Why self-control is the secret of success

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu

When it comes to achieving our big goals, whether it’s at work, in bettering health, in managing finances, or even pursuing an unlikely dream, we sometimes find them elusive for one reason or another. These challenging goals test our resolve and stretch our comfort zone. When you prepare for a presentation rather binge on a weekend, save money rather than spend it, or eat broccoli rather than candy, what you are really doing is ensuring that future you will be better off. But to make this happen or achieving your other big goals is easier said than done. It requires right motivation, self-control, and a great deal of effort or will power to achieve them. Like, to accomplish a goal of losing weight, following a low-fat diet and regular exercise is the best way, but how do we ‘just do’ what we know is best? to eat healthy and to stick with an exercise program, you need to have strong self-control. And especially, when it comes to avoiding temptations, you require focused effort to get consistent results.

We all have this perfect vision of ourselves at some point off into the future once we attain our goals. But getting from where we are today to our desired destination requires consistent self-control, focused effort and strong will. We search for shortcuts, techniques, methods, and easy ways to motivate ourselves to get there. But on the way, we become impatient, impulsive, and give into the desire for immediate gratification, be it impulsive spending, or distracting our attention to games or social media rather than learning or hoaning skills we need, or giving into momentary eating at a cost to our well-being. This results in impatience and we get biased towards pleasure in the moment. The result is that most of us fail to stick with our daily goals by giving into desires for short-term pleasure.

Most of the times, we don’t feel the effects of our decisions immediately. What you choose to eat and how you choose to invest or spend your free time. These decisions often have different gains or losses in long-run. Eating that extra piece of cake might feel great in the moment but will result in weight gain later. Even though our minds come equipped with necessary tools to succeed, we foresake them and face problems when it comes ṭo delaying gratification, developing strong self-control, and cultivating perseverance. So how would you choose between working on your goals or giving into your immediate gratifications? The ability ṭo control your impulses matter in life. Whether it is studying, practicing, saving, exercising, or persevering in your goals, a willingness to sacrifice in the moment to gain greater rewards in the future can make all the difference.

Why you cannot rely only on your will power?

Most of the times, the value derived from achieving your desirable goal is mostly far off into the future that working on this goal just doesn’t bring you as much pleasure as spending time on other things that give you instant gratification. All the things that bring you instant pleasure makes you struggle to resist leaving you feeling conflicted between the big goal you want to achieve and these small pleasures you so desperately want to indulge in. The choice lies with you to choose either to move down the path of instant gratification or to choose to resist and focus on your goal. Resisting seems to be a rational choice, so you choose to muster up the will power needed to overcome your pleasurable urges in preference of your long-term rewards.

But relying only on your willpower doesn’t take you far as you only have one reserve of it, if you don’t agree, pick up an object and hold it up in the air. Now keep holding it there-forever, ofcourse you can’t do it. And yet, most of us try to do the same with willpower – keep exerting forever. Focusing on your work drains your will power, as does resisting the urge to eat junk food, as does making yourself get out of bed in the morning when you want to sleep. Each time you tap into your will power reserves for difficult tasks, or to maintain healthy habits, you end up depleting your will power reserves. And the more difficult the goal, the faster the rate it gets depleted.

Also using will power will help you only in the short-term as it fails to deal with the source of the problem. Most of the times, we also use techniques such as reason, distraction to keep ourselves from reaching back to what is tempting us to overcome cravings for immediate pleasure. Such habits can help you delay gratification without stress but in limited ways. And when your desires and values are in conflict, you will eventually get caught up on these temptations. So, instead of using willpower as the only source of fuel, it would be better off learning the art of self-control and applying it to goal achievement in a focused way. In an age of instant gratification, self-control seems to be an unusual and undervalued quality, but it is an important one to strive for to achieve your long-term goals.

So, what exactly is self-control?

Self-control is the ability to subdue or resist your impulsive urges, emotions, and behaviours for immediate gratification in order to achieve your long-term goals. Self-control is different from grit where grit is the ability to pursue long-term goals over years, self-control is the ability to resist temptation in the moment. It is the ability to say ‘no’ to yourself in tempting and challenging circumstances and also is the ability to know the difference between a need and a want. Self-control comes from a rational understanding of the consequences of your behavior so that you can sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain.

Why you need to have greater self-control?

The famous marshmallow experiment conducted back in 60’s reveals a clear correlation between self-control and the quality of our life. During experiment, kids were offered a choice between one marshmallow immediately or two marshmallows if they waited alone in the room for up to 20 minutes, during which the researcher left the room and returned. Some kids couldn’t resist the temptation and had the single marshmallow, other kids, however, waited for the researcher to come back into the room and received the second marshmallow as a reward to their patience. In the follow up studies, they found that the kids who were able to wait longer for the bigger rewards fared better in their lives. Those who couldn’t resist had shown more behavioral problems and tended to struggle with stressful situations.

Therefore, by practicing self-control, you can overcome unwanted impulses, thoughts, fears, obsessive, addictive or unsuitable behaviors. You will be better equipped to handle your emotions and can cope with stressful situations far more effectively. It improves your focus and brings a sense of balance into your life. By strengthening your self-control, you can improve your self-esteem and confidence. Lack of willingness to change and improve, or lack of self-discipline and lack of faith in yourself or in your abilities can weaken your ability to develop self-control. Sticking to your goals and to follow through your plans, you need to have strong control on your emotions to resist short-term desire and temptation.

So, How do you develop greater self-control?

Delayed gratification or self-control is a skill better learned as children, but for those of us who did not receive this form of guidance, it can be still learnt and can be improved with practice and persistence. Here are some ways to enhance your self-control.

1. Gain clarity and set specific goals that you want to control. Set concrete and specific goals like in which areas of your life you would like to enforce more self-control. For example, what goal do you have and what is your intent for accomplishing it? is it regarding health or time management ? would you like to spend less time on your distractions so you can use that time to work or study? or Do you want to follow a healthy diet? You can make an inner commitment by understanding the benefits once you implement those changes and plan ahead on how to go about achieving those changes. Think of how you are going to adapt in case things don’t workout as expected. Gaining clarity keeps you disciplined and focused.

2. Increase the value of your purposeful tasks. Being purposeful in your tasks makes your life more meaningful and significant and you will be driven intrinsically to give it your best. Since such purposeful action has an intrinsic reward tied to it, you see immediate benefit in taking that action. You will be also motivated by the long-term rewards that will result in future if your tasks remain purposeful. All temptations and distractions come with immediate gratification and draw you away from tasks that have no immediate reward attached with it. So, our minds have a tendency of discounting the value of future rewards. So by keeping your tasks more purposeful and meaningful, you can over-ride momentary impulses and can reduce the habit of discounting the value of future.

3. Find the balance. Having self-control is not about total abstinence. It is more to do with finding the right balance. Denying yourself or suppressing what you need is as bad as over-indulging. You can do so by asking yourself these questions. Do you often over-indulge in things you like? As soon as you get something, are you looking for the next? If you want something in large quantities, isn’t it going to affect your health or well-being? How far would you go to get what you want? Do you enjoy it enough to make it worthwhile or simply move on to wanting some more of it or something else? By knowing the difference between your need and want, you can strive for balance.

4. Use your emotions to achieve a challenging goal. Cognitive strategies such as will power, distraction, reasoning and the like do work at times, but they are not optimal. Using these mechanisms to suppress your desires for immediate satisfaction can work, but it gets stressful and requires much effort that can affect your well-being. Instead, using your emotions can be powerful for developing self-control. Emotions such as desire, sadness, or anger push you towards short-term concerns. But if you rely on emotions such as gratitude, compassion, persistence, cooperation or perseverence when temptations arise, you will be able to have a long-term view and these right emotions can nudge your mind to favorable future gains over immediate ones.

5. Gratitude boosts self-control . Feelings of gratitude encourage you to resist and overcome selfish temptations when dealing with others. Gratitude stems from recognising that others have offered us something of value. We feel grateful when we feel others have invested in us, which makes us willing ṭo return the favor in future. Whether you’re paying people back for their investment in you with money, time or effort, gratitude nudges you to sacrifice your own gains in the moment to build better relationships for the long term. Gratitude not only builds self-control but also in helping others you also help yourselves down the line.

6. Practice compassion. Like gratitude, compassion motivates you to care for about others. It starts a virtuous cycle by encouraging people to take that first step to sacrifice time, money or some other resource to benefit another even if other is their own future self. Care and compassion towards others and towards your future self drives your willingness to sacrifice in the moment and produces an effortless self-control. It decreases the value we attach to objects and events that offer immediate gratification and this makes it easier to persevere in ways that pay off in future.

7. Meditate regularly. Reflect on thoughts and beliefs that push you to behave in an uncontrolled manner. Practice forgiving and empathizing with yourself for failures as opposed to criticizing yourself. Set some affirmations to act with self-restraint and self-control. Even taking a little as ten minutes a day to focus on your breathing can improve your ability to resist disruptive impulses. By recognising your self-talk and reflecting on past-failures and writing your internal dialogue makes you less vulnerable to impulsive actions.

“Meditation and mindfulness training are essentially exercises in self-control. From controlling the focal point of one’s attention… to a controlled awareness of whatever is going on internally or externally at that particular moment”

To conclude,

Mastering self-control in various situations in your day to day activities takes consistent practice in small ways. It is important to gradually increase your ability to resist larger temptations over time.

The following questions can help you assess your self-control. What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to having self-control and what can you do to overcome it? Can you recall a time you demonstrated strong self-control? Can you recall a time you gave into your temptations or instant gratifications? How much self-control do you have when it comes to your diet or exercise? Does your spending and buying reflect self-restraint? What habits would you like ṭo change to strengthen your self-control?

Recognise the areas where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving into those impulses, use the above strategies to work your way up to resist them and strengthen your resolve. Also it is important to remember that to resist immediate gratification, do not ignore or suppress certain emotions. Find ways to embrace gratitude, perseverence, compassion, forgiving and empathizing with your future self. The more self-control you exercise, the more freedom you experience from the irrational impulses that could take you away from your goals.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/04/18/how-to-build-lasting-motivation/

https://sscascades.org/2018/05/31/transcend-your-negative-habitual-patterns/

How to be an effective listener

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”– Dalai Lama

Being a good listener is one of the most important life-skill we all can have. In today’s fast paced and high-tech world, communication has become an important means of achieving our goals and objectives. Yet we devote very less time when it comes to listening to one another. When was the last time, you listened to what the other person is saying without any distraction? We often have a tendency to focus more on our words rather than others’ words. In a hurry to get our message across, we often neglect the important part of communication, which is listening, be it while listening to our peers, coworkers, friends or family members. If you fail to understand what is being expressed to you whether at work, or home or school, you will also fail in providing a meaningful response.

According to an ancient Chinese Proverb ‘To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well.’ Your true potential is always is directly linked to the quality of your listening skills. In this age of instant communication we are in a hurry to communicate what’s in our mind or focus more on replying than in good listening. We fail to realise, a lot can also be learned by means of listening from others in our day to day conversations.

We often confuse the physical act of hearing with listening. The basic difference being hearing is through ears, but listening is through mind. Hearing only involves perceiving sounds. On the contrary, listening is receiving the information, paying full attention to the words and sentences and understanding them. There is lot of importance given to ‘problem solving’, ‘goal setting’ and other skills to improve our potential or productivity, but very rarely we hear about the importance of active listening and how learning to master this art can improve our overall performance.

Are you a poor listener?

According to a research, we spend much of our waking hours communicating, and more than half is spent listening. Although listening is our primary activity, most of us are poor listeners. Studies show that we are able to comprehend and retain only one-quarter of what was said in about a ten-minute talk. This is mostly because many of us are either distracted by our own thought process or we get self-justifying or busy rehearsing our response that we miss out on what is being said. Sometimes, we tend to shut ourselves to listening when we disagree with the person’s views. Also because our listening speed is faster than the other person’s speaking speed, there is a void which we fill with our thoughts or perceptions. Not able to listen properly leads to arguments, conflicts, and various other challenges in your personal or professional lives. At workplaces, it leads to more errors and wastage of time. In personal life, it may lead to misunderstandings affecting your relationships.

Why listening is more important than speaking?

Effective listening involves ability to concentrate, understand, respond and then retain what is being said. How well we listen has a significant influence on our interpersonal relationships and work effectiveness. Developing good listening skills makes you less anxious, mindful and more self-aware. A great learner is often not the speaker, but the listener. Good listening improves your communication and interpersonal skills at workplaces where it helps you to fully concentrate and engage in a discussion. You will be able to grasp the purpose of your communication so as to put forth your ideas and objectives with more clarity. It helps you provide valuable feedback, to resolve conflicts and eliminate misunderstandings.

Great leaders are people who are intuitive listeners. They recognise that knowledge is gained by listening and not by talking. Good listeners are often perceived as people leaders as they acknowledge and listen to people’s issues and this makes them feel valued. They earn the trust and respect of people by listening, understanding and being supportive of them. By actively engaging yourself in listening to others’ concerns or issues helps you develop leadership quality where you can work efficiently towards coming up with better solutions to solve their problems. Being a good listener improves mutual understanding in your personal, professional or business relationships

What does it take to be a good listener?

Self-awareness is the key to become an effective listener. To be able to sincerely listen to others is not an easy task, it requires persistence, effort and should be able to set aside your views to listen to the other person without being judgmental and by being open minded. It is a mindset which you learn from people by hearing what they have to say by being genuinely curious and interested.

Listening is a dynamic process that involves receiving , understanding, retaining, evaluating and responding. All of these stages happen naturally in a short time during conversation. Here are some tips to improve each of these areas.

Receiving and absorbing the information is the first stage in listening process. Here are some tips to pay attention while receiving the information.

Avoid distractions. Put away your digital distractions, when you are engaged in a conversation. Try to maintain your eye contact with the speaker by keeping aside papers, books, or phones or any other gadgets. Mentally screen out distractions like background noise or activity. No matter how open-minded we can be , we all carry emotional baggage that distracts our listening ability. Words, phrases, tone, or person’s appearance can shut down our receptivity by triggering knee-jerk reactions. Practice identifying and overcoming the knee-jerk reflexes while listening. Each time your mind starts to wander, refocus your attention to what’s being said or to what you are listening rather than focusing on what you are going to say.

Pay attention to non-verbal cues. If you only hear the words someone is saying, you may miss the important meaning being conveyed. Some people don’t overtly verbalise their disagreements but say as much with their actions, body language or physical gestures as they do with their verbal communication. Facial expression, tone if voice, eye contact, and posture all matter. Practice listening between the lines. For instance, someone who tells you that he like your idea while slouching and with his arms crossed against his chest, is actually saying two different things. Paying attention to these cues provides more clarity on the speaker’s emotional state and you can listen to something that they are communicating with their non-verbals.

Avoid interrupting. It is rude to interrupt but most often we model the opposite and tend to overlook our loud, aggressive behaviour. We tend to finish others’ sentences because we cannot slow our mental pace to listen effectively. Interrupting says that your opinion is of more importance than others’ or might imply that what you are saying is more accurate or relevant. It also might mean you don’t have time to listen or don’t really care about what’s being said. A conversation is not a contest which you are going to win. You can’t listen and talk at the same time. So, resist the urge to interrupt and let the other person say what he or she wants to say. When listening to someone talk about a problem or a difficulty, we tend to immediately suggest solutions using our own perspective to make him or her move in the direction we think is good. In most such cases, we respond to our needs rather than the needs of the other person. May be the person just wants to talk or share. Don’t impose your solutions. Before advising, ask whether they like to hear your suggestions or solutions.

Be empathetic. Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her words can be comforting. Giving undivided attention by being compassionate helps you to be an effective listener. Put yourself in their shoes and listen and allow them to express their feelings and thoughts

“The most basic of all human needs is to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

Avoid being judgmental or biased. Listen without judging or mentally criticising what is being said and without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Learn to separate fact from opinion. Don’t listen with an intent to have your opinions validated, but listen with an intent to learn something new. Many times we don’t pay much attention to those against whom we are biased or prejudiced. Don’t just listen to those who agree with you, but actively seek out different perspectives and listen to even those who confront and challenge you. Effective listening requires an open mind, you need to be open to new ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities. Even when you have strong views, suspend your judgment, hold your criticism, and avoid arguing or selling your point right away.

Understanding is the next stage in listening process. After you have received the information, you begin to process its meaning and gain more clarity, or asking questions or rephrasing parts of the message you heard to understand the key points.

Asking questions. Ask questions only to ensure understanding or about things that unclear. Asking open-ended questions provides the other person an opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts. For instance asking ‘how would you?’ rather than ‘can you?’ encourages them to expand their ideas. Restating key points as the conversation proceeds confirms that you understood their point of view and also confirms that two of you are on the same page. Sometimes your questions might lead the speaker astray, take responsibility and work your way back to the conversation. Not only asking questions provides clarity but also encourages to reflect on a thoughtful response and provides a different perspective furthering more communication. Paraphrasing the content of the message every now and then indicates that you understood the topic and improves your awareness within the conversation.

Remembering the key elements spoken is possible only by staying engaged or connected to what’s being said in a conversation. While listening for long stretches, concentrate on and remember key concepts or phrases. Make a mental model of what’s being communicated or arrange the small details or concepts into a central theme to easily grasp the incoming information.

Evaluating You can evaluate the information and prepare your response in this stage. Remember that while evaluating, you are still a listener and not a speaker. Relate to the main idea and sort the information based on facts or opinions. Look for any prejudices or biases. You can interpret as to whether any portions of the message, if any were exaggerated or what was their intent and accordingly you can come up with a response.

Responding is still a part of the listening process. After receiving, understanding, and evaluating of the listening process, you will be better prepared to address the important points with proper awareness of the context and with clear understanding of the speaker’s perspective. While responding, be clear of what part of the message you are addressing instead of repeating or completing their sentences. You can either share about a similar experience you had or you can introduce your ideas, suggestions or thoughts.

To conclude,

What do you do in a conversation? Are you more inclined to speak or listen? When you are listening, do you stay focused or does your mind wander? Do you ask questions with an intent to understand ? Can you keep yourself from interrupting or defending or saying anything for a while? Do you encourage others to express themselves or share their opinions freely?

In order to first speak, one must learn to listen. It is when you start to listen, you discover new possibilities. Each of the above stages take place naturally during our daily conversations in very short time. Even though listening is a simple process, it may take a while to become an effective listener, like any other skill, it takes time, patience and practice. Next time when you find yourself engaging in a conversation, use the above tips to improve your listening process and make yourself more conscious and aware of your moments in the conversation.

 

 

 

Break your habit of unhappiness

“Happiness is not a goal. It is a by-product of a life well-lived.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Happiness largely depends upon ourselves and how we perceive the world around us. But most of us feel as though happiness is something out there that we need to really strive for and live in a state of never-ending unhappiness by chasing it. The more we chase the idea of happiness, the less happy we are likely to feel. We all expect success to result in happiness and in anticipation to achieve happiness, we constantly strive, compare, and seek for external validation which only adds to our unhappiness. When we postpone our happiness to something in future like getting a promotion or better marks or to next big thing, we experience discontentment and our wait often becomes endless as we never get to happiness and it seems to be forever eluding. Some people even indulge in unhappy thoughts and habits since they subconsciously believe that by taking the hard road and looking at things pessimistically, they can produce better results. Many times, we seem content to wallow in our own misery and indulge in unhappy thoughts and habits despite having it all.

Why are we addicted to unhappiness?

The more we strive for happiness, the more we get addicted to unhappiness. Our minds became increasingly skilled at predicting and avoiding danger in order ṭo survive. So our minds are still constantly on the lookout for problems. We tend to assess and judge almost everything we encounter: Is this good or bad? harmful or helpful? Not being able to measure up to ours or others’ expectations, we create negative, unhappy feelings and tend to put ourselves down. We spend lot of time worrying about things that, more often than not, never happen. Our basic human tendency is to belong to a group or a clan which makes us constantly worry about being rejected, Am I fitting in? or Am I doing the right thing? Am I as good as others? Because of today’s social media habits, we compare ourselves with a whole host of people who are more smarter, more powerful, or more successful or more admired than we are. We compare ourselves to an impossible standard and end up feeling not good enough, remain dissatisfied and unhappy.

There are several scientific studies indicating that many people have a feeling of being unhappy. According to David Sack, an expert in addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine, people who appear addicted to unhappiness tend ṭo find reasons to be miserable when life gets “too good”. He says they prefer to take the victim role and compete with others to see who has it the hardest. Here are some more signs according to him that say you are addicted ṭo unhappiness.

• Blaming others rather than taking the personal responsibility for your choices.

• Having difficulty in setting and achieving goals.

• Struggle to bounce back when things don’t go your way.

• Distract, escape or cope through other addictive or compulsive behaviors.

• Feel enslaved to your emotions and powerless to change.

• Avoid and procrastinate dealing with problems.

• Habit of judging yourself too harshly.

• Struggle to celebrate your goals.

• You have hard time putting things behind you.

• Feel dissatisfied even when life is going well.

• Complain about everything and worry about things that have not happened yet.

Most of the times, we compare, evaluate, criticise ourselves, focus on what we are lacking and get dissatisfied with what we have. Feelings of insecurity and lack of self-esteem also makes you feel undeserving of happiness. Growing up with excessive discipline, unrealistic expectations, or many negative experiences may fuel an unconscious desire to unhappiness. Negative emotions like anger, shame, guilt,and worry have an addictive quality that triggers the reward centres in brain. Negative emotions are fine in moderation, but toxic when indulged in regularly. You might find it hard to be happy if you are consumed by guilt or regret from your past decisions or experiences. By identifying the signs of unhappiness in your life, you can work towards improving your state of happiness.

What exactly is ‘Happiness’?

Happiness is a state characterised by contentment and general satisfaction with ones current situation. Usually it refers to a feeling that is a sense gladness or gratification. However, if we consider happiness as a feeling, its pursuit becomes unsatisfying and harder you pursue feelings of gratification, the more you are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. So, happiness is neither a fleeting, momentary experience nor a permanent personality trait. It is a life of meaning, contentment and purpose. If you live in the direction that you consider valuable and worthy , when you clarify what you stand for in life and act accordingly, you attain a sense of fulfilment that is both deeply satisfying and long lasting.

Why is it important to break your habit of unhappiness?

When you are addicted to unhappiness, you get disconnected from the positive emotions. This decreases your creative thinking and reasoning. Unhappiness leads to stress and self-deprecating thoughts. By breaking your habit of unhappiness, you can learn how to handle such negative feelings differently and in such a way that they bother you a whole lot less. Unhappiness in your personal or professional endeavours is the result of a lack of intrinsic motivation and failure to cope with stress. In a happy state of mind, creative ideas flow in and you are better at problem-solving and decision-making. Happy people are more productive and are less prone to work-related stress and increases your motivation. It reduces depression, and improves wellness and immune activity as you experience positive emotions.

How to break your habit of unhappiness

Intention is the driving force behind being happy. You can break your habit of unhappiness by making a conscious decision to be happy and taking responsibility for your own happiness by changing your behaviour and thoughts. Here are some simple ways to do so.

Set yourself free from unhelpful and unhappy habits

Some of your habits and behaviour pull you down into unhappiness. Like for instance, procrastinating can make you guilty. Being unorganised or over-scheduling can make you feel inadequate when you fail to accomplish your tasks. Too many digital distractions can make you feel anxious, and depressed. Complaining, controlling and blaming others leads to stress. Obsessing about every detail and wanting everything to be perfect can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. When you’re trying to quit bad habits you might get critical with yourself which can lead to bad moods. Instead of self-criticism, reassure yourself by making positive changes. Identifying such stressful habits and behaviours and understanding their triggers can help you implement change in your habits.

Find your flow

Flow is about enjoying what you do and is known as the state of optimal performance and engagement. Focusing and engaging fully in whatever you’re doing instead of dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future by concentrating on here and now, you can experience happiness. Being completely absorbed with what you’re doing and paying attention to what is happening in the moment can help you achieve happiness, satisfaction, and productivity.

Challenge your unhappy thought patterns

Happiness is largely determined by your thoughts and that’s what has your attention the vast majority of the time. You cannot control your thoughts but you can decide what is helpful and choose not to give the unhelpful thoughts too much importance or attention. Recognise thoughts, images and memories for what they are and allow them to come and go as they please, without fighting them, running from them or giving them more attention than they deserve. Label your ‘unhelpful’ thought patterns and consider more helpful ways to look at the problem. Your ‘should’ thoughts are just an insistence that the world bends to your will. Ban such thoughts as they tend to make you unhappy and frustrated. You can do so by setting realistic expectations.

Indulge in physical well-being

The more physically active you get, the greater will be your feeling of excitement and enthusiasm. Research has proved that walking, exercise and meditation promotes good health and improves one’s mood and increases feelings of happiness. In order to break your habit if unhappiness, follow a healthy regime coupled with exercise. Practicing mindfulness in everything you do to raise your level of happiness.

Focus on your values

Clarifying and connecting with your values is an essential step for making your life meaningful. Your values are reflections of what is most important in your heart: what sort of person you want to be; what is significant and meaningful to you; and what you want to stand for in this life. Your values provide direction for your life, and motivate you to make important changes. Happy life involves experiencing the right emotions based on your values and beliefs. Living your values is one of the way to add more happiness to everything you do.

“Happiness is the state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” – Ayn Rand

Practice Gratitude. 

Gratitude can decrease depression symptoms as well as stress. When we focus on our appreciation and gratitude for the things and people in our lives, we activate the reward centre of brain and positive aspects of your life suddenly become more relevant to you. By recognising what you are grateful for, you acknowledge your needs and become aware of the needs of others too thereby helps you feel more connected to others. Start having a daily gratitude ritual -can be an act, can be maintaining a journal. Focus on big and small acts of gratitude and write down three to five things you’re grateful for every day.

Be mindful of your present moment

Developing present moment awareness helps you to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future with hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what you have. When we connect with the world directly through our five senses, rather than being caught up in our thoughts, we let our judgements, complaints, and criticisms come and go, and we fully engage in the present moment. When we are mindful of our own thoughts, we can see them for what they are, and let them go. When we are mindful of our feelings, we can make room for them and let them be. And when we are mindful of our here-and-now experience, we are deeply connected with our inner happy self.

Focus on what’s in your control.

You have little control over your thoughts, emotions, or over other people. You can only control your actions and how you direct your attention. You can break your habit of unhappiness by engaging fully in what you’re doing and taking action in line with your values, no matter how tiny that action is. Through effective action, guided and motivated by your values, you can improve your overall greater well-being and can focus on fulfilment and meaningful life.

To conclude,

We all have different ways of being happy and there isn’t an universal formula. Your life is the result of series of decisions you made that have caused you to arrive where you are. If who you are and what you have is what you want, do more of what you’ve been doing. But if you are not happy with who you are, what you have, and your current conditions, make happiness a conscious choice and work towards making some basic inner changes with the help of above strategies.

To Do

• Think about what unhelpful habits and behaviour of yours that you would want to change.

• Accept and take effective action to improve the problematic situations you encounter.

• Connect with your values; use them for guidance.

• Understand the source of your negative feelings.

• Proactively deal with your problems now rather than avoiding or procrastinating.

• Cultivate a sense of purpose. Keep setting meaningful goals and pursue them vigorously. At the same time, appreciate what you have in your life right now.

• The past doesn’t exist; it’s nothing more than memories in the present. And the future doesn’t exist; it’s nothing more than thoughts and images in the present. The only time you ever have is this moment. So make the most of it. Appreciate it in its fullness.

How self-aware are you?

“Experiencing one’s self in a conscious manner–that is, gaining self-knowledge–is an integral part of learning.” — Joshua M. Freedman

Being self-aware is being conscious of your own identity and how you come across others. Your experiences, abilities, habits, feelings and preferences influence your behaviour. How well you truly know yourself and your effect on others is essential in today’s ‘me’ focused society, where we are seemingly becoming more self-obsessed and self-interested. We give into convenient labels and the opinion of others and tend to put on a social mask to make a definite impression upon others and conceal the true nature of ourselves. Constantly seeking and finding external validation replaces our authenticity with superficiality thereby diminishing our sense of true genuine self.

Many of us face difficulty in defining who we truly are on the deepest level because we don’t have a proper understanding of our thoughts, feelings and are prone to various biases and pre-existing beliefs that affect our ability to have a correct understanding of ourselves. We tend to believe narratives that support our pre-conceptions. Most of our behaviour stems from such biases, preconceptions, limiting belief or thought patterns. Many issues like stress, worry, negative beliefs, and moods can be understood more clearly by becoming more self-aware. The more you know about your existing negatives, the easier it is to improve them or create new positive habits.

Studies have shown that people who understand themselves and how others see them are generally better decision-makers, are more creative and collaborative. Being more self-aware also increases your emotional intelligence by changing your thoughts and interpretations. Even though self-awareness is correlated with many positive attributes like overall success and happiness, it never occurs to most of us to ask if we know ourselves as well as we think we do.

Understanding Self-awareness..

According to the theory of self-awareness proposed by Shelly Duval and Robert Wicklund, “When we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behaviour to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.” Your inner ‘self’ is something that is central to who you are, how you relate to others and to your standards of correctness or values or ideals.

According to Dr.Tasha Eurich, author of the book, Insight, there are two categories of self-awareness, internal and external self-awareness. The ability to monitor your thoughts, feelings, behaviour, strengths, weaknesses, values, passions and aspirations, and how well they fit with your present environment is internal self-awareness. You feel happy or discontent depending on how you measure up to your inner standards. For instance, recognising whether your current job matches your true passion makes you either happy or dissatisfied. The ability to see how others perceive you or how you relate to others is external self-awareness. Knowing how you are perceived and your understanding of others makes you more empathetic and ups your leadership abilities.

“Self-awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our actions, our habits and tendencies.”

⁃ Stephen Covey

Why is it important to be self-aware?

An accurate self-assessment can help you figure out your blind spots and unknown spots. Having self-awareness means that you have a realisation of your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, your motivations, likes and dislikes. The more you understand yourself, the better you will be able to accept some of your weaknesses and can improve those areas. Self-aware people manage stressful situations without giving into the thoughts or emotions that are influenced from external events or situations. It is an important tool in developing leadership skills as it is easier to understand others and how they perceive you. You can increase your work motivation by seeking your true passions and lessening tasks you don’t want to pursue.

Self-awareness is different from self-focused attention which consists of simply thinking about yourself. It is more about paying attention to your inner state with a beginner’s mind. Our mind is skilful in storing information about how we react to certain events. Such information often ends up conditioning our mind to react in a certain way when we encounter similar situation. Being self-aware makes you conscious of such conditioning of mind and preconceptions.

Self-awareness & Productivity

If a particular habit or behaviour or mindset of yours that is self-destructive is holding you back in achieving your full potential, and for whatever reason, you are not aware of it, you end up supporting such behaviour or habit or mindset. But if you develop self-awareness, you can work around such habits and can better evaluate your values, passions and goals which fit and align thereby making yourself more productive and focused. With realistic introspection, you can see where your thoughts, emotions and behaviour are leading you, so you will be able to take control of your actions and can make necessary changes in the direction of your future goals. These changes may include building positive habits, or altering the way you respond to challenges, or to increase your Emotional Intelligence.

Self awareness provides you clear understanding of your skills be it managing, leading, or team-building. It gives you an opportunity to identify any gaps that you might have and areas in which you are effective and where you might need to improve by weighing your choices. You can create better work life balance as you become more aware of your emotions. It can increase your effectiveness in your decision-making and you can be more productive and focus on what you want to achieve.

How to become more self-aware?

Developing self-awareness is like building any other skill, it can be strengthened through practice. Here are some ways to improve your self-awareness.

Gain a different perspective through honest feedback

Gaining a different perspective is important to get a true sense of who you are. Seek honest feedback from people whom you trust or work with or lead. Ask for honest and valid response that is insightful and helpful. Formalised feedback allows you to know your strengths and weaknesses. Be open to receive constructive feedback without feeling attached. Listen to it without justifying, evaluating or defending yourself. This way you can learn to become more self-aware. It is impossible to be completely self-aware without gaining a different perspective on who you are as this will help you shore up some of those unknown traits. You will also be able to differentiate a biased and dishonest feedback from real and genuine one as you learn more about yourself and others.

Practice Self-reflection

Daily self-reflection is important to improve your self-awareness. Develop a regular practice of reflecting on your strengths and core values. Also reflect on your fears, insecurities and limiting beliefs. Try to identify your perceptions. Write down things that you think you are good at or that you need to improve. Write about the thoughts that you come across in stressful situations and how do you react in such situations. Reflect on how people you work with perceive you. Write down your plans, goals and priorities to get a better idea of who you are and what you want to achieve. Self-reflection is a way to connect and pay close attention to your inner world –what you are feeling or saying to yourself.

Practice Mindfulness

Becoming self-aware is about bringing conscious awareness into your everyday living through the process of mindfulness. Paying attention to your inner state in the present moment non-judgmentally allows you to observe your thoughts without suppressing them. By simply being present in the moment teaches you to observe, identify, and respond to underlying emotions and thoughts in a constructive way rather than to recoil and react impulsively. Meditative mindfulness helps you in making choices that add up to help you build the life you want. Be mindful and accept everything that arises in your inner awareness to experience your unchanging inner self. You can practice regular meditation through mindful daily activities like while communicating, eating, walking or listening.

Ask ‘What’ instead of ‘Why’

Most self-aware people are those whose introspective thinking is based on ‘what’ rather than ‘why’. Studies have shown that asking yourself ‘why’ when introspecting can cause you to ruminate in negative feelings. Self-evaluation through ‘why’ could leave you feeling more depressed, anxious and unproductive. For instance, when you think of a situation that made you feel bad, if you ask yourself ‘“why do I feel bad?” makes you feel self-depreciated. Instead asking yourself ‘’what are the situations that are making me feel bad?’ can help you recognise the factors outside your control that are making you experience that particular emotion and you can come up with necessary changes. When it comes to developing self-awareness, asking ‘what’ questions are more productive to help you focus on your future goals and to come up with solutions.

Acknowledge and own your personal narrative

Everyone has a personal narrative that shapes our personality and gives a direction to our purpose. Our narratives help us discover our strengths, our experiences and guide us towards our future goals. Your personal narrative includes your opinions, reactions, experiences, emotions, your vulnerability and your strengths. It is important to understand your narrative to frame your life experiences. Focus on your life and highlight the times you felt something deeply – happiness, anger, excitement, grief, anxiety or fear. The emotions you experience act as your guide to repeat the positive times and avert the negative ones. Your personal stories not just help give a shape to your purpose, but also gives you the strength and guidance for the future. How do you frame your challenges and setbacks? What are the values you stand by? Which people and events have had the greatest impact in shaping the person you have become? Knowing your personal narrative and owning it can help you gain more self-awareness.

Finally, Reframe your limiting beliefs

Self-awareness is not about simply thinking about yourself. It means that you shouldn’t ignore the assumptions you hold about yourself or your thoughts, habits, behaviour or beliefs that are holding you back. If you have some negative or limiting beliefs about yourself, spend time to think about how these limiting thoughts made you feel about completing your goals or objectives. Did such beliefs caused a hindrance in the past? Reframe such thoughts to preferred positives to try in similar situations in the future.

To conclude,

How well do you know yourself? How deeply do you understand your strengths, motivations or flaws? What do you need to improve? Are you emotionally intelligent?What are you doing that is in alignment with your values? What thoughts are holding you back? What is your narrative identify?

Reflecting on such questions and accepting your thoughts and feelings unconditionally and without judging yourself can help you bring awareness in to your daily tasks to achieve your goals. Like any other skill, developing self-awareness takes time and also at times it can be quite challenging to achieve an honest self-assessment, but by adopting a mindful approach without harsh self-judgment and building the above mentioned practices into your daily activities can help you become more self-aware.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/04/10/enhance-your-emotional-quotient/

https://sscascades.org/2018/08/10/harness-the-power-of-what-is/

https://sscascades.org/2019/02/24/how-to-build-new-empowering-beliefs/

 

How to build lasting Motivation

 

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”. – Francis of Assisi

Whenever we try to make changes in our life, or include a new habit, or change unhelpful habits, or want to learn a new skill, or start a certain project, we need a lot of motivation. Sometimes it is easy to keep yourself motivated, other times, it is nearly impossible to figure out how to motivate yourself and you either end up procrastinating, or deferring or giving up on your new habits or behaviour. It is also tough to stay motivated all the time. There are bound to be days when you don’t feel like working towards your personal and professional goals and there will be off days where your energy and enthusiasm are in downward spiral. Often our motivation and enthusiasm tends to be very high after starting something new, but after a while, it fades away. As a result, we fail to maintain that level of enthusiasm through the action phase and we stop doing what we started to do. When you lack motivation, your great ideas almost seem impossible and impractical.

When we are motivated, it becomes easier to bear the inconvenience of action than the discomfort of remaining same and we come up with inspiring ideas. Motivation is important to become successful in your pursuit of goal-striving. You may want to set the best goals and establish right rewards to motivate yourself or your team or those around you. There are plenty of ways to get motivated. But certain permanent habit changes or to attain certain of your goals or objectives requires consistency. To achieve this, you need to stay motivated for long periods of time.

So, what can you do to be motivated on a consistent basis? To build lasting motivation, it is important that we understand what motivation really is, what factors guide and direct our motivation and types of motivation.

Understanding Motivation ..

Motivation is the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. It makes you to act on your plans be it gaining a skill or working towards your fitness goals or work goals.

Motivation indicates motives or whys of our behaviour like our needs or wants or desires that make us do what we do. It is an inner force that pushes you to do and accomplish things, but by simply having the desire to accomplish something is not good enough to motivate yourself. It also involves initiation of behaviour, ability to persist through obstacles and focus to pursue the goal or desire.

Many factors lead to motivation that can activate, direct and help you in sustaining your goal-oriented behaviour. It is important to understand these factors behind motivation. Sometimes, our behaviour is motivated by certain basic human instincts like anger, survival, safety, fear, and love. Some are motivated to do things because of external rewards like money, fame, and compliments or for future expectations. But many of our behaviours are motivated to fulfil our biological needs and drives like need to eat, drink and sleep. According to Dr. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. our most basic needs must be met before we become motivated to achieve higher level needs. First we are motivated to fulfil basic physiological needs like food and shelter, then the safety needs, then those of belongingness & love needs, and then esteem needs like feeling of accomplishment. Once these needs have been met. The primary motivator becomes the self-actualisation or achieving one’s full potential.

To become motivated on a daily basis, you must be able to identify the factors that influence motivation and any thoughts that are moving you away from it.”

Types of Motivation

When it comes to motivating yourself for health or fitness or career goals being motivated ‘intrinsically’ or ‘extrinsic’ can make all the difference. If you are intrinsically motivated, you do something because you find it inherently satisfying. May be you take up to a sport because you enjoy the challenge, or eat healthy food because you prefer the taste. Intrinsic motivation is more powerful as it involves emphasising on your values, and processes for achieving goals that are relevant to your life in the present and not based on some distant future rewards. But the downside is that there is not always an obvious way to create intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation takes the form of a reward or punishment. Some intentionally pursue certain actions in order to gain rewards. External rewards like compliments or fame or winning can get you started but it only lasts as long as there is an external reward and there are chances that it might decrease your intrinsic motivation. Researchers have found that when people are given external rewards for activities that they already find intrinsically motivating, they became less interested in participating in those activities in the future. Sometimes there can be extrinsic-intrinsic motivational factors like for instance, from desire to help others or support a cause you care about, you would want to create something that will benefit others.

Use of external rewards to motivate desired behaviours can be useful in some cases as they can be easily created to get you started, but intrinsic factors like desire for achieving and willingness to put in your effort can be even more important to build lasting motivation. Your intrinsic motivation can be improved by making your activities sufficiently challenging and interesting.

Short-term vs long-term motivation

Maintaining motivation over the long run is difficult as your drive to achieve your objectives is constantly obstructed by negative thoughts and your anxiety about the future. Some people seem to have all the motivation in the world, while others in spite of having all the goals, remain unmotivated and stuck. Every one faces self-doubt. But what separates high achievers and highly successful is their ability to keep themselves motivated to go after their goals and aspirations. Sometimes we get motivated after reading an inspirational book or when we listen or watch a motivational video, but it doesn’t last long as learning and hearing about others’ success can only motivate you for short-term. Whereas by gaining self-awareness, creating your own ideas and applying them to achieve your goals can result in long-term passion and momentum that lasts long.

You have all these goals you would desperately want to achieve and feel as though you have so much potential, yet there are times when you feel unmotivated. There are some valid reasons for lacking motivation. May be it is your emotional reasoning, or negative thoughts and beliefs, or fear of failure, lack of focus or confidence that is making you demotivated. The key is to understand these reasons to help you become aware of how you got yourself into this demotivated state.

So, how to stay motivated in the long-term?

Without enough motivation, you will fall back to indulging in unhelpful and limiting habits that will only keep you stuck and unmotivated. With the right kind of motivation, you will always find reasons to keep going no matter what obstacles you might face. There isn’t a single method that fits all when it comes to motivation. But if you decide to take the initiative to make necessary changes in your pursuit of achieving your personal or professional goals, you can build right momentum to stay motivated. Here are some strategies to help you build lasting motivation.

Find your motivation

Set achievable goals to work on and spend time to think why these goals are important to you. Identify your motivations for pursuing these goals, either motivations you already have that is intrinsic or sources of extrinsic motivation you could create for yourself. Write down both the goal and the motivation. Always build your habits and set personal standards that supports your desired goals and objectives. If your motivation is extrinsic, don’t overrely on extrinsic rewards. Choose a reward or punishment that will reinforce your intrinsic motivation and try them only during initial learning period or when you have no intrinsic interest in the activity and phase out once you develop interest.

Build routines

The secret of getting ahead is getting started” – Mark Twain

By building routines, you can follow through your work or goals regardless of your motivation levels. Routine building makes your activity repeatable and easy to do. It gets you started and reduces the chance that you skip it and can pull you into the right frame of mind . Your routine should get you moving towards your goals. When your routine gets tied to your goals, by simply doing the routine, you enter motivated state to accomplish your objectives. When you lack motivation, it is harder to decide what you should do next, and you often give up on the task or activity. However, by building routine, you can just follow the pattern, show up and build the momentum to do the work and can stay motivated.

Find your Flow

In order to build lasting motivation, it is important to find your flow. Flow is a state of being “in the zone” where you are completely involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; To find your flow, it is necessary that the challenges or tasks you face are just manageable. Break away from boring old routines and find ways to make them challenging that match your current abilities. By working on tasks of optimal difficulty and adding incremental challenges, you will not only be motivated but also improve your skills and move closer to achieving your goals.

Challenge your Limiting Beliefs

People with self-sabotaging beliefs are often unmotivated and simply lack interest. If you have set of limiting beliefs that are in conflict with your goals, or new ideas, or new beliefs, then you will likely to sabotage your enthusiasm and motivation. This is because when you face situations where your pre-existing belief system gets so strongly threatened, you experience negative emotions making you demotivated. When you have negative beliefs – ask yourself – what’s the evidence for and against your belief? If it is demotivating, replace it with new belief that strengthens your desire to achieve your goals. Being open to new ideas and alternative perspectives increase your motivation and make you willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish your goal.

There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own thinking.” – Brian Tracy

Improve your Psy-cap

Your psy-cap is the psychological capital which is a combination of your self-efficacy,(your ability to take on and devote the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks) hope,(which increases your desire to persevere) resilience, (your ability to face problems and adversity) and optimism (ability to believe that you will succeed). By improving your psy-cap, you can feel accomplished, appreciated, motivated and empowered in your pursuit of achieving purpose oriented goals. This way you are more likely to stick with your routine or habits or behaviour. Surround yourself with positive people who support your goals and focus on your strengths to rejuvenate your motivation

Focus on the efforts not on outcome

Focusing on the outcomes or only on your talents can make you person of fixed mindset or view. This decreases your motivation and it is more likely that you might easily get unmotivated at the instance of a failure, or mistake or when you encounter a difficulty. Instead of focusing on the outcome and imagining your success, try to visualise the effort that goes into making your goals into a reality. Figure out what type of challenges you might encounter. This way you can deal with them easily and can come up with strategies to overcome those challenges. By assessing your efforts, you can build lasting motivation and can improve on your future actions.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goal.” – Zig Ziglar

Finally,

Recharge your willpower

What most people try to do with willpower is that they keep exerting it forever thinking that it never gets depleted. You can only rely on will power to get yourself motivated in short bursts. Over-reliance on will power by convincing yourself that you need to try harder only leads to an endless cycle of over-exertion and failure. Avoid situations where your willpower is used continuously without rest. Indulge yourself in activities that you find relaxing and refreshing that can restore your willpower.

To conclude,

• Set clear goals that affirm your values. make you happier, healthier and feel better.

• Be aware of what committing to your goals will ultimately achieve, beyond the goal itself.

• Build routines to get you started that take you closer to your end goal.

• Strive for higher needs like passion and creativity.

• Focus on intrinsic goals like personal growth and well-being as opposed to external motivators like money and status.

• Make your tasks challenging enough to find your flow.

Strong, lasting motivation is often the biggest difference between your success and failure. When it comes to achieving your important goals, it’s very common to lose your motivation a little way down the line. When you aren’t feeling motivated, remind yourself why you are doing what you do and apply the above strategies to build lasting motivation.

 

 

Overcome your habit of procrastination

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
-Abraham Lincoln

We all procrastinate and put off doing important tasks by postponing our work to do tomorrow or later and this tomorrow never comes and before we know it, time goes by without any progress made on the set goals. “Procrastination is the thief of time” and affects your productivity. The habit of putting off important tasks can rob you of your hours of achievement and success. By delaying your important tasks because they take time or difficult to do, you in fact delay your dreams or goals. When you neglect your work, or delay a task given to you, chances are that you will continue to delay it unless you make some changes in your thinking or habits.

Procrastination is a chronic cycle. Slacking, hiding from work, doing unimportant tasks, putting off and then the loop repeats. You cannot find a solution to your procrastinating habit unless you realize that you are procrastinating. The solution lies in being aware of the reasons behind your procrastinating habit.

What happens when you Procrastinate?

We all have tendency to procrastinate because our minds naturally like to be in a relaxed state. Sometimes we have trouble focusing and we put off a difficult task for as long as possible. But when you finally get around to doing the task, you have tough time finding ways to push past your lack of momentum to get the task done.

Some people feel that doing things at the last minute creates urgency, which pushes them to act. They feel that this will help them to be more efficient without realizing that this wastes their precious time that could be otherwise used productively. It creates unneeded anxiety as deciding to put off the task for later only makes you think about it from time to time causing unnecessary worry. The continuous avoidance forms a distorted image of how intimidating the task is in your mind, compare to what it really is creating an exaggerated amount of fear of the task you are supposed to do.

By leaving little time for your important tasks, the final output will be always short of what you are really capable of as you’ve insufficient time to deliver quality results. When you delay or defer your important tasks to the later time, it snowballs into a huge impact on your productivity and well-being. Everything you do in a day, from the little decisions you make to the amount of time you allot to act on your goals, plays a big role in what you achieve. Delaying something by a day or a week may seem inconsequential as you experience short-term relief from not having to deal with immediately, but makes a big difference in the long run.

What is Procrastination?

The word Procrastination comes from the Latin word procrastinatus, which means “to put off till tomorrow, defer, delay.” It is a natural human tendency to avoid important tasks because either they are unpleasant, stressful, or difficult. We tend to replace them with less important tasks that are either easy, less stressful or because you find them interesting. It is a common belief that people with poor time management skills often procrastinate, but this may not be the only reason. Research shows that people who are poor in their emotional or stress management skills often resort to procrastination. This is mainly due to their inability to cope with their moods, or negative emotions like fear or self-doubt which makes them negative, uncertain, or unmotivated towards their tasks.

What causes Procrastination?

Procrastination is a kind of avoidance and at times and it can become a frustrating habit to keep delaying important tasks without knowing how to stop. When working towards overcoming your procrastinating habit, it is important to address on the primary root causes of the behavior rather than the habit itself. By truly understanding what causes you to procrastinate, you can uncover the real reasons behind it. We tend to procrastinate for multiple reasons and they differ from person to person. Here are Some common root causes.

  • Lack of discipline or laziness or giving into your habitual urges to do something easier or more comfortable.
  • Unwillingness to do hard tasks. Our minds focus on the hard parts of tasks that we are procrastinating on. We tend to label them as difficult, scary, time-consuming, and so on without being fully aware of the tasks.
  • Procrastination is most of the times is about fear. Fear of failure, fear of uncertainty, fear of rejection, or fear of doing something in a less perfect manner or fear of being incapable. Once you are aware of your fears, you can see that they are misconceived beliefs and can immediately address them.
  • Lack of motivation can fuel your procrastination habit. If your are not motivated, either intrinsically or extrinsically, you lack the desire to act on your task. Having an ideal vision that inspires you from within can motivate you intrinsically and you could create sources of extrinsic motivation to get overcome your procrastination habit.
  • Not able to prioritizing your tasks. When there are too many things to be completed, in a conflict of what is more important and which task should be tackled first makes you procrastinate on important tasks. It is hard to know which tasks are important if you are not organised. By prioritizing, you can focus on what you need to and make time for thereby you can avoid getting caught up in less important tasks.
  • Fear of missing out on something or need to be up-to-date on everything causes distractions and creates habitual urges to go to something easier and more comfortable spiraling you into procrastination.
  • People who experience anxiety or lack of confidence in their ability to complete a task procrastinate in order to avoid failure in short-term. Procrastination is used as a coping strategy when stressed or overwhelmed or when we become anxious.

When you become aware of the root causes to your habit of procratination, you can work towards ocercoming it.

How to overcome Procrastination

You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.

— Benjamin Franklin

Long-term procrastination is often associated with stress, difficulty with completing your daily tasks, reduced mental health, and lower levels of well-being. Putting off your important responsibilities leads to self-defeating behavior and underperformance affecting you personally and professionally. Overcoming your procrastinating habit is necessary for your productivity, emotional-wellbeing and time-management. Here are some strategies to overcome your procrastination.

Know your triggers.

Some of the common triggers for putting things off are confusion, boredom, frustrating, difficulty, unstructured, not intrinsically motivating, lacks meaning or purpose.  When these triggers are set off, trying to resist the urges to procratinate may help you deal with them.

When you are getting started on a task and feel an urge to do something else, then try to curb your distraction by thinking differently.  Finding an interesting way of doing a boring task can help you start a task you have been procrastinating.

Disabling digital distractions ahead of time gives you no choice but to work on what is important.

Reminding yourself of the purpose and meaning of the task can help you stay motivated. If there is mood issue or health concern that is contributing to procrastination, address the underlying condition to reduce your tendency to procrastinate. By identifying the triggers, you can replace self-defeating thoughts with more productive thoughts to overcome your habit of procrastination.

Structure your to-do lists

The other strategy to deal with procrastination is to structure your to-do lists. We often procrastinate when there are too many things to be completed, and we cannot prioritize. Writing your top “to-do’s” for the day can bring structure to your tasks and can keep you stay on track with your tasks.

Many people try to fill their lists with too many things and go haywire trying to complete all the tasks together and in the bargain, they will end up doing less important ones and end up procrastinating on the important tasks. Keeping your lists manageable, measurbale and meaningful can help you complete your tasks without putting them off for later.

Follow “one-three-five-rule” when putting together your daily list of things to accomplish. This means set nine daily tasks for yourself which should have one big goal to tackle, three medium tasks and five small tasks. This way you can keep your tasks manageble and you can prioritize your tasks to the things that matter most and also keeps you from feeling cluttered with an endless list of things to-do. One of the other ways to structure your lists is by keeping a “won’t-do” list. Write a checklist of things you plan to do and those you won’t do, but plan to do in the future. As you finish your “to-do” tasks, you can move onto “won’t-do” tasks.

Follow “Two-minute-rule”

To avoid procrastination on routine tasks that still have to be done, use the two-minute rule. Following this rule, you can avoid tons of unimportant things and you can focus on your priorities. If a task takes just 2 minutes of your time, do it right away. Don’t add it to your to-do list and don’t postpone it for later.  There are tons of trivial tasks that take less than 2 minutes that you need to do every day. If it takes more than 2 minutes, start it and continue doing it to for at least 2 minutes. This way you will set a momentum for your bigger tasks.

Overcome yes but thinking

When you procrastinate, check to see if your thoughts include yes but thinking. ‘yes’ signals that you accept that task is important, and ‘but’ signals that you intend to put it off for some reason or the other. For instance, thoughts like yes, ‘but now is not the time to work on this’ or ‘but I am under stress’ or ‘but I am not keen’ or “but i am not ready.’

Yes but thinking may give you a short-term relief, but you end up getting caught in this thought trap. When you procrastinate, check to see if your thoughts include yes but thoughts and write down what buts you tell yourself to procrastinate working towards your goals.  Maybe you are momentarily anxious about doing that task. Ask yourself “What is the very worst thing that could happen if I did it today?” Vividly picture how free you will feel once the task is completed. Free from anxiety.

When doing things which you are not so keen on doing, combine things you want to do with the things you should do with “temptation building”, that is, finding tasks you dread and pairing them with something you like. Combining two different but complementary activities increases the probability of doing things that you are not keen and thereby helping you to get used to a positive habit.

Accept Imperfections

Most of us procrastinate in wanting to do our tasks perfectly. Perfection needs time and we often delay our tasks in search of that required time to perfect them. Perfecting things can be so intimidating that you dont even want to get started, even if you do you might lack your momentum to carry on with the task later. We often procrastinate to avoid having to deal with difficult tasks and having to make tough decisions.

Instead of always aiming for perfection, you can start working on your difficult tasks by just getting started. You may not come up with a perfect idea immediately, but it is easier to keep going with a task after you have overcome the initial jump of starting it in the first place.

Getting started on something forces you to work and you will find less triggers than you originally anticipated. By just starting on a task that has been put off, you can continue to process it and this makes you more likely to work later on and eventually you will be able to come up with better ways of perfecting the task.

Finally, Embrace your procrastinating nature

Come to accept that no matter how much you want to avoid it, there will always be times when you defer your tasks for later. We are natural procrastinators and no matter how much you want to avoid it, it is just our nature that whenever there is something that need to be done, our instincts are to start later or to put it off until tomorrow. you cannot overcome your habit of procrastination unless you know that you are procrastinating. Become self aware and accept it and find ways to overcome it.

Is there something you are procrastinating on in your life? your goals? work? health? Find small ways to to start on a task that’s been put off. This can reduce your chances of procrastinating on it in future. Develop an ability to organize your daily tasks and approach them in a desciplined way to achieve your time-bound goals. Have a strong desire that can act as a self-motivator to help you overcome procrastination.

To-Do:

Next time, when you find yourself procrastinating, Take five minutes to identify what is triggering you to put off your important task.  Take coreective measures to curb your urge to delay the task for later. Action eliminates anxiety. If getting started is difficult, set a designated time slot to do the task. Don’t worry perfecting the task, what counts is effort and not the result.  Set meaningful, measurable and manageable goals and follow the above strategies to overcome procrastination in order to achieve them. Do important tasks now before they become urgent.

“The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.” 

– Norman Vincent Peale

 

Related links

https://sscascades.org/2019/01/15/are-you-distracted-by-busyness/

https://sscascades.org/2018/12/02/embrace-productive-discomfort/

 

 

 

Are you distracted by ‘busyness’?

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants, the question is, what are we busy about?” —Henry David Thoreau

Time is the greatest opportunity in our life among all. Those who utilise it well are the successful ones. Almost everyone these days have too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done. Most of us do lot of things which make you seem busy in a public manner like answering mails at all hours, or scheduling and attending meetings constantly, or instant messaging when someone poses a new question and so on. For many, there’s a comfort in such artificial ‘busyness’ of fast e-mail messaging and social media posturing, while actual work demands that you leave much of that behind. In such cases, your ‘busyness’ becomes proxy to your efforts in doing productive work. Such unproductive busyness leaves you discontent as there are always certain aspects that could be done better thereby forcing you to confront the possibility that your best is not that good.

Being ‘busy’ is not same thing as being ‘productive’

We find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. While many might be logging in long hours at work, or at home, but the same might not always end up in doing quality work. Because of this we often feel that we spending a lot of time on something, but don’t feel like been productive enough. One main reason for this could be the most important tasks are usually a bit more difficult and require more of our attention, time and focus. But most of the time, we get so caught up in the day-to-day distractions or ‘busyness’ of life and give either more or less attention to things than they deserve and lose the sense of being in control. We often cite the reason of being busy for postponing some of our important tasks. This habit of putting off important tasks on the back burner can rob you of your hours of achievement and success.

Think about the last time you felt highly productive. In productive state, you remain highly focused on what you are doing and make a noticeable progress towards a meaningful outcome. Whereas with ‘busyness’, you start to feel out of control, unfocused, confused and stressed out. The inability to manage your time properly leads to additional stress related issues and burnouts very early on. In the absence of clear goals, the visible busyness becomes self-preserving, and developing a belief that if a behaviour relates to being busy, then it’s good-regardless of its impact on our ability to produce valuable things. All of the social, digital, and societal trends only add to one’s busyness and do not directly add to the value of quality work one produces. With unmindful busyness,

• You waste time on doing unimportant tasks that could be used productively.

• It creates unnecessary anxiety as you put off the important tasks to later.

• It impedes your clarity and focus.

• By leaving little time for the important task, the final output is usually short of what you are really capable of.

• You cannot adopt to changing situations as busyness impacts your perspective of what’s really going on.

• You cannot plan on sticking to your deadlines for your projects.

• Leads to flawed thinking and distracted behaviours.

“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.” –John C.Maxwell

How to overcome ‘busyness’ to become more productive

But if you’re willing to sidestep these comforts and fears, and instead deploy your attention to its fullest capacity to things that matter, then you’ll discover that you can create a life rich with productivity and meaning. To overcome ‘busyness’, one has to manage his/her time effectively to work on priorities. Making optimal use of time helps you in curbing the stress and burnouts. If you spend significant amount of time towards professional aspirations and goals, learning how to use that time optimally will help you achieve positive outcomes.

Here are certain strategies to overcome your busyness and become more productive.

Put first things first

Because of the busyness, we always have a reason to put off the important things. What fills up our time is a result of what we let into our days. When you don’t choose important things, your days automatically get filled with not so important ones. Prioritising helps you in making right choices. In order to rise above ‘busyness’, you have to know what your purpose is and should be able to define your goals. Before doing something, consider asking yourself

whether the tasks you are working on are important for your end goals. Unless you consciously take time out for your priorities, you will not be able to accomplish goals that are important to you. Start your day with a “To do list” and prioritise the vital few after picking them from the trivial many.

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. — Saint Francis of Assisi

Avoid multitasking

We find that more we do, the more we add up to our to-do-task list and end up in multitasking. Multitasking has become a part of life for many of us where we believe that this is a way to be more productive. Science reveals that our brains actually can’t handle doing more than one thing at a time. With multitasking, your attention remains divided as there will be a residue of your attention when you switch from one task to another. This leads to poor performance. Whereas by working on a single hard task for a long time without switching, you can overcome non-productive busyness and can also maximise your performance.

Reduce your distractions

Many are permanently tethered to their work day in and day out, dealing with trends like answering emails at all hours, instant messaging, and active presence on social media. Of course certain mediums offer benefits to your social life, but none are important enough to what really matters to you. Always trying to catchup can claim your attention and time adding to only to your ‘busyness’ and not in producing work of real value. Learn to reduce your reactiveness to these distractions. Identifying factors that side track and deter you from achieving the task at hand. Consider blocking or create blackout periods over a day to free up your time. Try and fill up your free time with something of more quality and meaningful.

Delegate

Many times we get drowned in the details instead if focusing on micro and macro. Details are important, but only those that will affect your end goal. You only have a limited amount of time a day. The end goal is to accomplish your task efficiently by way of optimal use of your time. If a particular task is taking too much of your time and it’s not the most important part of your work, delegating it to right people can help you overcome your ‘busyness’. Once you do this, ensure you trust the person and provide them enough room to get the job done. Using the right people, tools, and resources to is important in doing so.

Focus on being effective

Improve your overall quality, rather than trying to tick everything off your to-do list. It is important to understand when to say no by asking whether are these tasks necessary. If you say yes to everything, you find your schedules with things that keep you busy but don’t make you productive. Once you have set out to achieve your important tasks, ensure you say no to disallow things that hamper your productivity. Saying yes to the wrong things, even if they are small will eventually take up your time later on and add to your busyness’. Saying no to unimportant things will protect your time so that you can use it for the things that matter.

“If you want more time, freedom, and energy, start saying no.”

Schedule your day

Many of us spend much of our day on autopilot—not giving much thought to what we’re doing with our time. Because of this, it’s difficult to prevent the trivial from creeping into every corner of our schedule. But by scheduling your day, you can determine how many hours you’re spending in doing quality work.

Scheduling your tasks for the day helps you plan your work goals and removes the risk of losing out on important tasks. Doing this at the beginning of the day can get you more organised. If your schedule is disrupted, you should at the next available moment, create a revised schedule for the time that remains in your day. This will give you a careful gauge in your efforts and you can discover pockets of free time that go wasted.

Relax & Unwind

Unproductive ‘busyness’ often leaves you exhausted, bad tempered and stressed. You fail to gather momentum for next days’s work unless you recharge yourself. Once you are out of your working hours, inculcate unwinding yourself. The impact of unwinding is often underestimated and we fail to recognise that our minds need a downtime as well. Our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax says David Allen in his book “Deep Work”. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts organised can we achieve effective results and unleash our maximum potential. Mindfulness practice is a perfect antidote for ‘busyness.’ Taking some time to practice being in the moment helps you connect with your inner self and reduces feelings of tiredness and stress thereby creating space for you to become creative and productive.

Apply outcome thinking

You can’t really decide the right action until you know the outcome you’re after, and if your outcome is disconnected from reality if you are not clear about what you need to do to make it happen. Setting Goals or desired outcomes creates a cause-and-effect link in your mind about when certain goal-relevant actions will be taken. When you make plans ahead of time and decide what actions will be carried out, you can engage in doing productive work instead of being bogged down by unimportant tasks. Setting goals provides sufficient direction to move you toward your outcome rather than wasting your time in unproductive ‘busyness.’

Adopt next-action approach

Most of the times too many discussions in workplaces end with only a vague sense that people know what they are going to do. But without a clear decision that there is a next action, not much is accomplished. Forcing the decision about the next action prevents those issues that are important from slipping away thereby providing more clarity. Walking away from discussions with clarity of outcome makes each member involved in your discussions more responsible about the specific job assigned to them. This also reduces anxiety of undecided actions and increases your productivity.

Finally, Be willing to change your unproductive busy habits to do something more meaningful and productive work.

when you take up tasks, asking yourself,

“What does this mean to me” Or “ what’s the desired outcome?” “What are the pros and cons?” lets you identify things that aren’t necessary. This way you can align yourself to be productive instead of engaging yourself with everything that comes your way.

Conclusion

Are the tasks you are busy with right now add to your life’s purpose? Or are you being the victim of distractions and social trends? or can you find better and organised ways to do your tasks?

If you want to focus without distraction, achieve more in less time and be better at what you do, apply the above mentioned strategies. Getting past the unproductive busyness of your life not only helps you to become more productive but also provides a sense of fulfilment and gives your mind something to do meaningful.

Fine tune your resolutions

“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.”

Earl Nightingale,

This time of the year is great time to reflect on the past and to look forward for the coming year – to understand the decisions you’ve made in the past have brought you to where you are now and to determine what kind of improvements you want to make in your life for the future. This means making resolutions to change those habits or circumstances that you’ve been unhappy with or to complete the unfulfilled resolutions that you set for this year or in the past or to set some new goals for the coming days.

Do you need to make some resolutions in the first place?

Many of us don’t believe in setting new year resolutions and want to work on our long-term goals throughout the year. In spite of that, there is no harm in setting some resolutions that will not only improve your potential in achieving your long-term goals, but also help you improve your overall productivity. Sometimes we think there is no use in making new year resolutions as we often fail to stick with them. But rather than becoming discouraged and giving up, setting small and achievable milestones can always be helpful and beneficial in achieving your bigger goals.

It is always important to set some goals and make some resolutions that are most meaningful to you, something you really want to change, and something you’re willing to work for and are passionate about. Here are some reasons why you should always set some for yourself.

• Resolutions strengthen your willpower.

• They help you to coordinate your efforts and increase your optimism. For example, when you start a diet, you adopt new rules for eating healthy. By following set rules, you become more positive about your abilities.

• They improve your resolve to overcome your temptations and help you in achieving your goals.

• They strengthen your belief in yourself as you attain certain of your resolutions.

Why do your resolutions fail ?

Most often, we make resolutions relating to certain aspects of our lives we want to improve upon like for instance, to change unhealthy lifestyle, or quitting a bad habit, or to find happiness, or to improve career prospects and so on so forth. Even though we all desire to make changes, many of us fail to keep with those resolutions for long-term. We all start off with lot of enthusiasm, but as the momentum dies down, We fail to stop the resistance from sabotaging our resolve to change.

There are many reasons as to why you fail to keep those resolutions, it may may be due to setting some unrealistic ones or may be they might have failed because, you didn’t really want to make them happen. Sometimes you come up against circumstances that make it especially tempting to break the resolutions. You start making exceptions or giving into your temptations and you end up breaking your resolutions. Resolutions fail when we start to allow too many exceptions.

The majority of us make resolutions related to something we think we should do, but unless we are willing to stick to them and willing to put the time and effort into making them happen – it won’t happen. It will be almost impossible to make your resolutions a reality if you don’t fine tune them or have a clear plan in place to achieve them.

What if you fine tuned your resolutions?

Sometimes you might set new resolutions and follow them and eventually achieve your goals and sometimes your resolutions may not get you all the way to your end goals. When resolutions don’t materialise, it adds to the sense of ‘can’t’ and lowers your self esteem. You might begin to think that you are stuck with old undesirable habits no matter how hard you try. To improve your self esteem and to make your resolutions achievable, you need to fine tune and redefine them.

Your desire to start fresh or step over the old habits and into the new ones requires your commitment to make a positive change. However if you set unrealistic ones or if you want to achieve too much too soon, they will be difficult to achieve. So comes the need for reframing or fine tuning your resolutions. Before you do this, evaluate your resolutions based on following and make your resolutions as specific as possible.

• Are you being your best self in striving for these goals?

• Is the goal you set for yourself is realistic ?

• Will this increase your level of stress?

• Are you working on what’s important or are you distracted?

• Is it too much too soon?

• Is your resolution achievable?

  • Do you have enough resources like time and money necessary to achieve your resolution?

Evaluating your resolutions helps you determine whether you are moving towards your goals. When you develop awareness of how your goals are making you feel, you can begin a new approach, by redefining and fine tuning them. Instead of being negative or getting discouraged or overwhelmed by them, take time to evaluate in an honest way and plan on action in incorporating them in your daily schedule. Here are some strategies to fine tune your resolutions.

Focus one at a time

Setting too many resolutions can lead to exhaustion in trying to keep up with them and you tend to lose focus. To do ‘all the things’, you will find yourself doing none of it. It is better to focus on few good habits, instead of trying to start many and never getting the hang of when the end of the year comes around. List all the possible goals and choose one or more that mean the most to you. Focus on one and add new ones only after achieving the first.

Prioritise

You will never have time for your resolutions if you wait until you are free. Make time for them. What you do have, however are activities that you need to complete by the end of the year, or within the chosen time frame. In order to manage those activities and ensure that they get completed within the desired time frame, you need to prioritise. Focus on those that are needed and say ‘no’ to things that are not in line with your bigger life goals.

Keep your resolutions realistic

Make your resolutions sustainable and achievable by making small changes rather than unsustainable drastic changes. Make subtle changes which increase your chances of success. Fine tune your goals to be clear and measurable. Create SMART goals -specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Treat yourself with enough compassion by not putting too much pressure on yourself or stressing yourself up to achieve them.

Develop patience

Overcoming your temptations and resistance during incorporating certain changes into your schedule takes time and needs your patience. Your resolution to change a bad habit or setting a new habit takes time. Just because it takes time, you need not fall of the wagon and give up on yourself or your resolutions year after year. Have enough patience to give yourself time to get better at the changes you wanted to make.

Be consistent

Consistency is important when it comes to keeping up with your resolutions. When you do something every day, and consistently, it becomes a part of your routine. Consistent actions will propel you towards your goal. Even choosing a small task will motivate you to do more. Prevent too many exceptions and allowing yourself to come up with excuses. Keep up with your resolutions everyday until they become a habit.

Reevaluate your progress

If your goals are the same as they have always been, something clearly isn’t working. You may need to make changes or adjustments to fulfil certain goals you have set for yourself. Look for any underlying issues that could be the reason. Adjust your processes and reevaluate your actions. You can achieve much more by finding the efficient way to reach your goal.

Make yourself accountable

Realise that at the end of the day, you are the only one dealing with the consequences of your actions. Keep yourself accountable. If your resolutions don’t reflect your beliefs or values, then you’ll have difficulty in achieving them. Self-discipline and ask yourself why it’s important to you. While making resolutions, consider not to make too many exceptions and hold yourself accountable.

Finally, be clear about what your resolutions are, why you are making them, and what the result will be when you are successful. This way, you can create an action plan, stay motivated and achieve your goals and fine tune them.

Conclusion

Take a moment to reflect upon what kind of resolutions you want to make for the coming year. Apply the above strategies to evaluate your resolutions and fine tune them to make them realistic and achievable. Once you make your resolutions, commit to whatever you have planned, do them and be consistent in your efforts. Don’t force it if its really not working out in the long run. Give yourself an option to exit if its not working out or if it is no longer in line with your vision, but otherwise hold yourself to your resolutions and achieve your goals.

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.“

Abraham Lincoln,