Millions of people make New Year’s resolutions every December 31st. But according to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is around 80 percent, and most people lose their resolve by mid-February.
Why? Because when it comes time to take action, we deliberate and dither.
We wait for the free time, the perfect day, the right season, a better mood, or optimal market conditions.
Rather than adopting a do-it-now attitude, we revert to the “I will” phenomenon: “I will cut out all sweets beginning next week; I will pay for gym membership and start exercising soon; I will get at least seven hours of sleep starting next month.” And on it goes.
There are two major problems with this “I will” pattern.
The first is that intentions and resolutions, which are genuinely expressed with vigor, get us nowhere. Intentions aren’t the same as actions. Instead, we remain stuck in our comfort zones.
The second problem is that whenever the perfect opportunity presents itself, some other hurdle miraculously crops up, and the plan of action is replaced by another “I will” vow.
We fail because we never begin
Procrastination stops everything. It’s a form of paralysis. It’s the force that prevents millions of people from bringing their dreams to fruition.
But why do we procrastinate? Is it a matter of laziness? Is it
because we’re creatures of habit? Is it because we have an underlying fear of failure?
I would say it’s the result of all three factors.
But what can we do to beat it?
Do like Newton’s apple!
In his Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life, published in 1752, Dr. William Stukeley, an eminent physician, wrote that he was having dinner with his friend Sir Isaac Newton, when the famed English physicist told him that the notion of gravitation came into his mind following the fall of an apple. “Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself.”
Triggered by this singular event, Newton went on to devise his three laws of motion, published in 1687.
In his first law, Newton stated what could be simplified as follows:
An object that is at rest—will stay at rest, unless a force acts upon it; and
An object that is in motion—will continue moving, unless a force acts upon it.
Newton essentially points to us the biggest secret of achievement:
If we do nothing, we get nothing—and we stay stuck at zero.
But as soon as we start moving, we continue moving—and end up achieving things.
Just start taking action . . . and the rest will follow
Glenn Plaskin, an American author, struggled with procrastination while he was writing his first book, what would ultimately become a six-hundred-page biography. During the first two years of writing, he felt overwhelmed by the task.
So, one day, as a last resort, he decided to consult a therapist.
As he sat opposite her, he complained that he didn’t feel like writing.
She stopped him short. “What makes you think I’m interested in your feelings?” she asked. “I’m not interested in what you feel,” she said with a shrug. “I’m interested in what you do.”
This was Glenn’s aha moment. The course of his life was changed by this simple statement. He discovered Newton’s first law of motion: If he just got started, he would gain momentum. So, he just dug into his writing and kept going.
His greatest breakthrough was to start acting immediately. Eventually, his book became a bestseller.
Starting… gives you momentum
The magic formula for mobilizing yourself is to eliminate these two words from your vocabulary: I will.
Just do something, anything—as long as you do it now.
It’s simpler than you think.
For example, you keep trying to write the perfect letter to a good friend but wind up writing nothing at all. The solution? Just sit down now and write a few lines, like “I just wanted to say hi”.
Or if you always seem too tired to go to the gym, try to make it for even ten or fifteen minutes, whenever you have a little now opportunity. Exercising only fifteen minutes per week is still far better than not doing anything at all.
It’s amazing how easily we can overcome procrastination if we push ourselves to take the first tiny step. As Newton’s first law of motion says: An object in motion stays in motion. Once you start a task, you’re much more likely to finish it.
And as Mark Twain said “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” And as novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne once observed, “To do nothing is the way to be nothing!”
An obsession with doing the perfect job at the perfect time is a form of self-sabotage that guarantees you will achieve nothing
Taking action immediately will dampen the urge to act perfectly.
Even starting awkwardly is still better than not starting at all.
So, do something now, however imperfect it may be, knowing that you can make it better later.
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