Change procrastination is putting off critical personal changes you want or need to make. It may be the toughest habit to breach or break. For example, you want to stop feeling anxious. You want to lose weight. Procrastination keeps getting in the way. Perhaps the time has come to get over your procrastination habit and start making these positive changes in your life.

Your Five-Phase Change Program

A politician promises a change to benefit you. If you like the change, you may give that person your vote. After all, you believe you don't have to do anything but vote and benefit. But when it comes to personal development you may want the benefits without the uncertainty or discomfort that typically goes with changing.  Instead, it's easier to dodge discomfort and save face by telling yourself you'll get to it later. However, this fiddling prolongs itself.

You may defer action when you view change as unsettling and then impulsively do something trivial or a lesser priority. Making a deeply positive personal change is a radically different process. You start with a vision of what you want for yourself, plan for the change, execute action, and learn as you go.  

To change from impulsively deferring to self-actualizing, step to the tune of awareness, action, accommodation, acceptance, and actualization.

Awareness is a pivotal phase of self-change. This is your sense of consciousness of what is going on within and around you. Here's a psychological example that involves a common form of conflict. Your goal is to act assertive.  For years you've put off this change.  Here's your self-assessment. You associate assertiveness with authentic self-expression. You like that positive idea. You associate self-expression with disagreement and disagreement with rejection. You feel uncomfortable with that thought. You experience a whisper of negative affect whenever you think of voicing your opinions. You put avoiding tension first and try to escape the tension by impulsively doing something simpler and easier, such as reading a dog grooming book.  Meanwhile, you think, "I don't feel up to this change right now." So, what do you do? Try a different way. Refocus on what you want to accomplish, rather than on what you want to avoid. You don't have to change your nature to resolve this conflict, but you will need to change your thinking and behavior.

Action is taking steps to make changes. To put teeth in your change efforts, you pace yourself with cognitive, emotive, and behavioral methods. (1) You execute cognitive actions to end procrastination thinking. Instead of conning yourself into thinking tomorrow is a better time to begin, question the credibility of this line of thought.  (2) In the emotive phase you plan to take corrective actions whether you feel like it or not.  (3) In the behavioral phase you act to bring about your chosen change.  My famous five-minute behavioral plan gives you a way to break through inertia and get into action. You want to get stuff done on time. You agree with yourself to start in five-minutes to write a report you've put off. At the end of the five minutes, you decide whether you'll do five-minutes more. Once started, it's easier to continue.

Accommodation is where you pull things together for yourself and adjust to positive new changes. You can hasten the process by resolving paradoxes and inconsistencies. For example, you tell yourself you work better under pressure. That's why you delay doing a report.  Later you swear you'll never put yourself through that emotional wringer again.  You ask, "If I work better under pressure, why not pressure myself to start earlier?" That's a paradox. Another procrastination paradox comes in the form of the double-agenda dilemma. Your stated agenda is to calmly express your opinions. Your implied agenda is to avoid the inconvenience and discomfort you associate with this form of self-expression.  You're now on the horns of a dilemma. To help resolve the dilemma, support your stated agenda with a mission statement that sets the stage for resolving the dilemma in favor of the stated agenda: build emotional resilience by taking steps to develop skills in assertion and expression. Now, practice expressing yourself to build resilience. Following the implementation of this higher-order mission, can you adjust your self-image to accommodate to this change? Does the adjustment just naturally follow?

Acceptance is the anodyne or soothing phase of change. Through acceptance, you avoid double-troubles.  As an example of a double trouble, you believe you should have declared your love for your "sweetheart" when you had the chance. You blame and down yourself for losing out to a more expressive rival.  You have a double-trouble: the loss plus self-blame and self-downing. In an acceptant mindset, you acknowledge a reality without damning yourself. Without a double-trouble burden, you are freer to find a new love of your life.

Actualization means to stretch your knowledge and skills to self-improve.  You may stretch further by planning, organizing, and implementing actions to achieve your goals.Practice this self-regulation effort and you can evolve the process to where you put yourself in command of yourself and of the controllable events around you.

The five phases represent an integrated processes. By recognizing and executing each phase,  you are likely to go faster in advancing your self-change goals.

From Procrastination to Personal Change

You are on the brink of making a critical personal change and you find yourself delaying. The following shows how to apply the five phases of change to make priority changers. I'll use facing a fear as an example.

For years you've feared rejection. You believe that if you express your desires and opinions people will disapprove of you.  So, you keep a low profile to avoid offending anyone. Meanwhile, your mind swells with fearsome rhetorical questions: "What if I don't say the right thing?" "What if I get rebuffed?" At first you don't make the connection between your thinking and your social anxiety and inhibition.

You are aware of the need to change, but not so much how you get in your own way. You decide on an awareness boosting experiment to get a better handle on what is happening. Exposure is a gold standard action method for change. You decide to test the waters by exposing yourself in a controlled and graduated way to what your fear. You start with a planned problem simulation. You go to a restaurant for breakfast. You ask for one fried and one scrambled egg. You understand that is an unusual order, and you fear that you've exposed yourself to possible rejection.  (You first struggle through the process by accepting tension as a necessary evil.) After repeating this experiment, you discover you normally get what you ordered.  The restaurant roof doesn't fall on your head. You adjust your thinking and accommodate to this new awareness. Later you stretch to apply what you learned in spontaneously arising situations where it is important to assert your enlightened interests. As you stop feeling anxious about rejection, you discover a paradox: when you don't fear rejection you often experience acceptance from others. You now have a fresh new awareness of your positive capabilities.

For more information on using my phases of change process with anxiety, click on: The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety

For more information on using the five phases of change for kicking your procrastination habit, click on: End Procrastination Now

Click on my  Why Is Personal Change So Tough to Do?  blog on how to use a three levels of change method to self-improve.

To cope with procrastination thinking, click on my free multimedia video:  Part 4: Procrastination Thinking

(c) Dr. Bill Knaus

You are reading

Science and Sensibility

Six Tips to Switch Intimacy Killers into Intimacy Builders

Revitalize your relationship anytime of the year.

How to Stop Procrastinating on Self-Change

Five steps to success in making a critical self-change.

Does Your Teen Procrastinate?

A self-mastery solution