It is spring, late March. John is planning to take his book and to get ready for learning for his exams. However, a thought pops out in his mind – “There a few months before the fists exam, so enough time to learn; besides this, it is such a lovely day, I should probably go out and play basketball.” It is May. John is getting ready to go to the reading room. On his way there, he meets his friend who invites him to go to watch a movie. “It is a great movie… Well, ok, I will watch this movie with a friend. One day won’t make any difference…” Now, it is July. John is waiting for a professor to give him his test. After he takes a look at the questions, he realizes that he doesn’t know any answers, so he hands over a blank test and goes home with the feelings of guilt.
This is a phenomenon known as procrastination. Procrastination is a form of behavior that could be defined as a constant disposal of one’s obligations. It is that “I will do it tomorrow” attitude. Although it is probably the main cause of failures of kinds, according to psychologists, procrastination can also cause kinds of maladaptive psychological reactions, such as stress, feelings of guilt, loss of personal productivity, and criticism of others. The problem can go even further and cause extra emotional problems, or a reaction that is in the Cognitive behavioral therapy known as “the secondary symptom”. When someone is not fulfilling his obligation and duties, he will probably experience intensive feelings of stress and guilt. Besides this, he may also feel anxiety or a depression because he can’t fulfill his obligations and aims, and thus, is experiencing stress.
However, we need to mention a way to overcome these kinds of problems. In the text below, a couple of psychological strategies and practical pieces of advice on how to deal with procrastination and “train” the brain to focus on upcoming obligations would be provided.
The power of words and images
People often think of their brain as if it is a separate and independent entity, over which they don’t have control. This is one of the most common mistakes, and besides that, a form of misunderstanding of the way that the brain works that has serious consequences. In order to realize the power and the control that one has over his brain, it is enough to conduct a simple observation. One can imagine his favorite meal or a cake on his table, well served and ready for consummation. With his spoon, he takes a slice of cake and brings it to his mouth. What has happened? The process of salvation has started. It may seem as an obvious and irrelevant observation, but this is one of the most important lessons. This is an example of how one can directly influence his brain, which then causes the body reactions.
It is the same thing with words. If one says:”I can’t do this (learning, jogging, eating healthy, etc…)”, then it is the truth, he really can’t. However, if he says:”I can do it” than it is also the truth. The words and images have a much greater influence on one’s behavior than he may think, as the brain doesn’t know the difference between one’s thought and the reality. Just by saying that something can be done, one prepares his body and his brain for upcoming effort because there is an obstacle that should and can be overcome. On the other hand, if one is imagining negative results and demotivational messages, the brain won’t be ready for the upcoming challenge, but rather for its avoidance.
Of course, one should be honest with himself and set only realistic goals. There is a popular opinion in psychology that just by thinking positive one can accomplish almost anything; however, although it is a widespread belief, it is not a true one. Just by thinking “I will learn my college lessons today; it will be a very simple task” won’t be very effective unless one actually starts learning. That is why he should be realistic and say:”This won’t be an easy task, but if I do my best and stay focused and motivated, I will do a good job at it”. Only then will he prepare and motivate himself for the upcoming obligation.
Follow the pleasure – avoid the pain
The main mechanism that people are driven by is the urge to avoid pain and experience pleasure. This principle of behavior is not unique to the people, as it is also a form of behavior for all the other creatures as well. Every single reaction explains with this formula, although it sometimes might not seem very intuitive. For example, one may ask: “Well, why do people go to work every day? I don’t see any pleasure in getting up early every morning, driving through the crowded traffic, and then spending 8 hours in an office.” A lot of people share the same idea. However, they should ask themselves – do they enjoy eating healthy food every day? Or having a car, going on vacations? Of course, they do. The thing is that none of these things would be possible if they didn’t have money. And how they earn money? Well, of course, by having a job. This is a domain known as Long-term goals – it means that individuals are capable of postponing their satisfaction for a higher goal. These goals are harder to reach but are more important and long-lasting. For example, it is easier to eat ice-cream every evening and to drink cola than going to the gym, but just in a short term perspective. In a few months of practicing, one will build his physical condition and become fit and healthy, and thus, his effort will pay off. On the other hand, taking the “easy road” in this case has no long-term benefits.
This is why one should always have in mind his long-term goals, in order to stay motivated and focused. A good idea is to write it down, such as, “A list of reasons why I should (learn, practice, train, read, etc…) every day?” This is an excellent way to make sure stimulation during the days when one starts to doubt his goals, or when motivation is not as high as usual.
The importance of routine
A lot of people don’t understand the importance of habit. Habits are specific forms of behavior that are repeating every day, and people usually don’t even pay attention to it. For example, brushing teeth in the morning – it is not something that is hard to do, nor it is an easy thing to do; it is just something that is understood and perceived as a morning routine. This logic uses in various situations. If there is something that one wants to do on a daily basis, he should try to make a habit out of it. This can be done easily, just by following two simple rules: set the time and the place. By specifying a time for a particular activity (for example, jogging) he will determine a part of the day and then he should do it every day at the same time. A good idea is to determine a time before or after something that is already happening every day, such as going to work. One can make a plan like this: “Every day after I come home from work, I will take an hour to rest, and then I’ll go jogging”. This is the best way to form a routine because otherwise one might end with procrastination, and say “I’ll do it tonight” or “I’ll move it for tomorrow morning”. Of course, after a day or two, the motivation is gone. That is why the activity should be carried out every day at the same time, without exception.
The place is another important element. For example, one should determine his “studying place” (a particular room or just a corner of a room, particular table, etc…) and to use it only for studying. This way, just by sitting in his chair, the brain will be prepared itself for the challenge, as it will expect that.
The point is that the brain doesn’t really enjoy changes; it prefers constancy so a form of behavior that has been shown as a success in the past will probably also be in the future.
Another successful way to make sure the fulfillment of goals is to tell other people about the goals that one wants to achieve. This is not a very popular method but is highly efficient. It is based on the fact that people are highly social beings and that opinions and behavior of others are a valuable source of information. When a person shares his intentions (for example, going to the gym every day) to other people, it becomes like a form of a promise. If a person shares this idea with his roommate and then not go to the gym next day, what will he feel? A shame, sense of guilt, and he will probably feel like he has disappointed someone. He is aware that other person might think that he doesn’t have a strong character, and maybe even that he cannot be trusted.
This is a very powerful behavior driver because every person cares what others think of him. So, even if one doesn’t really feel like going to the gym of jogging, he will probably do it, just because he has shared his intentions with others and doesn’t want to give an impression that he is inconsistent with his aims.
Although this form of motivation is not very efficient looking in a long-term perspective, it is a good method to be used in the beginning of a process of forming a particular habit. Once it is established, there will be no need for this kind of extrinsic motivation, as one will develop an authentic motive.
When people hear about this technique, they often can’t make a connection with the fulfillment of their goals. It is easy to understand why, as it indeed isn’t a very obvious connection, like in earlier cases. There are two main types of meditation: hyper-sensor and hypo-sensor. One thing is in common for both; a person should sit in comfortable place, relax his body, and calm his thoughts. In hyper-sensor meditation, the focus should be on outside word, so one should pay attention to every detail and every sound that he can hear (cars, leafs, birds, etc…). On the other hand, in hypo-sensor case, he should pay attention to only one domain, for example, his breath; he should observe and analyze it – how deep it is, how it feels when the cold air is inhaled through the nose, etc… The logic is that once this is practiced, and one can stay focused on his breath or outside world for a longer period of time, he will be able to generalize this skill to any other content (learning, reading, etc…). The point is to calm the brain and thoughts, so they wouldn’t ramble and could be focused on a particular behavior.
In this paper, several tips and method that can facilitate the process of achieving goals were listed. Although this is not the complete list, these techniques are some of the most efficient, and thus, most popular. There are different methods, so everybody can choose the one that will work the best for him. Of course, not all of these tips will be equality efficient for every purpose; some are adequate for physical activities and others for more passive forms of behavior (such as reading).
All in all, having these pieces of advice in hand, all one has to do is to give his best to apply themand to stay consisted in his intentions, and the success will be inequitable.
About the author:
Samantha Anderson is the passionate teacher. She interests psychological theories of human-to-human relations and teaching approaches optimization. Thus she practices her developments in the life and kindly shares her opinions on the blog with others. In addition, Samantha is a freelance writer. Besides creating content for popular online sources she writes papers at writing service WriteMyPaper.Today. Her article about the relationship is named top one and discussed on the radio show with an invited guests on June