Procrastination is one of the most life and career damaging behaviors one can have. It has the power to undermine one’s best plans and intentions, destroy a business, lower self-esteem, and even ruin a marriage or any other relationship. It certainly causes others to not trust you. What to do?
Here is a tool that is one of the most powerful and helpful tool I have found in years. It’s called the Non-Negotiable. It’s based on an unbreakable agreement you make with yourself.
THE NON-NEGOTIABLE AND HEALTHY SUFFERING
The non-negotiable is a powerful agreement you make with yourself to help you with specific life challenges. It is a sacred promise you make to yourself. Once committed the non-negotiable gives you the freedom to do the right thing without argument, procrastination, or denial. In other words once your make the promise to yourself you no longer are tempted to renegotiate your way out of it. Making a non-negotiable agreement with yourself is a statement to yourself that you are taking full responsibility for your well-being. You will no longer rely on anyone or anything else to make you behave. You will no longer see yourself as a victim of circumstances or a victim of your own weaknesses. You will know yourself as a victorious warrior.
Non-negotiables can be made regarding your habits, your health, your interactions with others, or any behavior or attitude that you wish to attain. Here are some examples: You can use the non-negotiable to commit to daily exercise, to telling others what you want, to quit an addiction, to use win-win communication, to pay your bills on time, to follow spiritual practices such as meditation or prayer. You can use the non-negotiable in any area of your life not matter how big or how small. It empowers you to do what you may not have the self discipline to do otherwise.
Following are the steps to making a non-negotiable agreement with yourself:
Step One: Engender a sincere desire to change your behavior. This desire must be backed by the realization that without the non-negotiable you would probably fail. In fact you may have already failed many times in the past. So you must be willing to admit to your limitations. Sometimes desire to change comes from feelings of despair or a simple realization that unless you change you will remain the same as always. If you can’t feel that deep down sincere desire to do it then let it go until you do. Wait until you find your righteous anger at being at the mercy of your bad habits and attitudes. Before I quit smoking cigarettes when I was 36 I had attempted to quit and failed many times. I felt guilty and helpless in the face of addiction. From time to time I sought help from others but always failed. I was scared that I would remain a helpless addict for the rest of my life. My fear and guilt were real and I used them to find the anger I needed to motivate me.
Step Two: Admit to yourself how much you have been in denial, have pampered yourself, been clueless, or been self-indulgent. Admit to all the reasons you have not kept your promise to yourself. Take a close look at all the hidden benefits to your old behavior. Make a list. The years I spent as a smoker I was unaware of how much I used smoking to comfort myself and to control anxiety. A hidden benefit was that smoking made me independent from those who would like to control me. Another hidden benefit was how I could escape feeling emotions I didn’t want to feel by picking up and lighting a cigarette. I was in denial of how much it was harming me. I didn’t think I had any power over my thoughts, emotions, or behavior. I allowed the impulse to smoke rule my life. The closer I examined my motive to remain a smoker the more empowered I became to take responsibility. I was angry that something like this could control my life. This kind of anger is a good motivator and is a major contributor to warrior spirit.
Step Three: Make a list of how your life will be different after you achieve your goal. See the positive effect your commitment will have on others. You might be amazed at how your changed behavior will positively challenge and influence others. When I was preparing to quit smoking I had to continually remind myself of all the ways life would be better as a non-smoker.
Step Four: Become clear what healthy suffering you will have to endure when you make your commitment. Healthy suffering is the discomfort you experience for a righteous cause. Unhealthy suffering is the discomfort you experience as a result of avoiding your healthy suffering. For example, quitting smoking is for a good cause but doing so can cause major discomfort, even physical suffering. This kind of suffering is healthy because it leads to a noble conclusion. Continuing to smoke can cause repertory failure and cancer and early death….suffering far greater than the healthy suffering experienced when quitting smoking. Make a list of the things that will cause you difficulty and discomfort when you commit to your goal. Then ask yourself if you are willing to endure those discomforts. Be absolutely truthful with yourself. When your answer is a clear “yes” then you are ready to make the promise to yourself. Use your warrior spirit to give you the determination and courage to endure. When I made the non-negotiable with myself to quit smoking I knew I would become difficult to live with, gain weight, and suffer really awful bouts of addiction craving. I said “yes” to all of it. When they hit with a vengeance it was my warrior spirit and my willingness to endure that suffering that enabled me to succeed. Only this non-negotiable set me free to quit permanently.
You can do this. Remember doing most difficult things are best done a little step at a time. Don’t overload your agenda to change yourself. Give yourself the time and space to do what you need to do…one step at a time. Oh, and a reminder about mistakes…they don’t define you.