A client recently noticed that she was continuing to let her sister tell her what to do. At the end of lamenting, she said the same thing she says every time this comes up, “I wonder why I do that?”
How many times have you asked yourself “Why?”
“Why did I blow off my walk today?”
“Why did I play video games instead of working on my job search?”
“Why did I finish that whole bag of peanut M&Ms?”
“Why, why, why?”
“Why?” is a strategy to stay stuck inside your comfort zone. When you ask, “Why is my apartment such a mess?” conversation shuts down and you end up going in the opposite direction of your destination. Suddenly you’re exploring the past, your mental woes and all the bad things that could have caused this when all you really wanted was a clean apartment.
“Why?” is a great diversion as it sends you on a journey to figure out what happened to cause this pattern of behavior.
You’re doing a great thing, right? You’re healing the past and your hurts.
Let’s say that you actually do figure out “why” you’re eating all those peanut M&Ms. Great!!!
Ok, now what? You know the “why,” so what?
Does knowing “why” help break out of the pattern that is keeping you stuck?
Nope. And you can tell by the results you’re getting.
So how do you break out of the analysis paralysis of “WHY?” Here are 4 simple steps:
- Practice noticing when “Why?” shows up. This can be tricky because we are so used to stopping when it shows up. Hint- Are feeling stuck? Are you thinking about the past?
- When you notice you’re stuck in “Why?,” stop, take a breath and tell yourself, “It doesn’t matter “Why?” or “Who cares?!” or “Frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a darn!”
- Remember the old cheer, A-C-T-I-O-N, ACTION, ACTION, WE WANT ACTION! Ask yourself, “What is the next right action I can take RIGHT NOW, that will get me closer to my goal?”
- Then DO IT, no matter how small.
For example, say you are miserable in your current job and are ready and anxious to find a new one. Instead of updating your resumé, like you said you would, you’re sitting on the couch playing video games, for the third time this week!
You hear yourself saying, “I did it again! WHY do I keep doing this?!” Instead of analyzing, get into action. Shut down the video game and grab your computer. Set a timer for 20 minutes and get to work on your resumé. When time’s up, set the timer again and give yourself permission to play video games for 20 minutes. Continue this pattern until the resumé is done.
The only way to break this or any pattern of behavior is to stop letting yourself get sucked into the “Why?” and get into action.
I hope this helps you to leave the drama of the “Whys?” behind and move toward designing your destiny!
Let me know how you handle your “Whys?” in the comments below.
The number of chronic procrastinators has quadrupled in the last 30 years to nearly 20 percent of the population, according to Dr. Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at Chicago’s De Paul University. It is an insidious habit that will sabotage your success and drain your energy.
Fear of making a mistake, fear of failure or even fear of success can be causes of chronic procrastination.
Procrastination may be a problem if you:
•Have been financially impacted because you didn’t cash a check on time or delayed filing your taxes to the point of incurring fines or penalties.
•Have become exhausted and/or given up working out because you had to watch just one (or two or three) more episodes on Netflix before going to bed.
•Are constantly making excuses because you are late.
•Friends, family or coworkers point out your procrastination or the consequences of it.
The good news is procrastination is a learned behavior. With the proper structure and lots of practice, new habits can be formed. It will take time and patience though.
“Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” according to Dr. Ferrari.
Here are a few steps you can take to begin to break the procrastination habit:
•Make a to-do list of 5-6 things daily.
•If necessary, begin by tackling just one and break it down into small steps.
•Pay attention to your thinking — if you notice you want to procrastinate, decide to just keep going.
•Acknowledge and reward yourself for what you have accomplished.
•If you find yourself procrastinating, don’t judge yourself just focus on the next item on your list.
As you begin to take even small steps, you will notice your production increasing, your energy level rising and your happiness begin to grow.
This was written for Rochester Women’s Network’s column Women At Work and was published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on April 21, 2015.