By: Rosieda Shabodien
OOOOOO OOOOOO OOOOOO OOOOOO OOOOOO OOOO
Each of these circles represents the thirty-four weeks we have left until we welcome 2017 into our lives.
The refrain I hear most often coaching women towards achieving their goals is, “I do not have time.” Or the past tense version, “I did not have time.” It is also a favorite excuse of mine. When we say that we do not have time, it might be true at times. However, it is often the case that we do not make the time to do the things that we have to do.
In today’s coaching session I want to address the challenge of procrastination. I define procrastination as “Avoiding tasks that you should be doing, tasks that you must do, tasks that you have to do, but instead of doing these tasks you spend your time doing something, anything else.” When we do not tackle the task that we should be doing, we justify our redirection by keeping ourselves busy with some other tasks. We find the most compelling reasons why at this particular moment in time you actually have another urgent matter at hand. We sometimes decide, for example, to binge watch the whole season of House of Cards, instead getting that task done!
In the previous Women’s Leadership Coaching postings, I chatted about why we procrastinate. The reason we delay doing what we must do ranges from being anxious about the outcome on the completion of the task, to being unsure how to do the task, to just being human and not wanting to put in the hard work and therefore preferring the option of doing a less stressful activity.
As human beings, we can easily distract ourselves, and we are masters in sweet-talking our rational, intelligent brain to avoid doing a certain task. We soothe ourselves, saying that we can do X-task later, this afternoon, tonight, and tomorrow is another day. Come morning we renegotiate the deadline to the next day.
Since our rational, intelligent brain does not possess a hand to give us a good smack or a sharp tongue to let know us know that we are messing up, we continue renegotiating with ourselves, about when you will get that particular task done.
For a very long time, I called myself a samurai procrastinator. I would tell people, if ever there was a competition in procrastination, I would be awarded the black belt in Procrastination. That however entirely depends on whether I will get my act together and register in time for the Procrastinator competition deadline.
But one day it dawned on me. Yes, I do lean heavily towards postponing and procrastinating on some tasks, but I do not procrastinate on all tasks. Just doing a quick review of my life, I realized, and no hubris intended, I would not have achieved so much in life if I were, as I believe myself to be, a chronic procrastinator. I have had to tick off a thousand or more goals to be where I am in life today. We had to accomplish millions and more tasks, and met the deadlines, at times set externally for us to be where we are life today. Admittedly some of the deadlines were only reached by getting us in a caffeine-induced state. However, we met the expectation and the deadline.
The reason we do these tasks is due to our love for positive responses. We hate adverse consequences because it is just too distressing to deal with. In fact, we are like a Nike ad on steroids; when the deadline approaches, our brains going into “Just do it. Just do it!” mode.
We do what we must do because one of our greatest aims in life is to be liked, to be admired and to be praised. Okay, not our main aim, but we really, really like praise. Come on, admit it! You know how ecstatically happy you get when you see on your Facebook someone has “Like” your photo, posting, postulations, ranting, ramblings, and raves.
Essentially we get our tasks done because we want approval, and, as importantly, we do not want to experience negative consequences. You get the task done so that you can collect your likes!
Let me share some examples and you can add on your own daily deadlines. We work and have tasks related to our job – we do the task to meet the deadlines so that our colleagues like us and so that we do not experience the negative consequence of not doing our job, for fear of getting fired or seen as incompetent. We pay our bills – some of us do it past the due date – but we pay it because we know that there might be consequences. If you do not pay your electricity bill, you WILL be in the dark. As a parent, you are asked to meet so many deadlines, and you oblige. When your kids are schooling, you are requested to fill in so many school forms and submit it by an absolute deadline. You might hand it in late, but it reaches the school just in time to allow your little angel to go on the camping trip because you have submitted the consent form. If you’re at university, you submit your assignments, although not your best piece of work because you crammed, because by not sending that assignment means failure of the course and then you would not graduate, and your parents will dislike you then.
When the task has a deadline and, more importantly, clearly negative consequences, you get it done because the consequences of not doing it are just too distressing to contemplate. That is when it struck me – why is that so many people live lives, moi included, where we have not realized some our biggest life goals. In fact, we do not even try anymore. We hum along and in the back of our minds, we say to ourselves, “I have this dream of becoming a [Fill in the blank]” or I have the dream of doing, (Fill in the blank.]. But because it does not have immediate consequences you can happily go from one year to the next without achieving it.
I am not speaking about short-term goals and not even the goals that are related to other people. What I am referring to are the big life goals. I am speaking about our True North Goals. The True North Goals are the type of goals when we have pursued it, and it inevitably entailed that we had to redirect our lives onto a new path. We had to move to another continent/state/province, we took up a new job, we changed careers, you re-invented ourselves, transformed ourselves and had to let go of certain friends. Essentially a True North Goal is a goal when you have met, is how you see yourself in your mind’s eye. True North goals are not the goals in the realm of the now, the today or even the tomorrow.
True North goals is your raison d’ etre. It is about your life purpose. The gravity of the goals is that, when we are faced with the end of our life’s journey and you have time to reflect back on your life, you can say, “I am contented, joyful and yes, even ecstatic, that I pursued those goals and because of this, I have lived my life true purpose.” How many of us can say this today, “I live my life to my highest potential, I am living the life I want; I’m happy to be on this very particular life path; I am embracing all that life has to offer.” And the reason we cannot say this is we, especially women given our many responsibilities, often procrastinates on our True North Goals. We think that there is always tomorrow.
True North Goals is when you are faced with a decision that if you pursue that goal, it will have an enormous impact on your life. However by not doing it; it does not have an immediate impact on your life. A True North Goal is when you say to yourself, “I want to be a [fill in the blank]. For me to be [fill in the blank] I have to do this. Let me use a real example to bring the point home. You dreamt of becoming a Doctor [Insert your dream here]. But you studied law and pursued the path of being a lawyer. You have an excellent income as a lawyer; you enjoy your work and have made a bit of a name for yourself in this field. But in your moment of quiet and reflection, you know that your true calling is to be a Doctor. You have to make a decision but because the consequence of not pursuing the Doctor’s route has no immediate negative impact on your life now- you would rather stick it out as a lawyer. But in your quietest moments, you know that the life you are leading now does not truly meet the dreams you had of you own life.
You want to become a writer. In fact, you want to become the next Stephen King or Nora Ephron. But for now, you are a work-at-home Mom. For you to become a writer, you need to write and write. And write some more. However, you are busy. You have your side-job, your volunteer jobs, your job of raising your kids into a semblance of functional adults, have household tasks and shopping to do, have parties to attend and holidays to do, you need to socialize with friends both in the real and virtual world, need to watch the latest Scandal, Property Brothers episodes and so forth.
So for today, you cannot do anything about what you want to do with your time on this earth. “Let’s do something about it tomorrow,” you say to yourself. Tomorrow, you are confronted with the same life tasks and again will repeat this to yourself, “Tomorrow I will make time to write.” And so it goes from day to day. Since you have not declared to anyone in particular what your dreams are, no one asks you about whether you have met your deadlines. There are just no consequences, except of course you are just a wee bit disappointed with yourself, and you also need to deal with your underutilized nagging, guilting-you brain. Therefore, you make a point to tell everyone, “I am so busy!” In fact, you want to wear a T-shirt, which captures your state of being, “I am so busy!”
But no one dares to ask you the big question. Did you dedicate time today to tasks that will allow you to achieve the goals and dreams you have? Sadly, no one comes to you and says to you, “What a wasted day. You have done nothing to follow your dreams today.” Sadly, there are no consequences.
This posting is about letting you know that there are consequences. Not immediate. Not tomorrow but one day you will look at your life and say to yourself, “Oh my, my, how did this happen. I never did become what I wanted to be.” Bear in mind, if you do not treat yourself seriously, who will? If you do not make time to do what you have to, what will happen to your life?
The way people lose themselves is not in one moment, but a little every day, week-by-week, month-by-month, year-by-year. One beautiful day, with the birds chirping outside, you wake up and look in the mirror and discover you have disappeared. G ne. Dis pe ar. Unfortunately no will call 911 to report you missing.
We should stop using the I-am-so-busy excuse as a cop-out to make time to the tasks of ensuring that we do not lose ourselves and make time for activities and tasks that will ensure you will live to your highest potential. As my daughter, Tahrir would say, “Hey, pull yourself towards yourself.”
A PRACTICE THAT WOULD ALLOW YOU TO START WORKING ON YOUR TRUE NORTH GOALS.
Making Room for the New Me Recipe
Serves: All of Your Life
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
1 Pen or Colorful Pens
1 Sticky note or loose pages
1.Find a quiet spot. Take out the pen and sticky notes.
2.Do not get distracted.
3.Close your eyes – do not fall asleep.
4.Ask yourself this question: “What do I want to achieve in this life?”
5.Ignore the anxiety that will creep up when you want to answer this question.
6.Disregard the little voice in your head that wants to push you to consider everyone but yourself.
7.Visualize achieving your True North Goal.
8.Meditate some more. And more.
9.Do not chicken out. Hold on to your vision.
10.Take out your calendar.
11.Mark the date today and note that you have 34 weeks left in this year.
12.Do not freak out. Only 34 weeks!
13.Now you mark in your calendar a 30 min slot every day.
14.You can decide what you name it. I call them my Life Vision Tasks.
15.Every day for the next thirty-four weeks you use that 30min time slot to do some task that will bring you closer to your Vision.
16.Tell a friend and let her know of a few of them to keep you to account.
17.Get a Coach or Mentor to keep you on track.