Many people procrastinate because they fear they’ll look foolish if they fail. It took Edison more than 10,000 failed attempts to discover the tungsten filament that worked in the incandescent light bulb. A reporter asked him how he managed to go on working in the face of so many failures. Edison told the reporter that each failure gave him hope; every time he failed, he knew he was one step closer to finding the answer. Edison believed that “many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Successful people make more mistakes than others because they never stop trying to achieve new goals. If you’re not making mistakes, you probably aren’t attempting enough. Force yourself to get out of your comfort zone and take action.
One kind of fear is good: You should feel guilty when you don’t finish a job, and you should fear the consequences of sub-par performance. That kind of fear can be a powerful motivator to perform at your highest level.
Does it help you to think about the consequences of procrastination? Knowing the consequences of our actions doesn’t always keep us from doing the wrong thing, of course. If the consequences of not finishing an important job are not getting you motivated to start it, why not? What’s going on? You have to start asking these questions to get at the roots of the problem. What is really causing you to procrastinate?
English actor Christopher Parker said, “Procrastination is like a credit card: It’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” We have all heard smokers say, “I want to stop smoking but I can’t”-as they light another cigarette. The person who says this doesn’t know what his real problem is. As we watch them smoke, it’s clear that they don’t want to quit smoking at all.
Talking about quitting lets smokers go on enjoying their habit while deluding themselves into thinking that they really are making an effort to stop. They want to avoid the part of smoking that causes them to get lung cancer-we have no reason to doubt that. But it’s plain to see that they enjoy all the other perks they get from smoking. Smokers are not likely to give up their habit until they are able to face the real cause of their problem.
Think of a time when you could have procrastinated but didn’t. How did you feel? How could you turn that into a good habit? When fear threatens to immobilize you, ask yourself this question: What’s the worst thing that can happen? Write down your answer as precisely as you can. Be prepared to accept the worst. Now write down as many solutions as you can think of. Decide on the best action and do it. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Don’t waste your life in doubts and fears: spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that follow it.” Face your fear and do it anyway.
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