Procrastination, “Bumper Stickers,” and How to Get Things Done!
This week's update comes from Health Journeys contributor Traci Stein. She is the creator of popular guided imagery titles including Healthy Self-Esteem and Free Yourself from Procrastination. She has also written articles for the Health Journeys blog. Sign up here to receive her free report about Overcoming Procrastination.
Many people have asked me about specific aspects of why we procrastinate. If you’ve read my recent Health Journeys article or my PsychologyToday.com posts on this topic, you know that there are a variety of reasons why we put off those things that we have consciously agreed to do. Luckily, there are also many effective strategies for getting things done – well, and on time.
One thing that can get in the way of getting things done is lacking confidence that we have the ability to achieve the larger goal. This is also known as “low self-efficacy.” When our self-efficacy is low, it’s like a part of us saying, “I know I can’t do it, so why even bother?” And if we think we really cannot do something, we are unlikely to stick with it, and may not even give it s serious try in the first place.
So, what can we do about this? In the hypnotherapy world, we talk about the “trances” people walk around in all of the time. The messages that we consciously and unconsciously tell ourselves, in one form or another, often for years on end, shape our idea of “truth.” And these messages become like our personal bumper stickers. Ask yourself what yours says. Does it say something discouraging, like, “Mary: Can’t complete tasks on time” or “Joe: It won’t work out anyway, so what’s the point in trying?”
Most of us developed these personal mottos either because that’s what we have been told by someone important to us, or because a part of us believed the mottos were helpful in some way. “It won’t work out anyway” may be the motto we adopted to help protect us from future disappointments.
Hypnotic imagery can help us partner with the part of us that is tired of living by these discouraging bumper stickers. An image I often incorporate into any hypnosis, whether with patients in my practice or on my self-hypnosis audio programs, is that of imagining yourself walking forward, and allowing the breath, or your intention, or the elements, to clear your body and mind of those things that no longer serve you. This simple but powerful image can help us to literally and metaphorically “move forward” and release those ideas that are no longer appropriate for us. Another very effective image involves observing ourselves in the future, at the time when the goal has been reached. It may take some practice for this image to become vivid, but it is worth setting aside time to do so. We can then “step into” this future self and allow ourselves to really experience what it feels like to leave outdated ideas behind and embrace accomplishing goals. We may notice feelings of pride, gratitude, relief, excitement, and the like. As we allow ourselves to fully engage in these experiences, we can change the trance, remove and replace the old bumper stickers with something that is more affirming and consistent with what we really want for ourselves. And we can truly move forward.
My best to you!