cancer-causing smoke”, or “I love eating fresh fruit more than I do sweets “. Follow that thought with a mental review of the benefits, visualizing how good you’ll feel making the healthy choice over the bad one.
You can learn to change your thoughts through techniques such as visualization, meditation, cognitive therapy and mindfulness practice, all of which we’ll learn about in future lessons.
Getting Started on “Just Doing It”
Just remember to make the effort to follow up the thought with action. Another trick that behavior change experts suggest is called “Do It For 2-Minutes” (or 3 or 5 or 10, it varies between experts).
The way it works is that you choose a number of minutes from 2 to 10, set a timer, then you do the task on your list for the set number of minutes. When the timer goes off, you can choose to stop the task and go to the next one.
You can also decide to do another few minutes on any task later on or the next day. Often, however, once you’ve started, you may become absorbed in the task and want to keep going. You can reset the timer for another round and repeat it until you want to stop. Or you may choose to set the next round for a half hour, an hour, or even two.
Remember, putting things off does not make them it go away. Focusing instead on the feeling of already being/having/doing the thing you want and then working on it for at least two minutes each day will move you toward achieving your goal--this year instead of three years from now.
You’re never too old to learn something new.
In a way, I’m glad I finished my degree and don’t have to worry about getting ready for another quarter. In another way, I miss the new learning and the sparking of ideas from that learning that would excite me about whatever I was studying.
You don’t need to be in school or enrolled in any course to be a student of something you’re interested in. It doesn’t have to be academic–it can be a hobby or a fascination with something in particular, say gardening, woodworking, playing an instrument, or whatever absorbs your interest.
Studies have shown that curiosity and a desire to learn new things go a long way toward strengthening your memory and cognitive functions. It is said that people who read more, watch educational television or videos, or spend time on a hobby maintain higher brain function into their 80’s and 90’s.
All you need for exercising your mind is a public library. Free media everywhere on anything you ever wanted to know about. Books, videos, recordings, newspapers, magazines plus digital formats of paper media.
It’s the best of both worlds: free information on nearly anything and everything, in paper and/or digital formats, for people with or without computers.
I’ve been a library bookworm since childhood. But, during my recent studies, I got used to getting books on Kindle, and using downloaded e-books instead of ordering $300 textbooks or $18.00 paperback novels (that’s ridiculous!). We could also download research material to print if we wanted to but I like saving the forests.
Because of that, I hadn’t been to my library in years. I do pick up a lot of books and videos from garage sales but that’s different: you’re not seeking out a specific topic, you’re picking up books that interest you that just happen to be there.
You walk into a library and pick a section related to your interest and BAM–suddenly you don’t know where to start. Me, I always go for the “beginners’ guide to…” or “an introduction to…” if I’m learning something new.
If it’s something I’ve been learning about and want to know more, I’ll look for “techniques in…” or “the (practioner’s) guide to…(interest)”. These would be like the ‘watercolor painter’s guide to flowers’ or ‘the gardener’s guide to organic vegetables’. You already know about gardening but now want to learn to do it organically.
My particular favorites for exploring either new or familiar topics are the For Dummies and the Everything (Topic) series. There’s almost nothing that hasn’t been covered by someone in any line of work. Many of those authors are university professors or professionals in that area so you know you’re getting good, solid information–for the most part.
I have read some that confused me because the author of a “‘beginner’s guide” assumed the reader already knew a lot about the topic. If they assume that then why are they writing a “beginner’s guide”? Something I’ve often wondered.
Many authors of these series update their work every year, especially if the subject is one that changes frequently, like the Internet, economics, or social media. Others are timeless, like arts n’ crafts instruction using techniques that haven’t changed for centuries such as fiber arts, preserving, or wood-working.
Your library’s how-to video section is a good place to go too. I find it easier to watch something done than to read how its done. Some of the For Dummies books are also on video, which is very helpful for visual instruction like fitness workouts, Yoga or using the Internet.
If you already do use the Internet regularly, you can find literally zillions of free how-to videos from YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook and other social media sites as well.
Libraries also make use of the Internet to assist people. They offer access to all sorts of online information databases, can help locate media and get it from other libraries, and provide you with your own library ‘home page’ where you can keep your lists of things to look for and manage your loans, returns, and holds.
Now–what’s really cool about libraries: if you don’t own a computer, you can get time at your public library, and if you need to, you can have someone walk you through learning how to find stuff.
No matter your age or learning style, there are many ways for you to learn about something you’ve been interested in–or something entirely new–for FREE at your nearest public library.
So, in honor of Back to School Week, get out there and learn something new.