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Don't Put Off Until Tomorrow...Part 4
Posted: 9/17/2012 | Personal Development Comments
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 You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

 ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
In previous posts, I discussed procrastination, its affect and some underlying causes. We can see how procrastination holds us back, and recognize the root cause of our behavior. How do we stop procrastinating?
Here are a few ways you can begin to alter this behavior:
Be gentle with yourself
While recognizing the impact of procrastination on your relationships, health and career is important, self-condemnation isn’t helpful. You might feel guilt and regret arising from the awareness you’ve sabotaged your progress by procrastinating, but these feelings can also create stress, keeping us stuck in unwanted behavior.
Psychologist Timothy Psychl shares research about procrastination and self-forgiveness. Researchers discovered that, “By reducing emotional distress associated with procrastination, the individual becomes less likely to avoid the stimulus associated with the feelings in the first place.” 
He goes on to say, “...because self-forgiveness is typically accompanied by a vow to change one’s behavior in the future, this encourages the individual to engage in approach behaviors rather than behaviors motivated by avoidance.” When we are gentle with ourselves, recognizing our unconscious programming as part of our humanity, we are less likely to use avoidance behaviors. Forgiveness will have us procrastinate less right now.
Examine your fear
When we look at what really scares us about finishing a project or following through on a dream, we can ask ourselves, “Is this true?” Most of us will find that our fear is due to unconscious programming that came from our upbringing. Much of our fear was passed on to us by our often well-meaning parents, who unconsciously pass on the torch they received from their own parents. When we examine the fear we see it’s pervasive nature, and as we externalize our fear it loses much of its punch. Each time it pops up, we chip away at it more, remembering its source and irrational nature. Over time, our fears dissipate and no longer control our behavior.
Take baby steps
So there you are, ready to take on that big, scary project. How do you keep your fears at bay? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Start with something easy first. Find the paperwork, make that call, compose the email, fold your sweater. You don’t need to tackle the whole, accumulated pile at once. Work through it one, small task at a time, focusing on what’s right in front of you. You’ll feel less overwhelmed, and as you see your progress, you’ll find it easier to tackle other tasks and decisions you’ve avoided. Again, you’ll diminish your habit of procrastination. 
Ask for support
You’re not alone! Ask your friends, family and colleagues for their guidance and support. Let them know what you’re endeavoring to change and accomplish. Seek the advice of people who can help you organize and set goals. Find a friend who will hold you accountable for manageable promises you make, and with whom you can share your concerns, anxiety, failures and success.
You might also find a good counselor or psychotherapist who will walk you through your fear, a safe place to explore deeper issues that hold you back. Physical support is good too. Get plenty of rest, eat well and exercise.  If you’ve been putting off medical care, this is another way you can begin building the foundation of health you need.
Procrastination isn’t a fatal flaw, it’s a habit learned over a lifetime. With a forgiving, gentle approach and small steps, you’ll begin to see real progress. Remember to acknowledge every milestone and victory no matter how small, because they all add up. You’ll begin to see yourself in a new light, as a person who gets things done!
When you begin moving forward, you release stress and tension you may not have known you had. Even with the first step you’ll lighten up–knowing yourself as the healthy, productive and powerful person you really are. With time and practice, you’ll experience a new-found vitality, a profound sense of peace and freedom. Take the first step!
Have you taken on your fear and procrastination? What have you accomplished, and what have been your struggles? Please let me know. Your comments make a difference for all of us!

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