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January 19, 2014

You have to be at work by 9am in the morning, you are just now waking up at 8:20am. Knowing fully well that it takes you about thirty minutes to get ready for work, you spring out of bed. Regardless of what excuses you give yourself, the reality is that you premeditated this. How? You premeditated your oversleeping because you did not set the intent to wake up at a specific time where you would have had plenty of time to perform your morning routine and arrive at work on time. Prior to going to bed the night before, you knew that you were running into trouble once you did not visualize what your routine in the morning was going to be like and you probably lied to yourself.

If you recall all the times you have successfully followed through with an endeavour, what you will most likely recall is that you visualized it happening before it happened. You knew what you were going to do, you anticipated obstacles in your path and how you were going to get around those obstacles. So what happens when we procrastinate? What happens when we fall short from achieving our desired goals, not because of things not going our way, but due to our failures in following through on certain things?

What happens is fear, and even more specifically our unwillingness to acknowledge our fears. Let’s say for example that you have a fear of speaking in public, and your supervisor recently confided in you about management’s interest in you for a new leadership position. You get excited about the job, then it dawns on you, this leadership position requires a lot of public speaking and presentations. You want the job, for all the perks that come with the job, but you do not want the burden of dealing with your fear of public speaking. So you choose to take the passive route by not making any decisions, and you instead give management the impression that you are interested in the job. Not only to you fail to make a solid decision to yourself, you also fail to visualize yourself thriving in that role.

In the absence of a conscious intention for what you want, your subconsciousness will default to  making the best decision on your behalf which is designed to protect you from fears. Hence chronic episodes of procrastination. Using the example given at the start of this post, after several occurrences of tardiness, management will take you less seriously for the new job and you would have successfully sabotaged yourself.

This is the story of how procrastination usually occurs, there is fear or reluctance to engage in something, but due to social pressure you go along with it. However you make no plans in your head, nor do you set any intention to follow through, it’s as if you have decided that you will go along with the flow of things and whatever happens will simple happen.

The reality is that as human beings we all have power, specifically the power to influence the world around us. It is important to note that the feats we have achieved in our lives, were achieved because we wanted to achieve them, no one can bring us happiness in our lives but ourselves. This is why it is important to honest with ourselves regarding what we desire and do not desire.

So how do you overcome procrastination? You overcome procrastination by fearlessly setting your intention for what you want to accomplish. If you are having difficulty visualizing it in your mind then write it down as a narrative. In this post, I discussed the importance of using narratives in creating the futures we desire. Writing down your intention as a narrative allows you to play out potential obstacles you are most likely to encounter in a virtual world, which gives you leverage in predicting and developing plans for how to overcome certain obstacles prior to experiencing them.

Once your fears have been acknowledged and you have planned accordingly using the narrative technique, you will find that it becomes easier to set your intentions visually.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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