Q: Every year I make New Year’s resolutions in January and by February I have given up on them. I always have great intentions when I set them but I never seem to even start following through. What is my problem?
A: There are many possibilities. First we must consider if your goals are realistic and attainable. If, for instance, your New Year’s resolution is to loose 100 pounds by Valentine’s Day, it is not likely to happen and by setting an unrealistic goal, you are sabotaging yourself. You know the goal is impossible, so why try? Secondly, are your resolutions goals or dreams? The difference between goals and dreams often lies with the answer to two simple questions—how and when. If it is a dream you cannot answer how you are going to achieve it or when you will have it (or portions of it) completed. With a goal, you can answer these questions. Dreams can easily turn into accomplishable goals by setting time lines and planning. Sometimes we need help with this process.
Another hindrance to your success may be that you are a procrastinator. Procrastination is something we all do some of the time but for some people it is a way of life. There are different ways to procrastinate such as:
1.The Perfectionist: If it cannot be perfect I will not do it at all—you can’t fail if you do not try.
2.The Worrier: What will happen if I cannot do it right? What if I do do it right and people expect more of me? But…! What if…?
3.The Defier: Why should I have to do it—no one can make me do it. When I’m ready.
4.The Crisis-Maker: This person needs to be right up against a deadline to be motivated to action. The adrenaline rush serves as a high.
5. The Dreamer: A dreamer of great ideas but not focused enough to follow through
6.The Overdoer: One who cannot time manage. They cannot say ‘no’ when they should and they try to accomplish too much in order to keep everybody happy.
In counselling we would determine what holds you back. Do you need help setting realistic goals and partializing the tasks? If you are procrastinating, what technique are you using and why are you doing it? Once we discover the what and the why we work on the how—how to change the patterns. Before long you will find that you are accomplishing your goals. This Valentine’s Day, give yourself the gift of happiness!
Q: I was always a good student, raised in a strict family and have moved on to a good job where I do well, even though it is demanding. The problem is that I always procrastinate until the last minute. Why do I do this?
A: There are a number of reasons that we may put something off as long as we can—it may be a task we do not like doing; it may be too time consuming; we may have other things we prefer to do or we may be unmotivated. Often, however, when we are raised in families where we were always encouraged to strive for perfection, or on the other hand, told we were stupid, we grow up being procrastinators. We are raised to believe that we are not good enough and are always motivated or pressured into doing even better, so that now we begin to expect perfectionism from ourselves. We fear being unaccepted or laughed at if we make a mistake. What this does is start a pattern of what some people refer to as The 3 “P’s”—Perfectionism, Paralysis and Procrastination. We want perfectionism and when we fear that this is impossible we become paralyzed, like a deer in the headlights, and so we freeze and procrastinate. Nothing gets done and we, therefore, cannot fail, but we put ourselves under undo pressure, and of course, cannot succeed.
Because it is very hard to see beyond our own patterns, an objective, trained therapist can make this process much more effective. When we learn our own specific reason for putting things off until the last minute, we can learn new ways of dealing with our thoughts and feelings. We can examine our reasons for demanding perfectionism and acknowledge our fear of taking a risk. When we can give ourselves permission to make mistakes, we become free to take risks and end the paralysis and thus, the procrastination.