Accept Your Losses

Accept your losssesMany, many years ago, I made an unwise decision about where to put my money.  I don’t recall the exact details of where I spent that money, but I’ll never remember what my friend said to me when I was thinking about my next money move.  He said, “Remember the Chinese proverb, ‘Don’t chase bad money with good money.’”  It took me a few minutes to absorb the meaning of the proverb, but then I knew it was genius.  It takes a good deal of personal discipline and wisdom to realize you are in a losing game and then to withdraw your resources and energy from it.

Since it’s the end of the year, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what losses you might be involved in right now.  Perhaps you:

  • are frustrated that your involvement with an organization is draining your energy
  • are upset you agreed to loan some money to your sibling when you are in danger of not meeting your own financial obligations
  • are stressed because you ordered a high-priced piece of furniture based on a buying impulse and now feel you have to “match” the piece with others just like it
  • are contracted to work with a counselor, tutor, mentor, trainer, or clinician, but you are dissatisfied with how your interactions have gone so far

Since it’s the end of the year, be kind to yourself.  Heck, be kind to yourself because you should always be kind to yourself.  Take a clear look at the annoying, money-draining, time-wasting engagements you might be involved in and figure a way out.  You could:

  • simplify your schedule and note what can be cut from it
  • resolve to put a hold on all non-essential spending until your finances stabilize
  • return that piece of high-priced furniture
  • cancel your contracts, subscriptions, or memberships that aren’t serving your needs well
  • do a quick spreadsheet of your monthly budget to remind yourself to take care of all money drains and leaks

If you are having trouble knowing how to identify what you are losing time, energy, and money on, I have a trick for you: identify those activities you would not want other people to know you were involved in.  When our choices veer towards the unwise, we become upset and anxious.  Oftentimes unknowingly, we also become more secretive about our activities because we sense others would disapprove or disagree with our actions.  Once we go underground with these activities, then we feel even more locked in to the unwise conditions.

It’s okay to be unwise.  We all make mistakes and have regrets.  Accept the losses you have.  Fix them and move forward, knowing that you can protect yourself from further losses.  Doing so would be a great way to end this year.

What fixes can you make in your life?  What important areas have I forgotten to address? Please feel free to share your thoughts by commenting here.

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    Techniques to Try: Take a Pause

    temp_collage_1418245867.968150This may seem ironic, but I do believe Procrastinators are terrible at taking breaks and resting.  Just awful.  While others may believe Procrastinators are blowing things off or just chillin’, Procrastinators are being incredibly busy doing some of the following things:

    • worrying
    • planning
    • hiding
    • deciding
    • dreading
    • despairing
    • ruminating
    • praying
    • bargaining with themselves
    • bargaining with the universe

    Not only are Procrastinators busy in this way, they also tend to lose sight of the fact that this process of “working on things” has enveloped their entire day.  All in the name of productivity.

    The Argument for Learning How to Pause

    Although we may think the time we use during a break is a “waste,” it is anything but.  We need to pause in order to have clarity, in order to be creative, in order to know when we are done and totally not done.  When we don’t pause, we become submerged in 24-hour dramas.  It’s like binge TV watching without the fun or interesting finales.  Just boring drama.  Snore.

    Very often, when I am meeting a new patient or their parents for the first time and the core problem is seen as Procrastination, I recommend the patient take a pause before delving into their work again.  When we have difficulty functioning, especially when we are suffering with Procrastination, we also tend to forbid ourselves from taking any sort of break.  Then the punitive cycle really takes hold.  In comes self-criticism, isolation, and then the sound of self-esteem being slowly crushed (#beingdramatic).  When patients begin to allow themselves to enter a break period, their stress level goes down. Although the assignments still need to get done, there is no longer a feeling of never-ending crisis to go with the assignment.

    How to Take a Break

    I can tell someone is a chronic Procrastinator if they have no idea how to take a break.  When patients ask for guidance, I am glad to help because this is the fun part.  Almost any activity can be considered a break to a Procrastinator, as long as the right attitude that a break is needed is there.  A break just needs to be a period away from the stress of having to perform, of having to be “on.”

    You can try these ideas:

    • calling a friend (and not talking about work)
    • daydreaming about a new activity or adventure
    • light meditation where all you do is let your thoughts wander, but you allow yourself to breathe deeply
    • turning off your phone or your notifications so you can have some peace for 15 minutes
    • moving away from the space in which you work to take a walk outside
    • drinking some of your favorite tea

    When we learn to take breaks, we are essentially teaching ourselves to respect time, to respect ourselves, and to know how to begin and to end.  If we continuously chase productivity, we will never feel the relief of reaching the end.  Worse than that, we will shortchange ourselves from the possibilities of all those new beginnings ahead.

    As always, I wish you the best of luck in your efforts to move away from Procrastination.  If you have a problem knowing how to take a pause, or if you have ingenious ways of tricking Procrastinators into taking a break, please share your thoughts by replying to this post.

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      What Other People Don’t Understand about Procrastinators

      temp_collage_1415559490.130300There’s a whole bunch of things I don’t understand about people who do not Procrastinate.  I don’t understand how they can break through their anxiety every time.  I don’t know how they can keep to their own plans every time.  I don’t know how they must feel when they are successful at accomplishing their work time after time after time.

      I do believe there are many things non-Procrastinators do not understand about us Procrastinators.  In this past year alone, I have met two men who were so “on it” they looked at me with disbelief when I tried to explain my area of expertise and fascination – Procrastination.  I really felt in those moments of meeting these men that there was no way those two men would ever understand me.  I was just a different species of being, it seemed.  Come to think of it, I met a woman earlier this year, also a Chinese-American psychologist, who also gave me the sense that I was from some different universe.

      Well, I’m here to speak for us Procrastinators, people who may just be misunderstood by a lot of other Earthlings.

      Here’s a list of a few items I think other people don’t understand about Procrastinators:

      1. We are motivated.  This fact seems to be lost on people who don’t Procrastinate. They associate lack of productivity with lack of motivation, which would be, in most cases, a big mistake.
      2. We are concerned with what other people think.  Many Procrastinators get their start in Procrastination because they feel an overwhelming need to satisfy the perceived expectations others have of them.  The stress of having to perform perfectly causes the Procrastinator to freeze up and to fail to produce anything well. Ironically, these same well-meaning Procrastinators are seen by non-Procrastinators as uncaring or even oblivious to the needs of others.
      3. We are fearful of upsetting or disappointing others.  Please see item #2.
      4. We have suffered, including when we have been misunderstood by others. Chronic Procrastinators tend not only to be behind in their work, but also to be spent emotionally from feeling worthless and hopeless.  Although the chronic Procrastinator may appear to be doing well from the outside, on the inside there is a more complicated story.  Procrastinators accumulate emotional wounds and injuries as they remain trapped in cycles of inaction and bad feelings.  Much of the emotional damage is wrought by the Procrastinators themselves, sadly.
      5. We are not performing to our potential, but we are longing to do so.  Despite being misunderstood and despite having missed many opportunities, Procrastinators strive for something better for themselves.  The paradox with Procrastinators is we hang on and don’t truly give up, even when nothing seems to be going our way.

      Writing this kind of post is important to me, because I have spent so many years helping clients recover from these different kinds and levels of misunderstandings from other people and from themselves.  I do not believe Procrastination is an easily-resolvable affliction, as it involves the individual’s ego, skill set, social environment, and emotional life, and the clean up of very big messes.

      If you are a non-Procrastinator, please consider lending the next Procrastinator you meet a sympathetic ear or some friendly encouragement.  If you are a Procrastinator, take comfort in the reality that we are all built in very special ways, special even when not acknowledged or recognized by others.  Take the time to work through the layers of meaning behind your own Procrastination.  The time spent doing this type of exploration will always be well worth it.

      Please feel free to share any stories you might have about feeling misunderstood as a Procrastinator by posting a reply here.  

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        Rediscover Fun and the Feeling of Being Free

        Procrastinators are real drags. We complain. We mope. We are heavy in spirit.

        We have lost the pleasure of having fun because we feel like we are behind time. As if time is running ahead of us. That is certainly not a fun feeling.

        Others around us don’t really know how to have fun with us. We don’t have the time. We don’t make the time. We can never find the time. Seeing others be carefree and be carefree often and as they plan to gets our goat. Makes us complain that much harder. Makes us feel the depth of our stress that much more.

        I’m planning on making this post short today because it’s Halloween, and I think there’s no reason not to have fun on Halloween. I think it is a holiday designed purely for fun. As long as you’re not terribly afraid of ghouls and goblins and carved-out pumpkin heads that is. I hope you find some time today to carve out some fun for yourself.

        Here are some of the important reasons why re-learning how to have fun is important in recovering from a lifestyle dominated by Procrastination:

        1. Going through your days without a sense of balance between work and fun is well…imbalanced. Our bodies, souls, and minds need the ebb and flow that happens when we shift back and forth between work and play.

        2. Our hyper-seriousness during the worst periods of our Procrastination is unnecessary. We are simply wasting large chunks of time obsessing and perfecting, ruminating and delaying. More fun can be had.

        3. One sure-fire way to show ourselves that we are “good enough” in the world is to allow ourselves the joy that others are allowed. When we keep ourselves away from certain categories of life experiences, like having fun, we become successful only at dampening our own spirit.

        4. Procrastinators tend to be bound by restraint and caution. We are afraid to let this project go. We are too stressed out to make that phone call. When we are having fun, we experience directly the forces which oppose restraint and caution — the feelings of freedom and of being carefree. Again, it’s important to re-learn those feelings to break the grip of Procrastination.

        Give yourself a break from the stress monster outfit you have on and go find a funnier costume for tonight. Take care of yourself and have a very fun Halloween.

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          Technique to Try: Put One Thing First

          USE UP (8)

           

          That Anonymous person does it every time.

          I very recently have become swamped with matters, both big and small, that I have to take care of.  Typically when I get into this type of swamp territory, I start to feel a haze of confusion.  What do I do?  How much energy to I spend?  Will I get anything done?  Will I have enough time?  Do I care?

          Deeper into swamp territory, I start to get irritable, frustrated, insecure, and upset that things aren’t magically going my way all of a sudden.

          Fortunately for me, I recently found a solution to swamp land.  Over a recent long weekend, I listened to the audiobook Essentialism by Greg McKeown.  Essentialism is full of helpful reflections on how we use our time, how we make our decisions, and how we choose to lead our own lives.  One of McKeown’s consistent messages is we have a duty to honor our brief time in this world by resisting the temptation to remain in situations just because.  He encourages readers to make the hard decisions about what to focus on, even when there is a cacophony of competing demands and requests.

          I highly recommend you read (or listen to) Essentialism.  It’s the kind of book that will be useful to all Procrastinators.  I could not help but decline an invitation I had received a few weeks earlier after listening to the message in Essentialism.  Although in my heart I would have loved to have accepted the invitation, nothing else about me pointed towards saying “yes.”  I basically knew I was not going to end up going, but absorbing the message of doing what is essential, helped me to get the looming invitation off my plate. {If you are interested in picking up a copy of Essentialism, click on the book image below (affiliate link).}

          Now, back to my personal swamp land.  I am getting better, gradually, at learning to define what I need to do first when I have a long list of things to do.  This has been a big life project for me, as I am not known for my whiz-bang prioritization skills.  I tend to lunge at everything all at the same time, rather than to pick a target.  Setting a priority, just one, uno, priority, has been helpful in getting things done and sharpening my own work process.  I have to be more honest with myself when I’m reviewing my options.  And if you don’t know this already, I feel honesty is essential to real recovery from chronic Procrastination. (Did you hear the whiz-bang?)

          Okay.  Now it’s time for you to take today and determine what your one priority is.  Remember — uno.  Then spend the rest of the day orienting yourself towards getting that priority done and eliminating those things that might slow you down or get in your way in reaching your goal.  Do as Anonymous does and have time for the things you put first.

          Please share your success stories here.  I’d love to hear from you.  Remember to also follow me on Twitter @ChristineLiPhD for more good words on all things Procrastination.

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            Celebrating 100 Posts! (Lessons Learned Too)

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            Celebrating 100 posts!  YAHOO!

            Maintaining this blog has become a great creative outlet for me both personally and professionally.  It’s also been a tremendous learning experience.  Every time I sit down to write, it’s a new adventure.  If you’ve been following my posts for a while, you know that the adventure can be a bit hairy, but I sincerely hope you’ve found the adventure to be fun and informative too.

            It doesn’t really get easier to create or to write posts, but the fact that I’ve developed a body of work and a routine of posting regularly is a big plus in favor of my keeping going rather than giving up.

            I’ve also learned:

            • I can help people just by writing.
            • I can help myself by jumping in and seeing where things go without having a pre-set plan.
            • I can have low-creativity days, but I can survive them and come back from them.
            • I can fit writing work in even when I don’t think I’ll have the time.
            • I can make something out of what seems like thin air.
            • I can feel accomplished when I try new things, even when I don’t know as much as what other people know about those new things.
            • I can make great friends (e.g. those people who know those things).
            • I don’t have to make masterpieces to relay my message.
            • My message is worth working for.

            Here’s another thing I learned in preparing for this 100th post:

            We can scare ourselves out of just about anything.

            In getting excited about this post, I also got a bit hysterical.  First, I figured I needed a really snazzy image or photo to denote the big deal of reaching 100 posts.  Then, I figured I needed some really smash-down content to denote the super big deal of reaching 100 posts.  And then, I worried I wouldn’t have either and my anxiety near shut me down.

            In true blogger style, I decided to trudge on and make something of this mini-struggle of mine.  I decided to set it down as it was – my anxiety about something pretty much insignificant and totally made up by me.  You see, 100 is just a number, and it’s actually just another post.  But as Procrastinators, we know well how there are mundane moments or tasks in our lives that we somehow manage to make into momentous nightmares for ourselves, and make ourselves disabled just by our thoughts.

            I hope you understand my message — you can move past your anxiety, especially if it’s crafted just perfectly by you for the occasion at hand.  Congratulate yourself on your creativity and your engagement, and then move on and do the work that needs to get done.  No drama, no excitement, just get ‘er done.

            Reaching 100 posts does actually mean something to me.  It’s kind of unthinkable that a Procrastinator like me might carry through to 100.  Having readers like you, who care to change your lives for the better makes my journey worthwhile, and the work worth doing.

            Here’s looking forward to the next 100.  I’m nervous already.

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              How to Determine If You are a Perfectionist

              USE UP (7)

              I often am asked if perfectionism is linked to Procrastination.  I answer with a resounding “Yes!”  We Procrastinators hold back from completing what we start, for fear of being found out for the imperfect creatures we feel ourselves to be.  We each have different stories about our personal deficiencies, and those stories are underlying our refusal to move forward with what we know we ought to be doing.

              Perfectionism is Neither Simple Nor Perfect

              Your day is filled with dread.  Each turn is loaded.  You rarely experience a feeling of comfort.  You experience generalized anxiety.  Your mood is flat.  You are oriented towards getting the approval of others.  You believe there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to do things.  You feel a hidden, but persistent ache for relief.  You experience a constant pressure to strive for more.  You engage in little to no relaxed leisure time.  You believe that one day your efforts will pay off, but your fear of the total collapse of all of your efforts seems to overshadow your hope for a big win.  You have a high need for control.  You are unable to communicate your full wishes to others for fear of seeming needy or vulnerable.

              Sound like you?  Join the very large crowd.

              Perfectionists come in all shapes and sizes.  We all crave a bit of perfect now and then.  It helps to buffer against the slings and arrows in this world, in our lives.  It helps to have an aim (perfection), but the problem with perfectionism is the goal (being perfect) will eternally be elusive.  This leads to bigger problems, like having our days be filled with fears of imperfection. Ironic, but true.

              Release Yourself from the Grip of Perfectionism

              I encourage those of you who are straining under the weight of perfectionism to consider coming out.  Examine what letting others know about what you know about yourself — the good, the bad, and the ugly — might do for your spirit and your ability to move in your life. Test the waters a bit.  Examine your own demands for order, correctness, meeting others’ standards.  Remind yourself that you can loosen up.  You may need the support of a therapist or another professional to release yourself from the grip of habit and the hold that perfectionism tends to have on our capacity to be flexible, open, and ourselves.

              When you come out you:

              • will feel uneasy
              • will feel like you’ve blown your cover
              • will feel like you’re not the expert anymore

              But you will also feel:

              • liberated
              • anxiously excited
              • renewed
              • available for change and learning
              • more present in your own life

              You will continue to be the striving, hard-working, well-meaning person you always have been.  No one can take that away from you.  When you decide you no longer wish to be bound by perfectionist standards, your innate talents and your ability to effect change in the world will only grow.

              Thank you for taking the time out of your day to follow me and my blog.  If there are topics that you are interested in hearing more about, please let me know by posting a reply here. Have a great day. 

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                Consider Yourself In

                USE UP (6)

                This morning I felt inspired to write about considering yourself in.  Part of the inspiration came from the Lao Tzu quote above.  When you take the meaning of the quote in, it’s breath-taking.

                We are master creators of myths, dramas, illusions, pictures, nightmares, catastrophes, and magical events.  In our minds.  If only those creative skills would magically turn into income, or a hobby, or a passion, or a masterpiece.  In real life.  If only.

                If only we could take our Procrastination-riddled minds and imagine for a few moments that the mere fact that we are Procrastinating means we are already in.  We are experiencing the adrenaline stirring and resisting the creative impulse, but the fact of the matter is we are already in.

                Procrastinators are prone to making a few mistakes with regard to their fear of getting things started or getting things done:

                • they believe they are not a part of things
                • they believe they are not ready for things
                • they believe they will feel run over when things begin
                • they believe they will be incompetent when things really get going
                • they believe they will not be able to adjust to the change they initiate

                Of course, these fears are only illusions.  You are an adaptable being.  You are a creative being.  You are in a community of people.  And you are already in.  I feel the need to add here that in my 20 years of coaching Procrastinators, not once was the issue the client’s lack of ability or competence.  Not once.  (#repeatmyselfThursday)  That fact really drives my work to help Procrastinators move forward with their lives.  I know deep in my heart the only problem we’re facing is the illusion.  That’s a great feeling.

                Today, consider yourself in.  Make yourself aware of the illusion you’ve been tweaking, put it aside for awhile, and consider what is before you — your opportunity to breathe, to act, to create, to move ahead in the real-life drama of today.

                What illusion are you currently masterminding?  Please share.  Also, remember to join me on Twitter @ChristineLiPhD for more insights on the battle against Procrastination.

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                  Technique to Try: Get Rid of the Excess

                  What's on your list- (1)

                  It’s very easy to accumulate things.  E-mail comes in without our asking it to.  Laundry piles swell unremittingly.  Daily snail mail brings with it a pile of paper.  Everything we say “yes” to tends to hang around until we actually do something to terminate it.  There are some things we say “yes” to that seem interminable (can we all say together “neighborhood association board?”).

                  When we are in our younger years, let’s say our 20′s, we tend to believe that the more we acquire, the better we have it.  By extension, the better we have it, the better we are.

                  I would say when I was in my 20′s (yes, I still can remember thank you), I was not so much about accumulating things because I was knee-deep in graduate school, not making much moolah, and had too little time to focus on acquiring things.  Too much on my hands already.

                  But then, in my 30′s, with the pressures of graduate school behind me and some income coming in, it seemed the wisest way to spend my leisure time was to accumulate things.  I wasn’t after anything in particular.  Whatever “need” arose, I suddenly developed the great capacity to acquire the thing that would satisfy that “need” so that I would no longer feel that “need.”  What a great system.  Following that system for several years, I convinced myself that I was capable, because I could take care of myself this way.

                  Unfortunately for me, only part of that taking care of myself was working.  Yes, I was able to spot a problem and handle it.  But I was not taking care of myself in terms of making sure my acquisitions balanced out other important items like:

                  • my actual need (not just my perceived one)
                  • my budget (I didn’t keep one)
                  • my space to house these acquisitions
                  • my time I had to spend to go get these items
                  • my need for rest and errand-less living
                  • whether these acquisitions made any sense in my overall life picture

                  Fast-forward to the present day.  I’ve spent the past few years — the past 12 to be exact — slowly learning how to curb the aforementioned system of self-care.  I reached a time in my life where real non-stuff matters easily trumped my desire to possess more.  I more recently reached a point in my life where I realized, I not only didn’t want to be saddled with stuff, I also didn’t want to be held back by living “the busy life.”  Being busy to look busy was making me tired, cranky, and pretty much unproductive all the time.  And please of course always remember whenever I tell you a personal story, you should factor in that you are reading about a chronic Procrastinator too.  I think that makes my story much more dramatic, don’t you?

                  So what does this mean for you?

                  I could go on about this forever, but I know you are reading this because you want to get on with your life also.  You want to be free to move about as you please.

                  I suggest you take that potent wish and decide today which of the following categories you are going to take on first.  Are you going to cut out:

                  • e-mails?
                  • clutter?
                  • expenses?
                  • debts?
                  • appointments?
                  • stressors?
                  • memberships?
                  • apps on your phone?
                  • relationships that are purely not good for you?
                  • activities that don’t make you feel well?

                  Recommendations for a successful go at this

                  With excess comes a feeling of being stagnant, heavy, and overburdened.  In light of that, please be kind and patient with yourself when you decide you are going to start getting rid of the excess.  I recommend chipping away rather than hacking away the excess in order to ensure your sanity remains intact.

                  Take an hour today and chip away.  Here are some general guidelines for doing so:

                  • target your current zone of excess
                  • spend 20 minutes in the zone with a focus on reducing, reducing, reducing
                  • quickly reset your zone (especially if you created a bit of a mess)
                  • set your plans for your next chipping away session
                  • praise yourself, breathe, and go on with your day
                  • repeat

                  Have a great day today.  And tomorrow.  Chip away.

                  Please share with us any stories you might have to share of reducing to get ahead.  I’d love to hear them.

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                    m4s0n501

                    Technique to Try: Thinking More Clearly

                    USE UP (2)If I’m honest with myself, well, then I don’t feel much like myself.  I am a terrific liar to myself.  I tell myself:

                    • I can fit 20 minutes into the space of 10
                    • I can feel great tomorrow even if I go to bed at 2:30 a.m.
                    • I can skip the process of putting important to-do items in my planner and then successfully remember them
                    • I can drop this item anywhere in my home and the gods of supreme kindness will make sure it doesn’t get damaged, lost, or forgotten and my home will be uncluttered and neat

                    Of course, my lies do not end there.  They can extend to the other major areas of my life, including health maintenance, relationships, jobs, and finances.

                    There are a host of reasons why we learn to be deceiving of ourselves.  Here’s a very short list of culprits:

                    • we believe we are limitless in our energy
                    • we believe we can “make up” for things we’ve lost, like our sleep
                    • we believe if we’ve invested money, time, or our feelings into something or someone, we must keep doing so, no matter how bad the situation is
                    • we believe we have to be perfect
                    • we believe we cannot reveal our insecurities to others
                    • we believe no one else feels insecure
                    • we believe no one will understand our perspective if we act truthfully

                    How do you learn to be honest with yourself on a reliable, consistent basis?

                    In trying to fight my tendency to Procrastinate, I have had to learn how to resist my immediate impulses (for delay, avoidance, and cluttering up my living space), and tolerate the temporary discomfort that brings.  In the past few years, I have learned that gratification doesn’t just come from the immediate short term.  I have learned that daily, small efforts bring me the most enduring and meaningful rewards.  Maintaining this blog is one of the examples I can think of where devoting my concentrated effort in small ways daily has paid off big time.

                    Where might you start?  Will it be with your finances?  Will it be with your closet?  Your essay?  Take a look at what you’ve chosen and ask yourself:

                    • How have I been lying to myself and/or to others?
                    • How has that lying served me well?
                    • How has the lying hurt me or other people?
                    • What is the full honest truth about the situation?
                    • What will it take to make a turn-around in my behavior and attitude?
                    • Do I need to tell someone about my change of heart in order to make it stick?

                    Try this today.  Take an entirely honest view of what you are delaying or avoiding.  Then take action without fear, instead replacing your worry with small actions that head towards the truth.  The truth of what needs to get fixed, opened, replied, reduced, or spoken.

                    And the winner is…

                    When you learn to be clear in your purpose and thinking, the honest truth tends to surface on its own.  You will feel it in your gut.  The signal will be there for you to read.  But only if you practice that ability of identifying the signal and abiding by it.  When you do, you will find:

                    • you will stop hanging around the people in your life who don’t treat you well
                    • you will be able to keep your home and finances running more smoothly as you make choices about how you keep your living space and your budgets clear of excess and stuff you don’t need
                    • you will be able to make progress on projects that have been stalled if you determine they were really important to you

                    Big wins all around, I’d say.  Best wishes to you.

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                    There are just a few more days left to sign up for the Procrastination Coach October Workout Group (deadline: October 6th).  Come join us for direct instruction on how to move past your Procrastination and how to start moving forward again.

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