I’ve been coaching and training for more than 10 years now.
I’ve noticed a very powerful thing about myself and the people I work with- we all have very similar goals and struggles. I would be rich if I got 10 kuai every time someone told me, “I just want to be happy.”
I am often asked about my own personal tactics for various issues and problems.
“Is there an app I could use to help keep myself accountable?”
“What should I tell my boss to express my frustration?”
The thing is that when it comes to making a change from within, getting yourself to wake up and move, there are some challenges that any of the best practices, tactics and strategies I give you can’t overcome on their own.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. A letter from a young man who desperately wants to stop procrastinating on his work but can’t seem to do it.
“I know this may be hard to believe…. but I REALLY want to stop procrastinating and get work done and find projects that are meaningful to me. For some reason I just can’t get myself to do it. I am constantly yelling at myself in my head, telling myself:
‘just get started and get the d*mn thing done!’
‘Try break it down into a super small task so it is easy enough to do.’
‘Spend 3 minutes on it, then 8 minutes, then 20 minutes until you are done.’
I do this SO MUCH. No one believes me though. My boss says that if I REALLY want to be more productive then I stop complaining about it and start getting the stuff done. That if I really care about the work that I do, I would just do it. I do care.
I know how to be productive, that isn’t the problem. I know that I can prioritize my tasks, make to do lists, take a short break and do pre-work routine. Again, I’ve read all the books, attended your training courses. The HOW is not the problem that I am having. What I need help with is making myself MOVE on these things. I’m passionate about the work that I do. I know what to do, but don’t know how to motivate myself to get going. So, I procrastinate.
I know that if I get this task done, I can relax and feel good about it. I know that my boss is usually pleased with the work that I do when it is complete. I miss deadlines because I procrastinate.
What’s wrong with me? How come no matter how much I yell at myself and tell myself to go do it, I just keep sitting here staring at my screen and looking through WeChat moments until the last minute of the day?
Is there something wrong with me?
Is there anything I can do to get motivated?
We’ve all felt this way before. Me included. We will say that we are being lazy or unmotivated when we don’t do what we are supposed to do. Because if we REALLY, REALLY wanted to it, we would just do it, right?
Let’s keep digging into it
Desire is not his problem. He really wants to get things done. He is passionate about the work he does.
Lack of knowledge is not his problem. He knows the techniques and tactics to do things but doesn’t do it.
Motivation is not the problem, although he thinks it is. He is motivated by the desire to get things done. His boss is usually pleased, he definitely wants to stop beating himself up about it and feeling bad.
We do this to ourselves all the time. We scold ourselves about lack of desire, motivation or ability. Yet, as the example above illustrates, none of those things are the real problem.
There is something else paralyzing us, keeping us from moving and getting things done that are important to us.
We are paralyzed by fear, anxiety and stress… including things like
Fear of failure: “I don’t want to try and start the task because I’ll just procrastinate again. The procrastination will just prove that I always do it and never get stuff done on time.”
Fear of succeeding: “If I finish it too soon, my boss will think I don’t have enough to do and will give me even more work. Then my life will be even more stressful.”
Fear of judgement: “I am not the best person to be doing this task, I’m not the expert. I’ll feel like a fraud or imposter for doing it.”
It is much easier to ignore these fears than to actually fight and overcome them.
Procrastination, inaction, and “being lazy” aren’t the core problems; they are just symptoms we see on the surface. The core is our fear and anxiety.
Many of our training programs and blog posts address the symptoms, not the problems. So we experience the same thing again and again. Over time, habits form and we start to think that this is really part of who we are. “I’m lazy” “I suck at work” “I am not a motivated person”
This is a toxic state mind. It’s destructive. I am guilty of having it too.
When I started going for a walk as part of my morning routine, the thought of getting dressed and going outside paralyzed me. I would walk around the block and see the same people every day.
I would tell myself, “I’m a black guy living in China. This walk isn’t going to make much difference. It will only make more people stare at me. They will stare and wonder what I am doing every morning walking the same way so early. I must be crazy.”
It’s just not true. The truth is that the people who WAKE UP and MOVE forward experience the exact same fears and anxieties we all do. Exhale and know that you are not alone. The difference is that they have learned how to PROCESS through the emotions in a different way.
YOU CAN DO THE SAME!
How to get started
By this point you are probably interested in learning how to process those fears and doubts so that they can no longer hold you back. To do this you need a combination of three things:
Let me get you started with one of these things. Take the next action steps to start turning things around. Become a changer that actually gets it to stick.
The words we say internally and externally really do have power. Ramit Sethi talks about invisible scripts on his blog. I learned a lot from his content. Check it out when you have some time. In the meantime, take the following actions below.
Think back to a time when you last procrastinated on something. Maybe you were trying to wake up early or finish a press release or send out a client invoice.
For some reason you decided to procrastinate.
What were you telling yourself in your head? List out what was being said.
“I’ve got to get this done. I will sit here and just hammer it out”
“This is easy to do. I should stop being lazy”
“I’m not focused enough yet to write a good quality press release”
“I really wish the client would give me more details so I could write this faster”
“My boss is going to be calling in soon if I don’t send it over to him for review. I should stop staring at my screen and start writing”
“I really should get out of bed. Don’t hit the snooze button. Don’t hit the snooze!”
Any of this sound familiar?
This is negative self-talk
For the next 10 days, be more aware of when this internal talk happens. Each time you hear yourself saying something like this, change the wording around to something more positive.
Instead of “I’m being lazy” try “I’m fine.”
Rather than saying “I’m not focused enough yet” try “Will doing X get me more focused and started?”
Leave a comment on this post and tell me how it went.