How to Permanently Stop Procrastinating, Even if You’ve Tried Everything!
Are you waiting for the perfect moment to make a change in your life? I'll start a diet in the fall, I'll start exercising January 1st, I'll start writing a book when I have free time, I'll quit (insert vice) after my birthday. The list is endless. We all have countless desires that sit on dusty shelves. What would you be capable of if you could stop procrastinating?
We have expectations of perfection that keep us from ever starting. Or maybe we've tried dieting before and failed miserably. Maybe we put off writing a book, not because we lack the time but because we fear it won't be any good. Or the crushing weight of thinking how do I even start? We rationalize that it will be easier if we wait. Why start exercising now? The fall is perfect, there's less going on and I can really dedicate myself. It's hilarious that we still tell ourselves this story and somehow believe this time around it will be different.
It's why I'm leery to take time off from writing. I lose the rhythm and flow of having a routine. It takes all this extra effort to get my ass in the seat. I'll walk the dog, clean the dishes, listen to a podcast, put it off till the evening or wait till tomorrow when I feel inspired. The moment inspiration becomes the initial stepping stone to cross the river, you've all but guaranteed a fall into the frigid waters that paralyze forward momentum.
The change you want to make doesn't involve a single burst of willpower. It's a heroes battle against the greatest villain of human potential. Steven Pressfield in The War of Art calls the villain out by name. Capital "R" Resistance. He describes it as a dark force that uses procrastination and all kinds of other things to get us to stop what we know deep down we should be doing.
At the very beginning of the book, Steve wrote: "Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."
Right now you're thinking there's a secret to changing your life. We all like to think this. I'll research the shit out of anything before I leap. I want to know everything before I make a decision. I can't possibly know everything and subconsciously I know that. But it gives me the perfect excuse to say I'm not ready. I can pretend to put the responsibility of my present-day actions to an unknown point in the future. We both know what happens when you put things like this off to the future. Sweet eff all. We continue down the same old exhausting path. And the unlived life within us gets buried beneath the present day "urgent."
It's why so many of us find with our final breaths have painful regrets. Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse, is behind the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. I'll often read them as a reminder to wake the eff up and face my fears. And more importantly, not to be so damn serious all the time. When you think of living a meaningful life, here's how to make the complicated simple. Use the following five regrets as a reflection of your current daily decisions.
I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I know I said there was no secret, but I lied. It might not be what you want to hear. Steven Pressfield was referring to writing when he dropped this truth bomb, but it can be applied to every change you want to make in your life. There's a secret that real writers know. It's not the writing that's hard. It's the sitting down to write – and what keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.
What Resistance do you need to break through so you can sit down and start doing today? What’s something about the present moment that makes it the perfect time to begin (again)?