Procrastinating, choosing to delay, choosing to postpone until…, deciding to not decide because… has become almost toxic to our thinking processes.
This is not surprising since the number of decisions we face each day has mushroomed since even our grandparents’ generation – we just aren’t yet fully adapted to handle so many decisions effectively.
By accepting “delay” as our default setting (rather than yes or no) — for the way our brain responds when we need to make a decision, it begins to generalize the response to similar contexts.
It’s as if our brain thinks we want more of something because we do it so often.
This puts a kind of gooey-gummy inhibitor into our system and it will kick-in even when we want to go forward with force.
This urge to delay and put things off that would better be done swiftly comes about through our learning to hypothesize negative consequences or making certain conditions a necessity before taking action that has little or nothing whatsoever to do with the goals we are seeking.
Why would we do such a thing?
- Fear of losing the benefits of whatever we are presently seeking in our immediate environment,
- Fear of losing present enjoyment or comfort for uncertain returns in the future,
- Fear of unanticipated consequences,
- Fear of committing to action before we have fully explored what trade-offs and costs will be incurred and for what in return – the list goes on and on…
Here’s a rule of thumb about hacking habits: the contents of the thoughts and feelings around whatever we want to re-engineer are not as important as the process that the habit represents.
We hack habits by changing the process, and then use the contents to practice and reinforce what we want to change.
What this means is we are not terribly concerned about the contents, the occasions, and circumstances of behavioral problems except to track down and capture the process involved.
Content becomes the report of facts, figures and events and not the main event.
It’s not like counseling or therapy that concentrates on the contents of experiences and tries to make sense and meaning out of all the little moods and scenarios and minutiae of our life, and our emotional reactions to it.
From a habit hacking point of view, this is like trying to get to the basic elements and process of making a chocolate fudge cake with chocolate icing by taking the finished, iced cake and pushing it through a sieve.
No matter how much cake you push through those tiny little holes in the sieve; it will NEVER come out as flour, eggs, butter, sugar and the other components that went it.
Habit hacking is going for the process as directly as we can, while lowering the emotional, mental and physical energy required to address the issue at hand.
Here we want to get to the point where decision making is simplified to the point of being able to decide to move forward and then do that with as little fear and hesitation as possible.
We’ll discuss some of the specific hesitations that seem to afflict people in a future post but for now, please consider this wonderful question that can unmask many fake fears that cause needless worries.
It may seem innocuous and simple, and yet, it is still a power question for its simplicity.
The question is:
“What are you waiting for?”
- Choose a project, goal or something you’ve been working on, or something you haven’t started yet, and ask “What am I waiting for?”
- Write out each issue, condition, moment, or resource that comes up in your thinking in terms of what you are waiting for.
- Consider each delay factor as a comment on your choice of “how” – in other words, the obstacle is not something “out there” getting in your way, but you believing that things must be arranged in a certain way before you can take action.
There are things that delay us over which we have no control – but then the question is,
“How do I move forward while waiting for X?”
But most of the delays are caused by our assumptions about the nature of the process, the limitations of our maps of the world, and our experience.
As a general rule-of-thumb, we can say “What do I think is stopping me from taking the next step?”, and then reviewing what we know and don’t know in our goal statements, process thinking and resource planning.
“I don’t know” has a second part to it: “I don’t know… but someone, somewhere must know. Who do I know that might know?”
- Every time you feel an urge to delay or deflect making a decision to move forward – examine what you think is stopping you.
- Get curious and even a little bit militant with yourself, refusing to take “I don’t know” or “I’m afraid” as some wimpy kind of final answer.
- Work it through to a next physical action you can take, and then do so immediately.
You owe at least this to yourself.
Raise the bar on action by removing the delays.
It will become one of your most enjoyable activities… getting out of your way and it’s a key part of building the habit of prosperity.