Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Procrastinating 101: Working on Language

Dr. Neil Fiore wants us to talk to ourselves.  He just doesn't like what we are saying, much of the time.  (See above.)

Dr. Fiore is the author of The Now Habit:  A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play, which I have been examining in my Tuesday Procrastinating 101 posts for the last few weeks.  In the chapter on "How to Talk to Yourself," Fiore elaborates on how resentment fuels procrastination.  In his view, when we experience alienation from the work we have to do, we adopt a victim mentality.   We perceive "others" or "them" as dictating what we must do.  This sets up an internal conflict between the self that must resist such "threat[s] to [its] integrity", and the self that attempts to direct us to accomplish the imposed task.  The conflict can be experienced as either a stress response or a depressive response.  (Or if we're really lucky, both!)  

According to Fiore, we can observe this mechanism at work by becoming aware of our language, or self-talk.  When we work from resentment, we tell ourselves, and often complain to others, that we "should" do this, and we "have to" do that.  When we use these words, says Fiore, we communicate to the subconscious mind
  • I don't want to do it.
  • They're making me do it against my will.
  • I have to do it or else!--something awful and terrible will happen.  I will hate myself.
  • This is a no-win situation:  if I don't do it I'll be punished; if I do it I'll be going against myself. [p.59]
Using Fiore's map, the way out of this morass is through marshaling the power of choice.  And our journey "from resistance to commitment" begins with that staple of self-help advice, learning how to say "no."  In this way, we begin to thin the number of tasks that are not of our choosing.  

Having trimmed our to do lists in this way, we can then "reprogram" our self-talk to experience the power of choice.  For this, Fiore offers "five self-statements that distinguish procrastinators from producers."  He directs us to:
  • Replace "I have to" with "I choose to."
  • Replace "I must finish" with "When can I start?"
  • Replace "This project is so big and important" with "I can take one small step."
  • Replace "I must be perfect" with "I can be perfectly human."
  • Replace "I don't have time to play" with "I must take time to play." [pp.71-75]
One scary piece of advice Fiore gives is that we count the number of "should" statements we issue to ourselves in a ten-minute period.  This, he says, will give us "a good estimate of [y]our degree of depression."  I'm still working on my procrastination chart from last week--I'm a little behind in my procrastination homework.  What else is new?  But I have a feeling that when I get to this little test, I'm not going to like the results.  

In the meantime, I'm going to start on my language repair, because "I choose to."  But first, "I have to" switch off the circuit powering my oven before its malfunctioning beeping drives me insane.

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