Procrastination. Probably the single, biggest barrier to achieving anything that's worthwhile to you. Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing, or in other words, inaction.
Working in the health and fitness industry, I am constantly involved with numerous clients who each have unique goals that are both health and fitness related. However, more often than not these goals are not goals at all. They are simply dreams, and remain as such largely because of procrastination.
So, how can we start turning procrastination into action? The first thing I realised was that you need to understand and accept that you need to WORK HARD. What does working hard mean? Some words that come to mind are:
- Skills development and so on...
Without these qualities (and probably a million more), goals cannot be achieved. If you cannot accept that to achieve a serious goal you need to work hard, you will simply never achieve the things you truly want to. And that's that.
"Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be." - Elizabeth Gilbert
Once you accept that you will need to work hard, You start to realise that at the core of the issue with procrastination is that the only difference between achieving something great is action, where inaction can be considered procrastination and a barrier to achieving any goal. In order to achieve something, you need to do something about it.
Is it a Dream, or a Goal?
So we have understood what procrastination is, and we also know that we will have to work hard to achieve something great. Now, the next thing we need to decide is if what we want to achieve is a goal or a dream? For me, the difference between a dream and a goal is that goals have a plan. A plan is a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. Where a dream is imaginary. They don't produce tangible results. So, to turn a dream into a goal you need a plan, and a plan will help you move towards action rather than inaction. Identification of actions but creating a plan should inevitably help move you forward towards achieving any goal.
A typical cycle that keeps people's goals as dreams could be something like this:
- Excited - You've decided you want to achieve something
- Avoidance - You realise that you have no plan, you realise you need to work hard and don't know where to start
- Excuses - You create reasons not to make a plan ("I don't have time")
- Blame - You blame others or situations for your inaction or lack of plan
As a result, nothing is achieved and goals are never met. It's time to break this cycle and start forming plans.
What is a Plan?
Typically, people fall into this endless circle of procrastination because they have no plan. A plan has a finish or deadline, with a series of smaller steps that lead towards your ultimate goal. Each small step should be a stepping stone that will drive you and contribute in a positive way towards that ultimate goal. A plan doesn't have to be complicated, it can have a few words, lines etc that essentially identify the steps needed to reach a goal. That's it. Once you have this outline, you already have some direction as to what actions you need to do to start achieving that goal.
Think of it like going for job promotion. If you wish to advance into a position of greater importance in your current work, you need to identify and attain all the skills and pre-requisites required for that job. You will need to complete them to have the best chance of attaining that job. Achieving a meaningful goal is no different. There are steps you will inevitably need to do to get the goal you want. So it's time to suck it up, accept it and get started. Luckily, you have a plan now, a plan of action!
To create a plan of action, we need to first decide on a goal that:
- Is meaningful to you. Something that you want to achieve. Not something you would like. But something you desire. You should be able to close your eyes and feel it, visualise having it and even smell it. It's so close that you feel that goal with your fingertips. It's yours and you want it
- Is not too high, but also not too low. Make the goal realistic, use it as a springboard to achieve something even more beyond that once you achieve it
- Will stretch you. A goal that challenges and motivates you once achieved
Secondly, your plan needs:
- A clear focus. Identification of exactly what you want to achieve. EXACTLY
- A day to day / week to week / month to month outline. Identifying what needs to be completed to achieve your ultimate goal (these can also be referred to as minor goals)
- Identify minor goals. Which, if required can be expanded into micro goals. These minor goals need to be relevant to your ultimate goal, contributing and leading towards your ultimate goal
- Deadlines. Meaning exact dates you need to achieve each your minor goals and also your ultimate goal, this will give you some sense of accountability and urgency
- And most importantly, an unshakable belief that you can and will achieve your goal. If you don't believe you can achieve it, it's the wrong goal for you
"In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision." - Dalai Lama
The Fear of Failing
A lot of clients I have had experience with do have a fear of failing. This often leads to behaviours such as self-sabotage, excuses, blaming of others etc as a reason for not moving towards or achieving a goal. What's worse, they may also use this fear of failing as a reason to strengthen their procrastination. Why do you have a fear of failure? It's because you are out of your comfort zone and you're scared. You will need to turn this thinking around. How can you do this? I'm not entirely sure, but what I do know is, is that you need to embrace failure. View it as an opportunity to learn and further empower yourself.
Understand this, you will fail... over and over again. What you need to grasp is that to achieve great things, failure is inevitable. Failure is actually good, because you have discovered a way which doesn't work and therefore, have the opportunity to dissect and understand why it didn't work, which gives you another opportunity to improve, make changes and find a way that does!
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." - Thomas A. Edison
How can we overcome a fear of failing and achieve a goal? Well, some thoughts that come to mind are:
- Understand that failure is inevitable. Accept it
- You are going to have to make tough calls, be honest with yourself and realise you will need to change and adapt. Nothing changes if nothing changes
- You need to identify why you are afraid to fail (have you failed at this goal before?) Discovering this will help you rationalise it and figure out ways to overcome it
- What's worse than failure? Regret. Regretting sucks because it gives you that sinking feeling that you've missed the boat, so you may as well give it a shot
- Wanting to fail so you can learn from your mistakes. This will allow you to adapt and overcome. Ask yourself:
- What did I learn from this situation?
- How can I grow as a person from this experience?
- What are three positive things about this situation?
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.