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How to Start and Sustain a Healthy Life-Style Change

Break the bonds of procrastination

Mythologist Joseph Campbell described a universal myth of the hero. Let's say that a menace is before you. A fire-spitting dragon is near. You have no reasonable choice but to face this adversity. As you pursue this goal, you use knowledge you learned from others and you use your own ingenuity.

Your battles are not with mythical beasts. When it comes to lifestyle changes, the struggle is within you. By pitting your positive attributes against negative beliefs and habits, you can contain your procrastination dragon. Are you prepared to combat this beast?

How do you start and sustain a life style changes? Start by getting past your procrastination barriers and become your own hero. Here are five thoughts for combatting your procrastination dragons.

1. It's important to understand what you're doing when you procrastinate. Use this information to guide yourself in your actions to get past your procrastination barriers and on to a healthy lifestyle.

2. When you take on a long-term challenge, such as keeping up with an exercise plan, expect to make sacrifices. This acceptance counters the ease and comfort view so many take along the road to nowhere.

3. Once defeated, dysfunctional habits lie in wait like wily old dragons looking for an opening to return. When complacent about your gains, or when you feel stressed, you may be tempted to regress to old patterns. Resist the temptation!

4. There is satisfaction and exhilaration in progress made against procrastination. However, if you make an important gain without exuberance or joy, so be it. A gain is better than a loss.

5. You are the steward of your fate. A productive stewardship takes committed, ongoing, action.

A Cognitive, Emotive, Behavioral Trident for Positive Change

Decide to face your procrastination dragon and two challenges lie before you: starting and sustaining the effort. When you start is critical. It doesn't matter whether this is to beat deadlines or to engage an ongoing self-help project. Beginning is crucial. If you don't start, you have no hope of finishing.

What does it take to start sooner rather than later? Sometimes the answer is as simple as a three-pronged cognitive, emotive, behavioral approach:

Cognitive Changes. You can sidetrack yourself by telling yourself later is better. Instead of swallowing this tomorrow illusion, decide on a time to start that is sooner than later. Can you start now? Can you start in five minutes? By committing to a quick-start time, you can limit the often nasty consequences of "later" procrastination thinking.

Emotion Changes. In a fictional world of ease and comfort, a negative emotion is an emergency. Relief comes from following the path of least resistance. This discomfort-dodging ploy conflicts with an early start time. You can't both be discomfort dodging and simultaneously acting to meet a challenge. Do something different. For example, agree with yourself to live with the tension for a set amount of time. Eight-minutes may be sufficient. During this eight-minute period, study your tension. Find when it resides. At the end of this time, record what you learned in a procrastination log. Then launch a first step toward your priority goal. Record what you learned. Review what you learned. Use it when next you feel an urge to procrastinate.

Behavior Changes. You won't get past the joys of emotional tolerance unless you engage in follow-through actions. Start with my bits and pieces and five-minute techniques. For the bits and pieces part, break up the task and time into manageable parts. Then start anti-procrastination actions that last for five minutes. At the end of that time, decide whether to go another five minutes. When you made sufficient progress, decide on the next part of the task to pursue and your next start time. Be specific. Plan to start on time. Repeat this five-minute plan.

Regularly use the combined bits and pieces and five-minute plan. You'll have struck a blow against your procrastination dragon. You're now on the path to self-efficacy. This is the belief that you can organize, regulate, and direct your actions to meet your goals. (This self-regulation theory has over 16,000 research and descriptive articles listed in the American Psychological Association database. The data supports self-efficacy as belief that leads to accomplishment.)

Meeting Lifetime Challenges

Here is a thought a friend, Ed Garcia, passed on to blog readers. Has there ever been something challenging that you accomplished that did not take work and sweat to do? So, why fear or avoid effort?

Now, go combat that dragon!

If you want to stop procrastinating on starting or sustaining a healthy diet, keep in shape, and managing stress, see chapter 13 in The Procrastination Workbook If you want to boost your work productivity, see chapters six and seven in End Procrastination Now

(c) Dr. Bill Knaus