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We’re Born To Want To Put Things Off But Here’s What You Can Do To Get Over It

We’re Born To Want To Put Things Off But Here’s What You Can Do To Get Over It

We all know the feeling of having to do something and putting it off. 'I'll do it tomorrow', you say to yourself, but you said that yesterday. That book you meant to write, that running habit, getting to work on time. Whatever it is, you can change it. And here's one idea that might help you change your behaviour so you can get to doing what you really want to do.

Akrasia

Akrasia is a word created by ancient philosophers, Socrates and Aristotle, to describe that dissonance we feel when our higher self is telling us to do one thing, and our immediate self is vying for another activity. (It's that feeling when you hear the words in your mind 'Don't eat the chocolate cake' when you've already had a piece.) Our desire in the moment for the temporary reward often overwrites the deeper desire to be healthy and to choose fresh and juicy fruit and veg instead.

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This is simply how humans work, for the most part. But there are some strategies we can incorporate into our lives when dealing with Akrasia. So what can you do about it? You could try the 'if… then' strategy.

'If… then'

Using this strategy can help clarify what you are going to do, and to ensure you are focused on it. When there is no other option than doing what you have planned, it becomes extremely likely that you will do it. This is because then there is no deliberation, it becomes a certainty, so procrastination doesn't get a look in.

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To use this simple strategy, plan what you are going to be doing in a certain situation, time or place:

'If it is 8am, then I will get up and do some yoga and meditation.'

'If it is 10am, then I will begin writing my novel.'

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The 'if then' strategy has shown to increase levels of productivity 200-300% on average. That's some pretty good stats.

This is because it cuts out any thoughts that mean you can listen to the many excuses your mind will come up with to get you to put it off for a bit, or to think of the reasons you might change your mind and do something else instead.

Another practice that helps with this is trying cold showers, in which you hear all of your excuses not to do it, and do it anyway. Becoming aware of these thoughts is the first step to getting confident in the art of just doing it and being aligned with who you really are, and being able to do what you were brought here to do.

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Setting up a new habit is challenging, so don't be too hard on yourself about whether you make it to the gym every single time. Just the fact that you are trying to change is enough for now. And the easiest way to begin is to make starting as easy as possible. Once you've gotten over that hurdle, and have done so consistently, the habit will begin to feel more natural. If you begin to make it a part of your identity as in 'I'm a runner now', then you know you have won most of the battle.

Maya Angelou said that success is "liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it." Hopefully this little tip will allow you to be more of yourself and to contribute more of your time to enjoying the fullness of life, instead of worrying about what you have not done. That's pretty powerful stuff, and it all starts with your habits.

For more tips on creating healthy habits, check this out.

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Daniel Owen van Dommelen

Coder, Director, Writer, Human

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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