www.hillaryrettig.

com/page 1 TITLE The Little Guide To Beating Procrastination, Perfectionism and Blocks: A Manual for Artists, Activists, Entrepreneurs, Academics and Other Ambitious Dreamers by Hillary Rettig, http://www.hillaryrettig.co m

lifelongactivist@yahoo.com VERSION INFORMATION Version 1.0 released 12/10/07 AUTHORSHIP This e-book is adapted from my book The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way (Lantern Books, 2006). For more information on The Lifelong Activist please visit http://www.hillaryrettig.com. I do life and career coaching that help activists, artists, entrepreneurs, students and other ambitious dreamers break free of procrastination, perfectionism, fear, negativity and other blocks to success so that they can achieve their life goals. I also help people succeed at their job searches (that s what the subject of my next book will be). If you like the approach in this e-book, and think my coaching would be helpful to you, please email me at lifelongactivist@yahoo.com. You can also read more about my coaching and workshop services at http://www.hillaryrettig.com. If this e-book has helped you, and/or if you have suggestions for the next edition, I would welcome hearing from you. Thanks, Hillary. lifelongactivist@yahoo.com WARRANTY The information in this e-book is presented without warranty of any kind. It has helpedwww.hillaryre ttig.com/page 2 many people, and it is my sincere wish that it help you, but I can t accept responsibility for any negative result you feel you may have obtained from using it. If you are suffering

from an intractable procrastination problem, or panic attacks, anxiety, depression, addiction or any other psychological or physical condition, please seek professional help before following the advice herein. - Hillary LICENSE This e-book is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license, which means you are allowed to copy, alter and distribute it noncommercially so long as you include the above Title, Version, Authorship and Warranty statements, as well as this License statement. If you choose to distribute your altered version to others, you must permit them the same freedom to copy, alter and distribute non-commercially under the same terms. For more details click on this link: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/. TEXT NOTES *Throughout The Little Guide, I use the term artist to refer to creative people of all types, including fine artists, musicians, writers, and performers, as well as craftspeople, designers, and other commercial or applied artists. *I often use the word student to refer both to students I have taught in classes and workshops, and individuals I have coached. *Please note that although the techniques described in The Little Guide work on their own, you ll probably achieve better results using them in conjunction with the Mission Management and Time Management techniques described in Parts I and II of The Lifelong Activist. I didn t include those topics here because I wanted to write a little guide that focused just on the topic that most people seem most urgently interested in, overcoming procrastination. I do, however, occasionally refer to the importance of managing your mission and time in this e-book, and urge you to pick up The Lifelong Activist to read up on those topics.www.hillaryrettig.com/page 3 TABLE OF CONTENTS PART I. THE PROBLEM DEFINED

1. An Early Morning in May (or September, or January ) 2. Things That Bump Us Off Our Path 3. Despair and Hope 4. The Problem You Think You re Solving 5. The Problems You Should Be Solving 6. Fear 1. Introduction to Fear and Fear of Change 7. Fear II. Fear of Failure 8. Fear III. Fear of Success 9. No Such Thing as Pure Failure or Success 10. Don t Compound Fear With Shame 11. Fear Creates Obstacles to Success 12. The Most Important Thing You Need to Know About Your Obstacles 13. Non Obstacles 14. Beware Myths that Promote and Excuse Failure 15. Perfectionism 16. Negativity 17. Negativity II 18. Hypersensitivity 19. Panic: The Fear-Amplifier PART II. THE SOLUTIONS 20. False Solution I: Mean Mommy/Mean Daddy 21. False Solutions II and III: Selling Out and Stalling Out 22. False Solution IV: Dithering 23. Solution I: The Three Productivity Behaviors 24. Practicing the Three Productivity Behaviors 25. Five Success Tips 26. Solution II: A Process for Overcoming Fear-Based Procrastination and Panic

work a couple more hours in the evening. Or. easel or other workspace by 9. Tools for Change I: Journaling 28. or January ) So here s what happens: You have a plan let s say. you spend an hour or three reading the newspaper. But you don t follow the plan. Tools for Change II: Therapy and Self-Care 29. and then curl up in bed with a good book. Developing an Empowered Personality 33.at 8. Etc. be washed and dressed and breakfasted by 8. Tools for Change II: A Created Communitywww. work three hours. What Empowered People Dowww. Web surfing. maybe. maybe when lunchtime rolls around you don t exercise and instead of a salad eat a gigantic submarine sandwich . And then. THE PROBLEM DEFINED Chapter 1. or 9.hillaryrettig. it takes you not one. Procrastination is when you get bumped off the path you set for yourself for the .27. Finding and Cultivating Mentors 31. eat a healthy salad at your desk. come home.and then spend the rest of the afternoon feeling sluggish and don t get much done. to wake up at 7. eat dinner with your partner. An Early Morning in May (or September. The Ultimate Solution (Solution III) to Managing Your Fears 32. at your desk.com/page 5 PART I. exercise during your lunch break.com/page 4 30. work four more hours. Or. but three hours to make it to your desk.hillaryrettig. and making personal calls. or noon! The plan is trashed before you even get started. Maybe you wake up late . once you re there.

since a block is really an ongoing procrastination problem that lasts weeks. Meaning. Students whowww. The challenge of beating procrastination is the challenge of resisting the urge to leave your path. and what you can do to stay on it. you will be much more empowered to finally defeat your procrastination problem and live the productive and happy life you ve always yearned for.hillaryret tig. Chapter 2. you haven t accomplished some.day. by the time you finish. and so have many of my students and coaching clients. or all.com/page 6 employ them often shoot ahead like arrows on their goals. *Are distracted by the weather it s beautiful out and you d love to take a walk . *Quarreled with your lover last night. *Are too tired the coffee hasn t kicked in yet. you re making a choice to either stay on your path (or schedule) or leave it. Why not? The answer could be one or more of the following: *Got up late. but somehow. by the time bedtime rolls around. For now. and rest assured that. but I like mine because it reflects the notion that.m. This is also the challenge of beating blocks. but three proven solutions to procrastination: I ve used these solutions myself with great success. It offers not one. on a Monday morning. but you re not. just relax and read on. and keep reliving the quarrel in your mind. Things That Bump Us Off Our Path Let s say you planned to be at your computer. you start the day with a plan. years or decades. *Are too hyper drank too much coffee and can t sit still. at every moment. these solutions work fast. even if they ve been blocked for years. of what you had intended. This e-book will help you figure out what is causing you to leave your daily path. working on a project. at 10 a. months. There are other definitions of procrastination. Moreover. I ll explain why that is so later in the book.

if you work in a home office: *Turned on the TV for a minute and saw that one of your favorite actors was being interviewed. It s only a partial list. *Are reading the newspaper every last word of it.you can probably add many other entries to it. who is depressed (though not in crisis) and needed to talk. But even with an emergency. is emergencies. *Are playing Solitaire.or bike ride. *Got a call from a friend (or email or instant message) who is happy and wanted to share good news. it is very important to learn to minimize the . they are all equally unacceptable from the standpoint of beating your procrastination habit. If you ve got an ambitious goal. after you ve dealt with it. of course. and some seem bad or frivolous (like playing Solitaire). by which I mean activities that can t be postponed without significant hurt to yourself or others. There arewww. ask yourself whether it could have been prevented by better planning. of course . The one exception. One important thing to notice is that. so you decide to watch the interview. *Just realized that the laundry desperately needs to get done! These are typical of the kinds of things that can bump you off your path. *Are distracted by the weather it s awful and depressing.hillaryrettig. You will need to learn to resist the urge to get sucked into activities not on your schedule. *Got a call (or email or instant message) from a friend. no matter how important or virtuous they seem at the moment. *Are Web surfing or Web shopping. Or. while some of these bumps seem good or worthwhile (like commiserating with your unhappy friend or doing the laundry). or whether someone else could have handled it.c om/page 7 probably hundreds of potential bumps that can knock you off your path. *Just realized that it is highly important to work on some other project.

but to what extent? It s not always clear. and to learn to delegate as much as possible. I need to. if someone is sick or otherwise incapacitated.hillaryret tig. such as a therapist . So. This problem can be hard to identify. because procrastinators are often adept at rationalizing their diversions. Or. much less solve.friends or even professionals. *Your friend who needs a lot of support could find others . because you need to reserve as much time as . and talking for hours each day with your friend. I am. you are essentially declaring that you will be very particular and selfdirected in how you spend your time. or the high school kid down the block who needs a few extra bucks.fresh solutions to formerly unsolvable dilemmas often present themselves. Obviously. Look at Your Commitments With a Fresh Eye When you start looking at your commitments from the standpoint of someone who is determined to succeed at their ambitious dream meaning.like another family member. If it sounds like I m taking a hard line. we should help them. If you didn t have an ambitious dream that you were pursuing on top of life s ordinary demands. even when those others aren t particularly needy or when someone else is available to help. cooking allwww. But once you own up to your ambitious dream. sacrificing too much of their own time to help others.to help provide it.number of preventable emergencies in your life. for instance: *Your elderly parents could probably find someone else to mow their lawn and pick up the groceries . someone who must use their time optimally . Or.com/page 8 the meals. and many procrastinators misjudge. *Your spouse and kids could probably survive on take-out (or cook their own food!) a few nights a week. because the (deservedly) virtuous feeling one gets from helping often offsets the guilt that the procrastination normally engenders. then maybe you could get away with mowing the lawn.

friends. so that they can use the reclaimed time and energy to work on their dream.possible for your dream. None of this should be taken to mean that you abandon your family or friends. And even though you re not going to be able to talk to your friend for hours every day. find someone else to do it. Send your laundry out to be done. neighbors. buy a floor-mopping robot. need to reduce the time they spend on tedious household chores to as close as possible to zero. they are surprisingly understanding and eager to help. especially if we ve been interacting with them a certain way for years. Often.tell them why. who let others including loved ones. for instance. and have your groceries delivered. if we take the time to share our situation. you could still be taking them to medical appointments: that s a much higher value activity that is probably a far better use of your time. Besides. If you feel funny doing any of that. hire someone to maintain the lawn (or get your spouse or kids to do it). (Double-especially if we ve been taught to subordinate our needs to others. you could still be available to her in times of real need. coworkers and corporations . . It can be scary to change the terms of our interaction with someone. or spend as much time with them. and ask for their support and help. dreams and needs. it s unrealistic to think that you can spend your time the same way non-ambitious dreamers do and still accomplish your ambitious dream. Almost all ambitious dreamers. as we have been. for instance. as many women in particular are. It just means you invest your time judiciously. however. Even though you re not mowing your parents lawn. This is in direct contrast to most people. Okay. But laundry? Yard work? Mopping floors? Standing in line at the grocery store? To the extent you re able to. So don t just tell people you will be less available .control their time for them.) People often react badly when we tell them we can t do as much for them. And even though you re not cooking home-cooked dinners every night. then don t give that up. you could still do it a couple of times a week. get over it: reducing your housework burden is an investment in yourself. if you enjoy gardening and it feeds your soul.

and often. Their boasts about their huge workloads. no matter how important it may seem at the time.If. relationship or other commitment. at a comfortable. I ve got no willpower. or are actively hostile. even if they happen to be related to them. Many artists. That s why successful people learn to say no. shameful nature . course. You should also build in time both for your own relaxation and for unplanned events and emergencies.they cut and run. pretending to be happy and productive while really feeling besieged. but a common one. Whatever time you decide to spend helping others you should build into your weekly or monthly schedule. non-stressful pace. Procrastination can also feel very . and other ambitious dreamers take the self-abuse a step further. and also to distance themselves from unsupportive or toxic people. and constant need to pull all-nighters are often just a cover for shame and desperation. after you share your story. Many procrastinators lead a double life. when things get really hot . Chapter 3. Many people think time management is aboutwww. I m hopeless. ability to work under pressure. on your important goals. procrastinators become depressed almost as soon as they wake up because they know they are destined to procrastinate that day. thereby revealing their true. Often. job. Despair and Hope Most procrastinators tell themselves things like: I m lazy.hilla ryrettig. but it s not. framing their procrastination as a moral flaw: I m a sell-out.when they are about to miss a serious deadline. I m a failure. I m undisciplined.com/page 9 trying to stuff as much as possible into one s schedule. To sum up: whatever bumps you off your path that is not an unpreventable emergency is procrastination. I ll never succeed at anything. some people still aren t understanding. abandoning a project. shallow. that s a sad problem to have. activists. uncommitted. it s about clearing as much as possible off your schedule so you can work.

perhaps most.confusing. and many people. could they? But. it is often called a block. instead of seeing your procrastination problem as a shameful . watching some television. the thief of time. Yes. they last for years. Being blocked is one of the worst feelings in the world. tragically. but those random activities couldn t possibly have filled the entire day. drinking a cup of coffee with your officemates. At bedtime.hillaryrettig. To hold onto an ambitious dream despite one s fears. I congratulate her. You remember reading the headlines. do a Web search on procrastination: you ll get links to hundreds of pages advising you on how not to procrastinate when writing your novel or thesis. of course. can boast at least one achievement: they haven t given up on their dream. Anyone can be blocked. dedication and courage. it drives some people to absolute despair. or looking for a new job. and also (frequently) despite discouragement and disapproval from those around us and society itself. it really does feel as if his or her time were somehow stolen. Sometimes. takes vision.There s Good News! But wait . congratulate. So. no matter how thwarted. To a procrastinator. Here s why: *Procrastination is an affliction of ambitious people. you look back on the day and can t figure out where your time went.com/page 10 Wait . and people who pursue them should be admired even if they do procrastinate. and lasts long enough. they wouldn t be worried about procrastinating on it. These are all ambitious endeavors. *All procrastinators. as in writer s block. when he had Mr. in David Copperfield. Macawber call procrastination. are.there s no need to feel ashamed or despairing! When one of my students confesses to a procrastination problem. pursuing a fitness program. and surfing the Web. blocks last for weeks or months. but often. If you don t believe me. decades or even entire lifetimes. That s what Charles Dickens meant. If a procrastination problem is serious enough. they did.www. If they had.

nothing s simple.often. .that they are not making progress on as fast as they would like. and so on. if one understands thatwww. try seeing it instead as a symbol of something great within you. I believe. you ve got some work to do to realize your full potential . This book is written specifically for artists. academics and other ambitious dreamers. pretty much everyone has days when they get bumped off their path. too. after all.like who hasn t? But at least you keep showing up and fighting the good fight. As the late. and ministers can pray over the sick without getting holiness block. a few years back. It s true that successful people tend to procrastinate less than the unsuccessful ones . Yeah. entrepreneurs. the writer who enjoys his work and takes measured pride in it should never be troubled by writer s block. neither something one ought to feel deeply guilty about nor something one ought to be inordinately proud of. Everyone has goals .flaw. the very thing that makes them successful-but sometimes they do it.hillaryr ettig. Are these groups particularly prone to procrastination? Maybe.that is. people with long-established careers and those just starting out. But alas. activists. I ve made a point of asking many of the people I talk with whether they procrastinate. Another reason not to feel bad about your procrastination problem is that pretty much everyone procrastinates. insatiability. Ever since I became interested in procrastination. If children can build sand castles without getting sand castle block. the goals nearest and dearest to their hearts . I ve asked very successful people and people who were less successful. great novelist and teacher John Gardner said in his book On Becoming a Novelist: Theoretically there s no reason one should get [writer s block]. stubbornness. is only writing. And guess what? I ve only met one or two people who said they never procrastinated. The very qualities that make one a writer in the first place contribute to block: hypersensitivity.com/page 11 writing. So.

and so do I. A dedicated person. or reading this e-book.Gardner considers those characteristics virtues.if not probable impoverishment. Sally! .otherwise.who are often deeply ashamed of their procrastination problem . right? Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff. And that doesn t even count the inherent difficulties of the goal itself . says writer Harvey Pekar. lack of support from family and/or society. I would similarly congratulate you. you re a smart person. for one. it is one of the hardest. and then I quietly congratulate my students for persevering in their own dreams despite all the difficulties and barriers. We all share a moment of sadness for those people.Just work harder. they d be UNambitious dreamers. as discussed in Chapter 18. So. that question has haunted you for years. The problem. the need of the artist to perfect her craft and sell her work.) Let s also not forget that ambitious dreamers choose to pursue exceptionally difficult goals .of the many people who have given up on their dreams. and I. can t blame them. I define hypersensitivity differently and see it as a problem. and stressful working conditions. I m pretty sure about all of that. in reality. or you wouldn t be an ambitious dreamer. One of the most frustrating things about procrastination is that it seems like it would be thewww. (What he calls hypersensitivity. or of the academic to finish his thesis..e. Many people flee from these kinds of stresses. . Chapter 4.when. ambitious dreamers can expect to face financial risk . I remind my students . how come you can t solve a little procrastination problem? If you re like many of my students. emotional risk and rejection. I call sensitivity. A creative person. however. however. but in addition to the complexities of ordinary life.hillaryr ettig. Whenever I teach. The Problem You Think You re Solving Look. is that in doing so they also flee from their dreams.i.com/page 12 easiest problem in the world to solve .

and is made miserable thereby. and you ll still never solve the problem. teachers.Actually. First of all. etc. most tend to be dynamos in areas other than the one they are procrastinating in. they actually make the situation worse by undermining your self-confidence and predisposing you to failure. then you are bound to fail. lack of willpower. Huh? I mean it: the only way to solve a problem is to solve it. worse than useless. it s true for everyone at any age.and you will hear me say this repeatedly because it s such a vital point . And that s not just true for kids. want to maintain the status quo? See Chapter 5.applying negative labels such as lazy or undisciplined to yourself is. One of the peculiar tortures of procrastination is that we are often productive in areas of our lives other than the one closest to our heart. Secondly . harnessing all the brainpower. Any problem is hard to solve. not . (Why would someone who procrastinates. Rather. In fact. Not only do those labels misidentify the problem. undisciplined. lack of discipline. or actions designed to solve no problem at all. immaturity.I repeat. creativity and passion you can muster. lack of commitment. As I discuss in Chapter 20. encouragement and praise for any small step taken are the way to go.) You can try from here to the moon. If you try to solve a problem using actions designed to solve some other problem. parents. Makes sense. . or some similar character flaw. doesn t it? Here s how it applies to your procrastination problem: You probably think the root problem causing your procrastination is laziness. that s not quite true. shame and blame do not inspire positive behavioral change. But guess what? It s likely none of those. coaches and mentors all know that criticism. if you re not really solving it. from a problem-solving standpoint.lazy. most procrastinators are not . but instead to maintain the status quo.

That problem is usually either: 1. just like procrastination itself is a symptom. Are Your Lights On? How to Figure Out What the Problem REALLY Is. Levine s approach highlights how just important it is to characterize your procrastination problem properly. I ll have a lot more to say about labels in Chapter 17. discusses how many cases of laziness can be traced to undiagnosed or untreated learning disabilities. a person s supposed laziness often evaporates. or resolving. Rather. or a chaotic family life.D. or you repeatedly call yourself.hillaryrettig.. solving. lazy or uncommitted.once we know what the problem is. Once these causes are diagnosed and addressed. -Gause and Weinberg. The Problems You Should Be Solving More often than not. Treating procrastination as a symptom of laziness or a lack of discipline doesn t work because those are not the causes of procrastination. this probably means you ve instead learned the default habits of low productivity or non-productivity. ****** Chapter 5. This results in what I call Behavioral-Based . they are symptoms. Since nature abhors a vacuum. You were never taught the habits of productive work. physical problems like bad eyesight or motor control. you are likely to live down to that label. a problem is a rather trivial exercise . M. of a deeper problem. the field of expectations psychology has shown us that people often live up or down to the labels others stick on them. teaching failures. but in the meantimestop negatively labeling yourself! ******www. learning disabilities expert Mel Levine. an inadequate physical environment. so that if someone repeatedly calls you.Moreover.com/page 13 The Myth of Laziness Think of yourself as lazy or uncommitted? In a book entitled The Myth of Laziness.

which is usually caused by a lack of information or training.Procrastination. com/page 14 right. FBP helps ensure that you either don t do activism or don t do it well. judged and accepted. people suffer from both. This. Fear: of change. rejected. He s absolutelywww. Fear-Based Procrastination is caused by. This results in what I call Fear-Based Procrastination. fear. it helps you avoid having your viewpoint accepted. Behavioral-Based Procrastination is a relatively simple problem to define and solve. *If you re a writer. and I do so starting in Chapter 23. it could lead to your interacting mainly with people who already share your views . Steven Pressfield. failure. FBP helps ensure that you either never start your work. Or.hillaryrettig. in his excellent book The War of Art describes Resistance (his word for procrastination) as: invisible internal insidious implacable impersonal infallible universal. or student. helps you avoid having your work judged and possibly rejected. artist.the infamous echo chamber problem. etc. if not optimal. which may feel better than rejection initially. success. in turn. as I discuss in Chapter 8. as its name implies. and possibly yourself. Fear is unfortunately a major force in many people s lives: it s often a rational. Or. Or. This. Fear-Based Procrastination is more complex. . which is to keep you stuck at your current level of achievement so that you don t have to face the frightening consequences of making progress on your goal. response to the difficulties and stresses of life and an ambitious path. in turn. *If you re an activist. helps you avoid having your viewpoints. The Purpose of Fear-Based Procrastination Fear-Based Procrastination (FBP) is not a random bad habit: it has a purpose. For instance. or never finish it. Unlike Behavioral-Based Procrastination. but can bring its own problems and stresses. in which case you will have a new set of challenges and responsibilities. Often. 2.

*If you re stuck in a bad job. in turn. newspapers. economic decline (if your partner is helping to support your lifestyle). FBP helps ensure that you either never look for another one.*If you re an entrepreneur. an amazing ability to disguise itself: that is one of its most powerful weapons. possible rejection. This.but they are the activities we turn to when we are afraid. Web surfing. Procrastination has. including a heavier workload and more employees to manage. This. Or. if the relationship is salvageable.the cause is fear . FBP helps ensure that you do not go to couples therapy or take other positive steps. Or: Oh. especially as she s having such a rough day? we tell ourselves. brooding about relationships or the weather. and consequent risk of rejection. helps you avoid having to do a full-bore job search (a highly stressful experience for most people)..com/page 15 Fear-Based Procrastination s Stealthy Nature Remember all those bumps we discussed in Chapter 2 . This. it helps you avoid the consequences of success. FBP helps ensure that you never leave it. FBP helps you avoid the stressful and scary consequences of business success. or a future worse relationship. or no work. Or: Wow.www. but that also involves more responsibility and stress.personal calls. rejection by potential new lovers. those aren t the actual cause of your procrastination . and the guilty knowledge that we are procrastinating. including finding a job that might be better in many ways. FBP helps ensure that you either never start your business. and they serve to distract us from both the fear.. Or. the living room rug is really filthy! It will only take a few minutes to vacuum it. there s my favorite actor on that TV show . What could be the harm in talking to Jane for ten more minutes. *If you are in a bad relationship. Or. helps you avoid the scary task of sales. etc. or the chance that you ll wind up in an even worse job. helps you avoid the risks of loneliness.hillaryrettig. in fact.? As you now know. or look ineffectually. or that you spend your time doing the wrong work. thus helping you avoid the vulnerability and risks inherent in true intimacy. in turn. in turn.

Or.. That s why the next few chapters are devoted to the topic of fear and its typical causes and manifestations. hence. you spend a lot of time doing relatively unimportant busywork for your business. but bring you no closer to achieving your goal. but at least safely protected from the possibility of even more unhappiness. you spend a lot of time reading art magazines and visiting galleries. procrastination disguises itself as a slew of productiveseeming. starting in Chapter 15. gains such a tough hold on us. one of the four main habits of procrastination and.it can t hurt to watch for just a few minutes. Or. So.which is why procrastination. behaviors that suck up a lot of time and give you the illusion of progress. but don t actually get around to writing it or you keep rewriting the same chapter over and over again. And let s not forget procrastination s other valuable tool: its ability to thieve time. and hanging out with friends . listening to music.and then. sales. running errands. It all sounds so plausible . we need to understand more about ourwww. All of this adds up to the phenomenon Pressfield aptly describes as invisible internal insidious implacable.or. Or: No point in even getting started before I ve had my coffee. for sure. but don t actually paint. text messaging. It is clear that.. It keeps us stuck .m. especially after we ve practiced it for years or decades. but don t actually go out and do the most important activity of all. playing video games. alternatively. you keep researching your novel or thesis topic.) I discuss these obstacles in depth in this e-book. and watching television . hypersensitivity and panic. (The other three are negativity. This kind of fake productivity is often exacerbated by perfectionism. At its most insidious.unhappily. to defeat procrastination. So. . napping. one of the four main obstacles that procrastinators must overcome to be able to do their work.hillaryrettig. it s ten p. and you haven t done any of your important work.c om/page 16 fears and our responses to those fears. all of a sudden. you spend the day Web surfing. doing housework. but not actually productive.

and react to that fear. fear of failure and fear of success. progress can happen very quickly! Below. as quickly as possible. it is in our interest to be scared of certain risky situations. we examine the three most common fears at the heart of procrastination: fear of change. is not a bad thing . The good news is that. and why it can be so disabling.or. Furthermore. irrational or otherwise an impediment to our growth and success . . -Todd Gitlin. Fear I. Just as it was in our remote ancestors interest to be scared of terrain likely to harbor predators. The problem is when our fears are excessive. This early warning system may be the reason fear is such a difficult problem to overcome. It s hard to do anything when you re afraid other than to try to escape the thing that is frightening you. Fear is one of the strongest emotions: scientists even believe that there is even a kind of early warning system in the amygdala (the part of the brain that governs emotion) that allows us to experience fear before we ve consciously become aware of the thing we are afraid of. plunged into darkness not because it was stylish or because they were proud possessors of a theory that assured them that they were destined to win. Letters to a Young Activist Fear. but because they decided to overcome fear. It makes sense: if a leopard is about to eat you. If you have tried repeatedly and without success to break your procrastination habit. you are unlikely to make much progress unless you first deal with your fear. when we respond to fear in a suboptimal way such as procrastinating. . period.Chapter 6. Introduction to Fear and Fear of Change Our bravest organizers .it can help keep us out of trouble. and in the next few chapters. Fear of Change A key difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that successful . once you do that. then there is a good chance that fear lies at the heart of your failure. it s a good idea to feel fear. in itself.

so it was a treat for me to hear him speak. to put the nation in order. you must overcome your fear of change.com/page 17 want to be today. Fear of Failure You have to have the courage to fail. recently. . Unsuccessful people tend to be more passive: they take what life. next year. This is especially true of activists. Chapter 7. to put the family in order. devil you know is better than the devil you don t. we must work on our fear of change even more than most people. after retiring. ten years from now. and thirty years from now. we must first put the nation in order. well enough alone. and former world chess champion. But it is not a mindset likely to lead to success in any ambitious endeavor. leave let sleeping dogs lie kind of person. don t fix it if it ain t broke. at a .Russian political activist. and other people. we must first set our hearts right. To achieve your goals. was not content to rest on his laurels. for instance. we must cultivate our personal life. Confucius agrees: To put the world in order. and to cultivate our personal life. Garry Kasparov Garry Kasparov is one of my heroes: a former world chess champion who. They decide where theywww. embittered lives. Quoting Gandhi. hand them. he may have perfectly good reasons for that mindset: people from troubled or deprived backgrounds. and consequently often lead unhappy. this week. Fear II. Of course.people initiate and control more of the changes in their lives. As ambitious dreamers. and take actions designed to achieve that result. but has devoted himself to fighting courageously to restore democracy in an increasingly authoritarian Russia. That person may be a super-cautious or even pessimistic. we must become the change we want to see. this month. often learn these kinds of lessons. whose vocation is all about creating change.hillaryret tig. He does not often come to the United States. Moreover. we must put the family in order. someone who is afraid of change is going to have a harder time initiating and controlling it.

Most people spend way too much time criticizing themselves. I have won hundreds of chess games. when our projects succeed. So.g. Wow. How could I possibly think I could own a business? My folks were right . it s when they fail. or an even better one.I m just lazy and stupid. I m fabulous. I went home thinking about how one doesn t become world chess championwww. we call it a success. and we don t just tell ourselves. MA. Such negative thoughts are crippling. as far as I m concerned: just keep it to yourself so that you don t alienate others. brilliant. Now. and especially many procrastinators. I m such a loser. If such a failure-averse man can have the courage to fail. and the main point he kept coming back to was: You have to have the courage to fail.and lost thousands. Unfortunately. at least for a little while. it seemed. many people. do this all the time.and how they were essential to his success. If not.church in Cambridge. If an action we take brings us the result we desired. but.e. we don t just tell ourselves. I don t have a problem with that. failures . the problem isn t when our projects succeed. I guess I ll have to do better next time.hillaryrettig. from eastern Europe. so can I . and the other half nerdy guys clutching chess books they wanted him to autograph. the merrier. Then the reverse happens. not to mention being criticized by others. and yet here was Kasparov talking about his thousands of losses .that we really .. The place was packed with more than a thousand people half.. and in many cases we are so terrified of the possibility that they are correct . we call it a failure. No. I did that so well! We say. The more. conflating their success or failure with our own as human beings. queen of the world! And we frequently do feel like queen of the world.and so can you. Especially if you understand what failure really is. The trouble comes when we over-identify with our projects. and could use some extra self-praise. Bummer. He also mentioned. He spoke on the dynamics of success.com/ page 18 without being super-competitive and absolutely hating to lose..

have it even worse: they are comfortable taking credit for their failures. At some point. we remain stuck in our ruts. As Steven Pressfield puts it in The War of Art.hillaryrettig. which is why her disappointment is likely to be only temporary and she is able to return happily and confidently to block-building the next day. Many of us. as a result. after all. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and over-terrified of its failure. This makes us terrified of even the possibility of failure and. It fell down! not I failed! If anything.com /page 19 objectively at our personal limitations. it must be trivial. (If the procrastinator succeeded at it. Many procrastinators. And so we remain frozen: *We don t leave a bad job in hopes of finding a better one. Given procrastination s stealthy nature. in fact. *We don t take on ambitious projects. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him. we usually don t tell ourselves . or some other kid who happened to walk too close to her tower. In short. more interesting place. unable to take appropriate risks. are unable to refrain from harsh self-criticism. *We don t move to a new. were not treated so kindly by parents or others and. Children raised with kindness and insight become resilient adults who can do this without judging themselves harshly. So. she is likely to blame the blocks themselves. thus.) Can you imagine a more disabling attitude? Most young children don t have this problem. of course. but not their successes. while success is due to luck or the supposedly trivial nature of the challenge. or don t finish the projects we take on. however. we all must learn to take responsibility for our failures and lookwww. *We don t leave a bad relationship in hopes of finding a better one.are stupid losers that we don t even dare to attempt our dream. A child whose tower of building blocks falls down will cry. failure is due to the person s own limitations or ineptness.

really hard to leave the job. *Get a new relationship and you put your heart on the line. the new place is likely to be busier. and you could fall flat on your face. Success. Success also always comes coupled with a new possibility of failure. we usually tell ourselves that we are trying really. In the world as it is.no one likes to fail. Fear of Success Fear of failure is an intuitive concept . more difficult. usually has the virtue of leaving us in the same place where we started out. Success also puts you in the line of fire. sometimes. information and skills. that you ll prevail at your new challenges. and perhaps hardest to take. relationship. more confusing and less comfortable than the place we left behind: *Finish your thesis and you will have to experience the judgment of your committee.we re in a rut. *Get a new job and you ll have to master a whole new set of relationships. Artists and academics both have to endure their work being judged by experts and. But what about fear of success? How could anyone be afraid of success? Consider this: failure. There s nowww. the wider community. after all. Finally. And that is scary. Fear III. We just don t do a very good job of it. is that your success may spark resentment and even hostility from family and friends who don t support your goals. *Run a successful activist campaign and you ll wind up with more work to do.hillaryrettig. at least. not to mention the vagaries of the academic job market. the solution of each problem inevitably creates a new one. takes us to someplace new and unknown. As Saul Alinsky writes in Rules for Radicals. etc. or who remain . trickier. Moreover. in contrast. And an activist who succeeds at a campaign is likely to become a target for the opposition.co m/page 20 guarantee. On the contrary. Chapter 8.

and cannot. If success is so risky and stressful. is stressful. Then there are the social and spiritual benefits of success: one of the best situations anyone can find themselves in is as part of a community of successful ambitious dreamers. This represented an enormous financial hit for my family. though becoming a true novelist is hard. during the high tech boom of the late 1990s. Same for all the other types of ambitious dreamers. and alienation from.hillaryrettig. consequence of success. a few months earlier I . Success. why even bother going for it? In On Becoming a Novelist. looking back. and often very hurtful. in which case. So. But the business never took off and. On a more prosaic level. while your new successful life may be busier and more stressful than your old one. more interesting and more fulfilling. unless that is all one wants to be. I sank every penny I had saved. Don t underestimate this: rejection by. success usually brings monetary rewards . in other words. and sometimes greatly so. who may finally have a shot at getting a coveted full-time job in his movement. Your new friends and colleagues will not only support you through the stressful times. but many of us were not treated so kindly by parents or others. And so. I was hugely depressed . Chapter 9.c om/page 21 job. over three years. it will also be richer (in every sense). everything else is harder.and who could blame me? After all. we don t even attempt to succeed.even for the activist. John Gardner says: Nothing is harder than being a true novelist. I can see that it never took off because of mistakes that I made. Children raised with kindness and insight become resilient adults who can manage this stress. Was the business a failure? At the time it certainly felt that way. loved ones is a common.stuck in their own ruts. I started a high tech business into which. but encourage you along to even greater heights of success and happiness. No Such Thing as Pure Failure or Success A few years ago. When the money ran out and I had to take awww.

Now. and he and his colleagues arranged for a fancy party after the premiere. was my business a failure? Only in the narrowest sense. however. wonderful and sustainable coaching and speaking business. Here I was. But guess what: I don t see it as a failure any more. I learned a vast amount from that business failure so much so that I refer to the experience. jokingly. for a movie called King Kong Lives. forty-two years old. and also my students and fellow coaches turned out to be some of the most amazing and inspirational people I ve ever been privileged to know. No one came to the party. the chain of events set in place by my business failure led to the writing and publication of my first book. As a result of helping people work through their problems and blocks on a daily basis. . I was scraping by as a business coach at a nonprofit agency. having given up all . . I was helping a lot of people. he writes. I turned out to be better at coaching than at most of the other ways I had tried to earn a living. you can probably guess the rest of the story . as my MBA.had been visualizing myself as a titan of the new economy. I found myself undergoing a period of rapid personal growth and learning. Stephen Pressfield tells a wonderful story about failure in The War of Art. Ultimately. and my new. (If you haven t heard of it. the coaching job I took out of desperation turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. and it changed my life for the better in many ways. into useful fodder for my classes and coaching. he finally wrote a screenplay that got produced. and I was even able. So. The Lifelong Activist. Second. Pressfield writes: I was crushed. in a kind of extraordinary coach s alchemy. .) We were certain it was a blockbuster. along with prior business successes. and the next day the reviews were scathing. First of all. After seventeen years of trying to break into the movie business. divorced. to transform my business failure. childless. thus deriving real and ongoing value from an experience that at the time seemed like pure failure.

she was deeply ashamed of this. but mostwww.won t accomplish anything. regret and remorse are toxic. or many. or for things that other people did to them. Anything else .normal human pursuits to chase the dream of being a writer . a phony. So the line between the two is not nearly as clear as many people think. of their past actions. . who said. Sometimes. (Now you know why I frequently put the words failure and success in quotes throughout this e-book. even if that element may not be immediately apparent. and most failures contain some element of success. That s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. guilt. he was quickly set right by a wise friend. the sin is something most onlookers would consider relatively minor. and my own. Stop complaining and be grateful. and so am I. my life is worthless. while other times it is having remained in an abusive relationship. the sin is having dropped out of college. . regret or remorse . aren t you? So you re taking a few blows. Often. is that there is no such thing as pure success or pure failure. (Believe it or not. people s shame and regret are keeping them frozen and unable to make progress on their goals. com/page 22 successes contain some element of compromise or failure. And in many cases that I see. including my business and King Kong Lives. No Regrets In my coaching. .) Of course. However. or not even a sin at all . . Every experience. and useless. is a mixed bag. spent one s twenties drunk or stoned. and move on. The only proper response to your mistakes is to learn from them. emotions. You re where you wanted to be. success is better than failure. Be happy.I m a loser. I regularly run into people who feel a deep shame for some. guilt. One moral of Pressfield s story. make whatever amends you can to people you have hurt.any shame. Shame. or committed a crime (or crimes).like my student who had to stop doing volunteer work at her church when her child became ill. work to ensure that you do not repeat them.) Many people are filled with shame for things they did back when they were teenagers or even younger.hillaryrettig.

and can, in fact, lead to a pernicious form of procrastination. Sure, I could choose to dwell on the many mistakes I made in my business, not to mention all the money I lost. But what exactly would that accomplish? (A non-rhetorical question: think about it.) Once the relevant lessons are learned, and you ve made amends as best as can, it s time to move on. ****** Exercise: Finding the Success in Failure Re-examine some of your worst, most shameful failures and see if you can locate the successes hidden within. Give yourself credit for those successes: you earned them the hard way. And stop dwelling over your failures: you ve probably done that enough, already, to last a lifetime. ******www.hillaryrettig.com/page 23 Chapter 10. Don t Compound Fear With Shame In my experience, many people, and especially many men, are ashamed of their fears. They see them as disgraceful and a sign of weakness. I disagree. As humans, we are subject to death, disease, disappointment, loss, heartbreak, natural disaster and human-made disaster, among many other afflictions. Fear is, in my view, an entirely reasonable response to this reality. Then there are the many hardships, risks and rejections of the ambitious life, whether it involves art, academics, activism, entrepreneurship or some other goal. These hardships and risks give you even more reason to be afraid. In other words, to paraphrase the old activist quip about outrage, If you re not afraid, then you haven t been paying attention. So stop blaming yourself for your fears and start asking yourself this question instead: How should I respond to my fears? Steven Pressfield tells how the late actor Henry Fonda suffered from extreme

stage fright throughout his long career. In fact, he got so nervous before every stage performance and film shoot that he threw up. That s forty years of throwing up. And after every episode of throwing up, he proceeded to give his performance. That s how to respond to fear: not by letting it paralyze you, and not by wasting time blaming yourself for it, but by doing your work and making progress toward your goals. ****** Exercise: Experiencing Fear Without Shame Take two or three tasks you have been procrastinating on and for each write a list of the negative consequences of accomplishing it. If, for example, you ve been procrastinating on visiting a doctor, your list could include, It will cost $100, give me a shot, and She might discover something seriously wrong. After doing this exercise, two things might happen: *You might find yourself becoming more understanding about, and forgiving of, your procrastination. ( No wonder I keep putting this off! ) This is a much betterwww.hillaryrettig.co m/page 24 response than criticizing or blaming yourself. *By writing down the negatives, you may defuse them, so that they seem less scary. You may even feel motivated to go ahead and do the task. If that s the case, go for it! But don t feel bad if you don t experience that motivation, or if it quickly goes away and you re back to feeling stuck again. Whatever you do, do not put yourself down for having fears and anxieties. Everyone has them, including highly successful people who often consciously or unconsciously develop skills and strategies for coping with them. That s what you ll learn to do in future chapters of this book. ****** Chapter 11. Fear Creates Obstacles to Success She ll

As mentioned earlier, one of Fear-Based Procrastination s favorite tactics is to disguise itself by mimicking productivity. It does this, usually, by generating one of four characteristic anti-productive behaviors: perfectionism, negativity, hypersensitivity and panic. I call these the Big Four Obstacles, as they are very frequently the key roadblocks between procrastinators and their goals. Most procrastinators are prone to at least one of them, and many are prone to all four, so I discuss them at length starting in Chapter 15. Panic merits a special mention. It s not really an obstacle in and of itself, but acts as an obstacle amplifier, blowing your fears out of proportion and increasing the odds that you will retreat into one of the anti-productive behaviors. The task of defeating fear-based procrastination is fundamentally the task of overcoming panic, so that when you experience an instance of fear, doubt or discomfort, you do not get overwhelmed by it and get bumped off your path. There are also two other categories of obstacles that are not in themselves fearbased, but that are often present alongside the Big Four: The first are Logistical Obstacles, which are usually caused by simple ignorance. For example: *Lack of a clearly defined mission and/or path to success *Lack of time management *Lack of preparation, skills, resources and/or facilities *Lack of mentors or other supportwww.hillaryrettig.com/page 25 In other words, you either don t know what you re supposed to be doing, or lack the skills or resources to do it. A typical person suffering from a logistical obstacle would be a business owner who doesn t realize she should be spending at least half her time marketing and selling, and thus spends her time on less important tasks. Another would be someone writing his Ph.D. thesis, who tries to tackle that giant project on top of his ordinary schedule, instead of ruthlessly clearing his schedule to create the time and energy he needs to get it done.

before you can move on to the more superficial logistical fix. Situational obstacles are often the toughest to overcome. But even once you work past the fear. and setting up regular consultations with mentors. taking a class.) You ll probably have to deal with the fear first.then you probably also suffer from fear-based procrastination. There are also what I call Situational Obstacles. or committing to individual or couple s therapy. buying some new equipment. and an unsupportive spouse are situational obstacles. The Most Important Thing You Need to Know About Your Obstacles The most important thing you need to know about your obstacles is that all of them can be overcome. situational obstacles usually occur alongside fear-based procrastination. or can t even find the time to think about the problem . how you were raised. So are a disability and serious health problems. or how much money you have. you are still left having to deal with some very tough circumstances. which involve other people or other circumstances outside your full control. Chapter 12. compromising on one s cherished goals.if you seem to lack the willpower to make the solution work. Once you commit to overcoming a logistical obstacle. altering lifestyles.hillaryret tig. (This will be the case for most people. nationality or sex you are. using the techniques described later in this e-book. Their solutions often involve major life changes such as switching jobs. it is often not difficult to do so. It doesn t matter who you are. If you do have trouble overcoming yours . . All of your obstacles can bewww. religion. heavy family responsibilities. organizing your office. A tough day job. Like logistical obstacles.com/page 26 overcome. leaving relationships. and so you ll first have to deal at least partly with your fears before you can effectively start changing your situation.Common solutions to logistical obstacles include: doing mission management and time management. what race.

. information. desolation.can be overcome. and afterward unable even to breathe without the help of a respirator. It was possible for spiritual life to deepen .lack of preparation. disability or chronic illness . minimized or compensated for. Frankl describes how. even in the concentration camps. .can be overcome. support . True. It may take months. hypersensitivity and panic can be overcome. You may have a disability that you must live with. He later wrote a best-selling book about his experiences. he called up the memory of his wife. By overcome. But you can still work to at least minimize the negative effect of your misfortune on your future success. Your situational obstacles . let s look at Victor Frankl. . It may not be fun. in the midst of a terrifying nighttime forced march. Man s Search for Meaning. and spiritual poverty of his existence.Overcoming an obstacle may not be easy. In one incredible scene. Your habits of perfectionism. he rallied to become a celebrated activist and author who provided hope. be it . or have experienced a terrible loss from which the hurt will never entirely go away. negativity. So. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss. I ll say it again: ALL of your obstacles can be overcome. an ordinary. and how her memory brought him peace. It may take time and money. bad relationships. at least in part. non-celebrity doctor who was imprisoned in Auschwitz and other concentration camps during World War II. years or even decades. Suicidal immediately after the accident. the late actor who was paralyzed from the neck down in a horseback-riding accident. help and inspiration to millions around the globe.bad job.The intensification of inner life helped the prisoner find a refuge from the emptiness. Reeve was a movie star who had certain advantages. One of my heroes in this regard is Christopher Reeve. whom he hadn t seen in years. in which he reported that. Your logistical obstacles . I mean eliminated. But it can be done.

) Frankl teaches us that.and that doing so can increase our odds not just for success.only for a brief moment. do you have? Failure to overcome your obstacles leads to a life of bitterness and wasted potential. * I don t have time. . you will reclaim those positive qualities and also probably discover some wonderful new ones. In a position of utter desolation. achieve fulfillment. * I don t have transportation / a spare room in my home / a computer / etc. through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved. If you ve been procrastinating a long time. Did I say that all of your obstacles can be overcome? What I really meant to say is that all of your obstacles must be overcome. in the contemplation of his beloved.hillaryrettig. or make progress on. This process of reclamation and growth is one of life s most awesome and joyful experiences. my students raise points such as the below to explain their failure to pursue. The process of overcoming your obstacles is the very essence of the human journey. we canwww. even in the midst of the most horrific oppression. when man cannot express himself in positive action. their ambitious dream: * I don t have enough money. when his only achievement may consist of enduring his sufferings in the right way-an honorable way-in such a position man can. Remember: all of your obstacles must be overcome. but survival itself. Chapter 13. Non-Obstacles Often. talents and virtues. really.co m/page 27 still maintain a degree of control over our thoughts and move them in a positive direction . (Frankl later learned that his wife had died in Bergen-Belsen in 1945. Once you stop running from your obstacles and start working to overcome them. Because what other choice. you are probably demoralized and have lost sight of your strengths.

as it not only leaves you with more money but often creates more time. leaving her more money with which to pursue her dream. my student without money can come up with a plan for lowering her daily living expenses. or take out a low-interest business loan. in . With her mentors help. So start solving it. a friend who can lend her a car. When pressed. It could. And my student without transportation? When pressed. she can also think up ways she can achieve her dream more cheaply. If she needs equipment or supplies she can t afford. is not an obstacle: it s a solvable problem. Two things to note. from these examples: 1) The solutions to the problems were actually quite simple and even. time or transportation. but easier.Not having something you need to succeed. (Most people can.hilla ryrettig.com/page 28 dream can t financially sustain them. and furnish it with used. one with flextime. for example. versus five. she can set up a home office instead of renting an outside one. such as money. she can arrange a barter. she recalls that there is public transportation that can cover her route. If she wants to start a business. lowering your expenses could permit you to take a lower-paying. cheap furniture instead of new. one (say. a short commute. allow you to support yourself on a part-time day job . instead of a higher-paying but harder one that saps your time and energy. can make a big difference! Or.) And he can come up with a plan for breaking his big project down into smaller pieces that his schedule can more easily accommodate. Even working four days a week. if you must have a full-time job. How about my student without time? He can use time management techniques (see The Lifelong Activist) to see if he can reclaim even a few hours of his weekly schedule. Lowering your living expenses is always a good idea. and a lighter workload). for instance. or that she can take the occasional taxi without breaking the bank. by the way.that s the path many ambitious dreamers take when theirwww.

in the hopes of one day living a happier and more fulfilled life. is not a strategy. The above compromises and sacrifices are.hillaryrettig. But what s the alternative? You can sit around hoping that you ll win the lottery or that things will otherwise magically change. but hope. Solutions usually are. people are making them. but when are you going to get a real job? . but true: your attitude really does determine your altitude. (See Chapter 22. frequently hear messages such as these. in fact. Chapter 14. daily bus ride. for instance. highly characteristic of those that ambitious people make to achieve their goals.) Remember: focus on the solution. once you stop dithering and actually start looking for them. sub-optimal. while the latter often view those same barriers as huge and insurmountable. or commit to a long.hindsight. Artists. 2) Many of the solutions are. All around you. not the problem. both from their enemies and supporters : One must suffer to be a great artist: if you re happy. It s glib. How you view your own barriers will go a long way toward determining how successful you will be. get used instead of new furniture. com/page 29 and undermining myths that promote and excuse their dysfunction and unhappiness. A key difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that the former often view barriers to success as petty inconveniences or exciting challenges. as they say. obvious. Beware of Myths that Promote and Excuse Failure Another set of barriers that ambitious dreamers face are the many condescendingwww. Art is okay when you re young. And. as my technical friends say. you must be a shallow or uncommitted person. Few people like having to cut back on their budgets. Poverty is a sign of virtue and commitment to one s art: earning money is selling out. and without that much of a fuss.

is a shallow.Activists hear similarly destructive messages: You can t have a personal life . since our society at least pretends to celebrate entrepreneurship. your belief is probably standingwww. How you can be happy with so much suffering in the world? Poverty is a sign of virtue and commitment to one s cause: earning money is selling out. That can reinforce an unhealthy and anti-productive tendency toward isolation. however.there s too much work to be done. idealized. Often. particularly when members of your family share it. (More on all of this in Chapter 20. Finally. although they do suffer from a general disdain for academic achievement in this country.c om/page 30 in the way of both your professional success and your ability to lead a happy life. you must be a shallow. What it typically celebrates. in my experience. usually emotionally-tortured. a topic I at discuss at length in Chapter 18. Activists are naïve dreamers. Try writing out your thoughts and feelings around the myth: you will probably discover that it .) Academics typically don t suffer from the same sorts of damaging myths as artists. and to deemphasize the role of luck in business success. Activism is something you grow out of. especially during the thesis-writing process. achiever/creator. If you believe in one or more of the above myths. glamorized vision of it that has little to do with reality. Beyond that. Entrepreneurs have it somewhat easier. uncommitted person. The media also tends to downplay struggles or failures except when those can be used to provide glamorous contrast to a spectacular success. It can be hard to persevere in the face of such disdain.hillaryrettig. activists and entrepreneurs. And. the media play up the easy or spectacular overnight successes or rags to riches stories that are far from the norm. many academics suffer from inadequate mentoring. a problem that afflicts all categories of ambitious dreamers is our society s promotion of the myth of the solitary. If you re happy.

We ll tackle them one at a time.. They also often inflict that same behavior on others. I ll just hang up a few fliers. holding them to an unreasonably high standard and judging them harshly when they fail.is way better than doing nothing. the Big Four obstacles of Perfectionism. *Tend to see things in black and white : total success or total failure. We ve now finished our discussion of the general role of fear plays in procrastination. after all. I m going to write fifty pages of my thesis this weekend despite the fact that they ve never written more than eight pages in a day. e.g. Chapter 15. Hypersensitivity and Panic. perfectionists: *Refuse to acknowledge the incremental nature of creation: that it happens in stages and that the early stages are likely to be rough and unsatisfying. The first draft of this paper ought to be fantastic. judge themselves harshly. Perfectionism Perfectionism is the feeling that the things we do or create are never quite good enough. and that should fill the room for my event. In fact. Perfectionists hold themselves to an unreasonably high standard for success. *Underestimate the difficulty of their projects. they think their early efforts should be fabulous. e.it s a viewpoint. and then. they are thinking. and also have numerous other obligations.but unconsciously or semi-consciously. see Chapter 22 for more on how these kinds of distortions can foster a procrastination problem. when they perceive themselves as failing to meet that standard.g. dispassionate analysis. They don t understand that doing half of a job . *Set ridiculously high or impossible goals.. . Negativity.or even one-tenth . They often don t think this consciously . Now let s delve more deeply into fear s most common manifestations.doesn t survive the light of close scrutiny and objective. More specifically. Also. that doesn t make sense .

projects they are too inexperienced to handle. Choosing the right project means choosing the easiest and shortest project. the voice of the oppressor. which I discuss at length in Chapter 20. you will eventually finish it. It is. Perfectionism is the voice in your head that says that no matter what you ve done. according to writer Anne Lamont. resources or support to complete effectively). perfectionism reminds you of some exceptional achiever who was in exactly your situation .com/page 31 Perfectionists. (2) choosing the right goal. if not intellectually. procrastinators don t get the difference. and (4) choosing the right thoughts. When you tell perfectionism.After all. But if you do none of a job every day. it s not enough. or not good enough. perfectionism conveniently tends to omit key details. or had fewer personal responsibilities. They don t quite trust success when it comes too easily. such as that that achiever may have held an easier job than you do. It s the voice that makes unreasonable demands for productivity. Because of that. and adding unnecessary tasks to projects.www. Emotionally. . framing their projects in monumental terms.or a worse one . blaming and guilt-inducing. that you couldn t do your art today because you worked at your day job all day and came home exhausted. Of course. Listening to that voice is always a mistake.and still managed to create award-winning art. for instance.hillaryrettig. they often do things that make their work harder. Perfectionism is shaming. (3) choosing the right process. and dismisses your reasonable explanations for not having produced more. or that they don t have the time. above all. or shirked whatever responsibilities she did have. you never will. The Solution Defeating perfectionism is a four-step process: (1) choosing the right project. if you do just a tiny bit of a job every day. and it correlates strongly with what I call the Mean Mommy/Mean Daddy voice. see work as a kind of epic struggle. such as choosing unreasonably hard projects (meaning.

complete a small project before attempting a larger one).a. will contain both strengths and weaknesses.very importantly .. and you should always consult with your mentors to make sure you re choosing wisely. for instance. less cowardly. Ditto for business. like all human endeavors. first. of course. there will likely be a small voice in your head telling you that it s too small and trivial.k. simply. activist campaign. you can then go on to tackle larger ones. performance.especially if you re doing something for the first time. and (b) even a small novel. etc. Not to write a fabulous book. will be there.a. And . (For a more in-depth discussion of this point specific to writing.hillaryrettig. so that you have the best possible chance of actually beating your procrastination problem and finishing. You do this.e. easy projects until you feel more in control of your procrastination problem. you may never finish it. and your career might be over before it begins. a. It s a lot easier to finish a slender novel or thesis than a giant tome. Then. you need to choose the right goal. a. business. activism or any other ambitious endeavor: choose small. the oppressor. which is an engrained part of your psyche. if you wish. achieve a spectacular result from your campaign.www.. the Mean Mommy/Daddy. and once you ve completed your small work.k. is plenty big enough project. That s the voice of perfectionism. What that voice won t tell you is that: (a) you have to walk before you run (i. and second.don t aim for a perfect result: just relax around the inevitability that your work. thesis. No: your goal should simply be to get done whatever it is that you are trying to do. gallery show. or make a million dollars from your business.com/page 32 If you choose a properly small project. etc. But if you begin with a giant project. to finish. So ignore the perfectionist voice and stick with the small project. that you should be more ambitious. to counteract your procrastinator s tendency to make projects harder. which should be. download my essay How to Finish Your Book from . Easy will vary depending on your particular circumstances. Don t worry about quality: just do your best and the quality.

I ll bet I sell 30 CDs! [Unspoken thought: If I don t accomplish that. we come to choosing the right thoughts. ] With this more functional one: Given my writing speed and also my other commitments. in part because of those aforementioned myths of easy success.http://www. I m going to aim to get ten pages done this weekend. [Unspoken thought: If I don t accomplish that. so it is important that you learn to replace your perfectionist thoughts with more functional ones.) Choosing the right process means breaking your already-small project down into even smaller pieces that you can easily handle. the better. but emotional support. Finally. But the more support. but also in part because of the perfectionist tendency not to look for solutions but to simply to blame oneself. I m a loser. I ll ask the club I m playing at to send an announcement to their list as well. Support means. and the people in this town are stupid and anti-music. Replace this perfectionist thought: I ll just send out a few postcards about mywww. They told me they ve got 800 people on their list. Most perfectionists don t realize the intense level of support needed to succeed at most ambitious endeavors. and also help with childcare and chores you would normally be responsible for. but that use up time and energy you need to complete your project. as much help. as possible.hillaryrettig. services or supplies your project requires. mentors. of all kinds. equipment.com. I m lazy and a loser. colleagues and others. you recall. Support also means donations of space. Here are three examples: Replace this perfectionist thought: I m going to get 50 pages of my novel done this weekend. friends. so . Also. Perfectionism. It also means getting loads of support from family.co m/page 33 upcoming music performance and that should be enough to fill the room.hillaryrettig. ] With this more functional one: I ll send out postcards and email announcements to my mailing list of 500 people. including not just support with the project itself. is a anti-productive response to fear. in other words.

and I think .hillaryrettig. and so automatically. the replacements will happen so often. At first. Negativitywww. You can get started doing this right now. And I usually sell 1 CD per 13 people. It s crazy to expect someone with kids. congratulate yourself. and anyone who thinks otherwise is welcome to come over and clean it themselves! You change your thoughts simply by consciously interrupting your perfectionist thoughts. that you won t even notice them. and replacing them with their more functional equivalent. so that you won t have to do much replacing at all. Soon.all told that s 1. Chapter 16. this may seem contrived . Replace this perfectionist thought: Why is my house such an awful mess? I know my family thinks . so for those 1. there are only 24 hours in a day.that I m lazy and disorganized. Just start out casually by keeping that goal in the back of your mind and whenever you do happen to successfully replace a perfectionist thought with a functional one.com/page 34 . and don t berate yourself harshly when you miss one or otherwise slip up. and I m not willing to spend more than a couple of them cleaning and cooking.and you may frequently forget to do it . eventually. [Unspoken thought: I m a bad homemaker and parent. And. Don t set yourself the perfectionist goal catching every single perfectionist thought (!). a job and a growing business to have a house that s as clean as the house of someone who doesn t have a job or business! My house is clean enough.3 people out of every 100 emails I send out to come to performances. In the past I ve gotten 2 .but keep trying and eventually you ll see that replacing perfectionist with non-perfectionist thoughts feels good and doesn t hurt anyone.300 announcements I should expect about 26 39 people. your thoughts will become less perfectionist.300 people we ll be contacting. so I should count on selling three or four CDs. ] With this more functional one: Well. And my mom looked at me like she thought I was a bad mom when I told her that we get take-out three nights a week.

with predictable results: only a handful of people showed up to hear her play. Oh. I m good with computers. And here s the other: Darn! This is so disappointing. Here is one: What a disaster.it s full of jerks. list the strengths. I guess I screwed up by not promoting the gig more. I m punctual. and also the club manager. skills. ****** Remember the musician from the previous chapter who over-optimistically thought she could fill the room for her performance at a local club simply by sending out a few postcards? Let s say she followed that plan. And this town .I only sold two CDs. talents and other positive qualities you bring to your project. but vastly underrated. well: I m kind of embarrassed in front of my friends who did show up. There are two basic ways one can react to this kind of disappointing situation. too . Don t be shy or modest: come up with as long a list as you can. I m a social visionary. and they re cheap. so maybe if I promise to do a lot more promotion next time. I just can t stand it. but no one s really been hurt. a complete loser. take a few minutes and do this preliminary exercise: On a sheet of paper. or anything in between. I m going to get a quart of icecream and rent a bad movie and crawl into bed. I always screw up. These could be anything from the mundane-seeming. I ll be discussing it soon. Keep the list near you while reading this chapter. too.****** Exercise: Name Your Strengths Before reading this chapter. I m sure he ll never let me perform there again. I feel like crap. You needn t show it to anyone. And the club manager must think I m a jerk. I don t even know why I bother to try. They re too dumb to appreciate real music. I m such a dope. to the more global. The manager seemed to like my music. he ll . to the pragmatic.

because many procrastinators are negativists who tend to see themselves. and everyone and everything around them as less good. and I also met that really cool guitarist from the next town over. Second. and could referwww. I m still feeling kind of low so I m going to take a break and have fun.let me perform again. *Where the objective person sees failure. negativity impairs your objectivity and causes you to misread people and situations. their accomplishments. and I did sell a couple of CDs. the negativist sees failure.. but people with a healthy world view recognize negativity for what it is .that lead to counterproductive actions.a sign of insecurity and a disabling force . Anything that discourages you is a problem . I know! I ll call my friend Deb and see if she wants to hang out. So it wasn t a total loss.co m/page 35 me. it often deepens the negativist s insecurities and reinforces her tendency toward negativity and . in other words.he said he knew some the managers at some other clubs. Therefore. or much worse.. the negativist sees extreme failure. for three reasons: First. For many procrastinators.hillaryrettig. the negativist sees neutrality. that the club manager will never let you perform again .and negativity is hugely discouraging. So that was a terrific break! Anyhow. but particularly for ambitious dreamers. Negativity. Oh. negativity is isolating. When that happens. you are bound to make erroneous assumptions .. I now know I need to promote the heck out of it.for instance.. Negativity is a serious problem for anyone. In any case. *Where the objective person sees neutrality. Negativists often believe they are being realistic or pragmatic. than they actually are: *Where the objective person sees success. the first monologue will seem much more familiar than the second. The nature of ambitious dreams are that they are tough to achieve and thus require a lot of perseverance. Thirdly.and flee from it. it is undermining. no matter where my next gig is. frequently becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

. Pollyanna-ish everything s just peachy attitude. among activists.hillaryrettig. and society in general. their work. which in any case is never as justified as it thinks. then what are youwww. so that the problem compounds itself. I m also not talking about disabling your critical faculties or setting low expectations for yourself. so it s clear that they re not being objective so much as negative. many of the same activists who are so reluctant to declare victory seem to have no problem at all declaring defeat. but the world s. Which brings us to the next section.isolation. given that all victories are temporary or partial. I m talking about being an objective observer and evaluator of both the negative and positive elements of yourself and your work. they think I m telling them to ignore all the bad stuff. I ve actually heard discussions. Many negative people have trouble grasping the distinction between objectivity and delusional positiveness: when I tell them to be more objective. but the risk is probably highest for activists. since they have to do battle not just with their own dark side. Do you expect me to walk around like a giggling idiot? . while the more objective person seeks out the support of a friend? All ambitious dreamers can be afflicted by negativism. Come on! If you can t claim your victories. Famed activist Todd Gitlin warns against this tendency in his book Letters to a Young Activist: Just because you let the dark side of the world into your nervous system doesn t mean that you have to surrender to gloom. or could lose the next game? Of course not! They know that owning one s successes is crucial. of course. And. com/page 36 working for? And how do you hope to inspire others? Do sports teams not celebrate their victories because they know they could have won by a wider margin.. The Opposite of Negativity is NOT Delusional Positiveness Please note that I am not talking about adopting a delusionally positive. on whether it is ever appropriate to say we ve won on a particular issue or event. as well as those around you. Notice how the negative person in our example retreats to her bed with a quart of ice cream.

Their conversations are peppered with expressions that undervalue their achievements. but if a person has a serious negativity problem. And on and on. and drag a heavy burden of shame along with them wherever they go. I m asking you to pay attention to the bad stuff AND the good stuff. I get to witness this phenomenon at close range and it never ceases to amaze me. Do you want me to LIE to myself? Certainly not! But it is not objective or honest to focus on just the negative elements of a situation. or. nothing will get done! H: I m not saying to go easy. not just the bad. Many of my students put themselves down in big and small ways as a matter of course. This distinction seems pretty obvious. We typically do an Abbot-and-Costello type routine that goes something like this: Student: You re asking me to ignore all the bad stuff. I m talking about owning the good stuff along with the bad. usually turns out to be wrong. As a coach. Hillary: No. I can t do math. Eventually. Even the ubiquitous. most people get it.they ask. I often have to work with them for a while to get them to see it. S: But people need to be held accountable! H: I m not talking about not holding people accountable. or my kids]. S (agitatedly): But if I go too easy on myself [or my employees. or Anyone could have done that. The most talented and impressive people often see themselves as failures. I m saying to pay attention to both the bad stuff and the good stuff.. www. and is therefore an example of negativity. It s not such a big deal.. . I didn t really do that much.hillaryrettig. such as.com/page 37 The Negativist s View of Self Negativists tend to be harshest on themselves.

they are surprised to see how much they have really accomplished. you did OK.com/page 38 you re designing a computer program or a bridge. Computer geeks.many of which they don t even initially recognize as such. when we are done. but is less useful in the personal or . negativist response amazed me: Oh. it s only the third or fourth best school. skills and talents.) If you listed twenty to thirty strengths. One day. stop and create it now. His self-deprecating.hillar yrettig.Some students are so divorced from their strengths. talents. There are always a few people in every class who can think of few or no good things to say about themselves. I think that s due to the fact that technical people are often trained to focus on the flaws in their projects so that they can then fix them. you did pretty well. so I congratulated him. I asked a student who had an MBA what school he had gotten it from. If you listed ten to twenty strengths. talents and accomplishments that I have to conduct the equivalent of an archaeological dig to help them build a resume or biographical sketch reflecting their true skills and accomplishments. engineers. A truly adept negativist can even turn even a stellar accomplishment into a failure. you did average. If you listed zero to five strengths. but you ve got lots of company. and other positive qualities. If you listed five to ten strengths. When I do this exercise in classes. skills. scientists and other technical types seem to disproportionately fall into this group. most students respond within this range. Often. We ll sit for hours facing each other across a desk. That flaw-finding tendency comes in handy whenwww. skills and talents. That s a top school. How big a negativist are YOU? Look at the Name Your Strengths list you created before starting this chapter. with me interviewing them on their past experiences and writing up all their positives . you did poorly. by the way. skills. before you read on. and he replied Northwestern University s Kellogg School of Management. skills and talents. (If you didn t create it.

how are you going to have the confidence to follow through on an ambitious plan? Go back now and see what you can add to your list. Once you ve created the list. That is not because I m some kind of prodigy or egomaniac. review and add to. and am not embarrassed to admit them to myself. professional resume. how can you use them to build your success? And if you go around feeling devoid of those qualities. which I keep on my computer and regularly print out. but simply because I work hard to recognize all my talents and strengths. for reasons I will explain in the next chapter. Make no mistake: Name Your Strengths is an important exercise. who. ****** Exercise: Create Your Life Resume Reinforce your sense of your own talents and accomplishments by creating a Life Resume. That small effort will go a long way toward helping you succeed. by the way. currently includes more than eighty items. They also see entries such as loves animals and not a slave to fashion along with the more standard fare such as smart and good with computers. We typically define success too narrowly. and that often leads us to ignore some of our more interesting and useful qualities.interpersonal realm. skills and talents. Then. for instance. review and add to it frequently. My own Name Your Strengths list. You will probably be amazed at all the good traits others see in you that you never suspected. I sometimes share my list with my students. If you do not recognize and own your strengths. It resembles a normal. talk to family. until I started doing animal activism. are frequently amused to find humility listed among the dozens of other paeans to myself. But why not include them? Who knows when they won t come in handy? The fact that I love animals seemed irrelevant for years. keep it handy. but also includes experiences and . and (privately) celebrate your strengths. friends and mentors and see what they would add to it.

Needless to say.co m/page 39 you ve . activism. from your family life.for example. . . art. do not write down any of your perceived failures. For example. friendships. or any other area that is important to you. if you haven t yet fully reconciled with your parent. skills. You wouldn t do that on a normal resume. A Life Resume usually turns out to be a much bigger project than we anticipate because we ve usually accomplished more than we realize. volunteer or civic activities. or *helped a needy neighbor or stranger . *created a pleasant and welcoming home *been a wonderful friend/partner/parent/child/guardian *enjoyed a passionate hobby such as cooking or gardening *developed a distinctive personal style *made terrific art or music *worked hard to recover from childhood traumas and/or reconcile with a parent or someone else. . and when you re finished. flaws and weaknesses. Take your time and have fun creating your Life Resume. Negativity II Here are some of the root causes of negativity: . . a project doesn t have to be finished or perfect to be included. . so why would you do it here? In a Life Resume. none of your achievements is devalued or unworthy of note. Also. talents and accomplishments! ****** Chapter 17. . . home life.accomplishments from beyond your work life . Ifwww.hillaryrettig. your attempts at reconciliation are still worth honoring and should be listed. bask in the knowledge of your many strengths. mental or physical health. you should include it.

The capitalist system promotes a very narrow. nor does it make any allowances for inequities or misfortunes that may have limited someone s ability to earn money. I wouldn t want anyone to be rudely boastful. then you should have no trouble writing dozens of entries in the Name Your Strengths exercise. if any. and pride in. I consider it a very fortunate thing that I grew up able to take credit for my strengths and achievements. you re a failure. and if you don t.c om/page 40 It s true that the line between being properly proud and being boastful can be elusive. that if you ve got a lot of money. this is generally true of successful people in any culture. so you can draw your own conclusions . but neither are they self-effacing or falsely modest. To find it. view of success: namely. people are encouraged to display what I consider an excessive sense of modesty over their accomplishments. . If you re not afflicted by negativity. because I m not asking you to shout those entries from the rooftops. Nor does a capitalistic system care about your noncommercial achievements for example. only commit them to paper.hillaryrettig. . the fact that you take good care of your aged . and abroad. and you re going to have to find it if you hope to achieve your ambitious dream. Capitalism doesn t care what ethical lapses.and although the degree and means of display may differ somewhat from culture to culture. www. seek out successful people and study how they behave. You re only as successful as your bank account. someone may have committed to make their fortune. for instance. but truly just worried about offending other people. you re a success. and very dysfunctional. I was born and raised in New York City. .Don t toot your own horn.S. their strengths and achievements . both here in the U. You will probably see that they are not rude or boastful. In many cultures. After witnessing how an exaggerated sense of humility hobbles some people. They display proper objectivity about. but there s a big middle ground between that and taking proper credit for your achievements. They appear to have a horror of boasting or blowing one s own horn.

in this effort. You probably see the evil behind that narrow definition. my advice is to read parts I and II of The Lifelong Activist and do your mission and time management. Most entrepreneurs are highly creative. If you suffer from this problem.parents. computer consultancies. that you surround yourself with people who understand and support you.hill aryrettig. and practically none of the other entrepreneurs did. and another for non-artists (everyone else. so the questionwww. or auto detailing shops). It s vital. and it was interesting to compare the types of lists the two classes generated. However. or do a lot of important volunteer work within your community. So. I would do the Name Your Strengths exercise from the last chapter in both. They were probably encouraged to paint. why didn t the non-artists see themselves that way? The answer: labels. and remove yourself from people who don t. however. the artists were probably told they were creative. many of whom might have been just as creative as the artists. you know that? An entrepreneurship program I used to run typically offered two kinds of classes: one for artists (any kind of creative professional). urged toward art classes and artistic extracurricular activities. they didn t grow up thinking . It was probably drummed into them all the time. No wonder the word creative appeared high on their list of strengths.com/page 41 is. sculpt or make music. probably didn t get the same label attached to them. Many people who understand the limitations of the capitalist model of success nevertheless feel like failures because they don t live up to it. From a young age. They can t escape their earlier conditioning or the ongoing pressure to conform. it s one thing to get a point intellectually. The non-artists. Practically all the artists included the word creative high up on their lists. practice living your mission without shame or regret. including people who wanted to own cleaning services. You re really _______. and another to embrace it on an emotional level. coffee shops. and praised for their accomplishments in these areas. Then.

and the other half not so well. Or. Friends and mentors can really help here: as discussed earlier.they were creative. Replace this negative thought: I m a terrible activist I don t know why I even try! With this more functional one: I seem to be better at thinking up and planning campaigns then managing them. Many of my students were labeled negatively in their youth. In many cases.never that they are a perfectionist or negativist. as any psychologist will tell you. they continue to fight. For example: Replace this negative thought: I really blew that project! With this more functional one: I did half of it well.com/page 42 next one. to free themselves from those destructive labels. Maybe they were called oversensitive or an impractical dreamer. Or. They influence us enormously and shape our self-images. Maybe I can find a good manager to help me run mywww. I might tell someone they are acting perfectionistically or negatively. The Solution The cure for negativity is to replace dysfunctional (negative) thoughts and behaviors with functional (objective) ones. They are also hard to shake.hillaryret tig. maybe they were called worse. even as adults. . By the way. and to break free of them by seeing yourself and your achievements with fresh eyes. I would never use these terms to label someone in real life. are powerful. maybe they were called lazy or stupid or bad at math. they will probably see strengths and talents in you that you never imagined. or that they have those tendencies . although I sometimes use terms such as perfectionist and negativist in this e-book. Try to figure out what labels are holding you back. Labels. and those labels continue to haunt them as adults.

practice. and the living beings around us.. so I didn t make any sales this week. it will seem more natural. and after still more practice.But in the meantime.Replace this negative thought: I was supposed to make five sales for my small business this week and didn t make any. As always. The world needs as many sensitive people as possible because they are often the ones who notice. It means we re deeply and meaningfully aware of ourselves. Notice that I m talking about hypersensitivity not sensitivity. it may be hard to remember to replace a negative thought with a more objective one. Chapter 18. It s a trait that procrastinators share with addicts and others who have trouble coping. it will happen automatically. With this more functional one: Okay. . but after some practice. That s not good. last month. I ll work on that tomorrow and call my mentor for advice. and now my business is going to fail. Hypersensitivity Hypersensitivity is the tendency to overreact to life s ordinary stresses. our environment. you ll stop thinking so negatively. however. disappointment or rejection ruins your day (or week or month or year)...and I know I can. practice. Eventually. Hypersensitivity. At first. goes overboard. but there were extenuating circumstances. Sensitivity is a great personality trait. The process you ll go through is the same as that described for perfectionism: practice. never berate yourself when you slip up. If a minor irritation. I need to manage my time so that I ve got more time and energy for sales. problems. then you re hypersensitive. including my cold and that blizzard that kept the kids home from school for two days. since I did have that terrific week where I made eight sales. I won t abuse myself for having gotten sick and being a good parent. I ll also call my neighbor and see if she can watch the kids the next time they have a snow day. I obviously need to make more sales . and strive to fix.. I m just a lazy dilettante.

Often. the clouding is negative. a slow line at the grocery store. Hypersensitivity also leads to a tendency toward isolation. they simply can t abide cubicles.Conversely. success and happiness. success at most ambitious endeavors invariably requires a team effort. and overreact to minor irritants such as a late train. but your objectivity. or even bad weather. so that you see a situation as being worse than it actually is.for example. Lone Ranger-type myths aside. For one thing. (And even the Lone Ranger . moreover. Hypersensitivity steals not just your time and energy. either consciously or unconsciously. and most of us have trouble being productive when we re unhappy. while it may feel good in the short term. Professionally. if they can t manage that. it is almost always inimical to productivity. The problem with isolation is that. a lack of emotional self-control. Hypersensitivity is. can bump us off our path. dress codes. the primary requisite for doing any kind of ambitious work is an objective world view. One solution many hypersensitive people employ. For another. keeping their office door shut or avoiding the popular lunch hangout. if minor good news makes you gleeful or manic to the point where you can t function. At the workplace.com/page 43 often filled with events that. making you less effective.hillar yrettig. This breeds the kinds of cynicism and hopelessness that causes so many people to burn out or abandon their dream. At home. a big problem. fluorescent lights and nosy coworkers. they may try to work from home or. Many hypersensitive people have trouble tolerating life s ordinary stresses. As discussed earlier. It s a particularly serious problem for ambitious dreamers because the daily life of an ambitious dreamer iswww. They spend more and more time alone in an environment that is as much under their control as possible. if we overreact to them. take other actions to isolate themselves from their colleagues . that s also hypersensitivity. Hypersensitivity clouds your objectivity. is to retreat from the world and its stresses. in essence. they may retreat into a solitary couch potato or Internet addict existence. many people become unhappy if they re alone too much.

as well as positive ones such as pride and happiness. Twerski. More generally. and disrupted sleep patterns. hypersensitivity is also often linked to addiction.you should make it a priority to deal with that. one of your primary challenges will be to learn to experience negative emotions such as rejection. M. you should seek prompt. This may not be easy. professional help. without being derailed by them. oversleeping or compulsive television-watching or video-game playing . or read a well-regarded recovery book such as Abraham J. cognitive or even physical conditions. Compassion fatigue can also afflict family members or friends of those who are traumatized. people or animals who have been traumatized either by violence or other frightening circumstances. .D.or. join a Twelve Step program.com/page 44 and others who regularly work with. obtrusive daydreams. s Addictive Thinking: Understanding Self-Deception. or witness. if you are hypersensitive. The Solution . If you think you may be suffering from compassion fatigue you should seek prompt help from a psychologist who specializes in treating it. or other psychological. dissociation (disconnection from the immediate environment). a secondary traumatic stress disorder whose symptoms can include hypersensitivity. Please note that hypersensitivity can be rooted in trauma. but it will be an important part of your growth and success. overeating.had Tonto and Silver . If you are hooked on extreme emotional highs and lows that you are unable or unwilling to moderate . such as a natural disaster. frustration and disappointment. drugs. If you think such issues may be present in your own situation. But you will need to know where to draw the line between a healthy enjoyment of solitude and an unhealthy tendency toward isolationism. See a therapist. .hillaryr ettig. Also be cognizant of compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue afflicts activistswww. ) This is not to say that you can t or shouldn t enjoy periods of solitude. Finally. fear. that you may be attempting to moderate through addictive drinking.

I ll do my best and see what happens. the cure for hypersensitivity is to replace dysfunctional thoughts with functional (objective) ones. I ll call Stella and Jim and see if they can provide backup. do I really want to leave my warm apartment and attend the meeting? No way! I know I agreed to attend. That s great news! If we do a great presentation they could give us $300. With that money. and replace all the office computers.and then try to get back to work. start that new campaign. hire five new people. but I really don t want to go. I m just going to stay in. however. dress warmly. and go to the meeting. For example: Replace this hypersensitive thought: I hate this project! I was stupid to take it on. Hypersensitivity is a somewhat simpler problem to work on than the other two. If the stretches don t work. Replace this hypersensitive thought: I can t believe that that jerk talked to me like that! He has some nerve! I m so mad I just can t stand it. My whole afternoon is ruined! With this objective one: I m going to calm down . Replace this hypersensitive thought: Wow! I can t believe we landed a meeting with XYZ Foundation.maybe do some yogawww. grab a cup of hot coffee. but she ll find someone else. It s the last minute. if XYZ Foundation . and I hate working on it.hillaryrettig. With this objective one: I m going to calm down and do what I agreed to do.As with perfectionism and negativity. With this objective one: I m going to calm down. we could move to better offices. I m going to calm down and do what I m supposed to be doing. but I committed to doing this and so even if they can t.com/page 45 stretches . and now it s late and my boss just added a whole new part to it! There s no way I can get all this done! I m going to tell my boss I can t do it. and she ll be ticked off. because the functional thought is always a variation on.000. Also. Replace this hypersensitive thought: It s snowing out. I ll try to deal with my anger by writing for a while in my journal.

. . as anyone who practices sitting Buddhist meditation can attest. Writing and other forms of desk work are more physical than many people realize. to become more attuned to your body and its signals. if not dealt with. As always. We could probably get $150. Work. practice. in particular. and. Eventually. sooner or later. so I m just going to jot down a few notes and then try to calm down and get back to today s work. and then I have a few people to call and share the good news with .may not qualify for an Olympic sport. The ability to sit still and work for long periods . but it is still surprisingly hard to do.gives us money. . . you ll stop reacting so hypersensitively.what the Germans call sitzfleish . and. this is good stuff! I d better write it all down .000 out of them and could use THAT money for. Practice working . oh. but after some practice it will seem more natural. . The process you ll go through is the same as that for solving Perfectionism and Negativity: practice. practice. to get Bill s advice on how to handle this. too. I m so happy we landed that meeting! It s not until next month. I can start preparing for the XYZ meeting next week. . . I need . especially if we are very sensitive to bodily discomfort. we will abandon our work. At first. With this objective one: That was a GREAT call with XYZ. Moreover. to pick up the very early signs of restlessness and fatigue. so I d better call him. . the twitchy or tired feeling almost always intensifies. it may be hard to remember to replace a hypersensitive thought with a functional one. and after still more practice it will happen automatically. Wow. making it inevitable that. however. so will ABC Foundation. never berate yourself when you slip up. therefore. Most ambitious dreamers need to cultivate lots of sitzfleish. ****** Special Topic: Procrastination and the Body Procrastination often begins in the body since even a bit of twitchiness or fatigue is often enough to distract us. .

sleep. of course. and type comfortably for hours. I can sit with my feet properly flat on the floor and my keyboard properly at elbow level. both restlessness and fatigue can be alleviated by many of the same activities: meditation. that s okay: just take a break and deal with the feeling while it s still small and manageable.5 inches high.absolutely. resting assured that when you do learn to cope with transient physical discomfort. and a pleasant meditative break with decaf herbal tea can help calm you down. But if you can twww. you shouldn t use badly functioning and/or uncomfortable equipment.through mild discomfort . ****** Chapter 19 PANIC!: The Fear-Amplifier The problem is not the problem. but bad equipment distracts you and degrades your productivity.hillar yrettig. eyestrain and muscle cramps real concerns. Having a table built exactly to my specifications not only helps my productivity. All it took was some particleboard and dowels for legs.the key is often to switch to some easier work. More generally. by the way. stretches. or even running or dancing in place. Just as a marathoner wouldn t dream of running a race in cheap sneakers.com/page 46 work through. Years ago. and the whole thing cost $10 and took about an hour to build. exercise and preventative medicine are all important to keeping your physical machine in good shape . it also helps me feel more like a serious professional. Good equipment doesn t have to be expensive. The problem is your reaction to the problem.Jerry . Ergonomics also matters . my thenhusband kindly built for me a simple writing table whose surface is exactly 25. which I still use. you ll probably become much more productive overall. . With this table. Caffeine can help wake you up. Interestingly. proper nutrition. Not only are carpel tunnel syndrome.an important prerequisite to both short-term and long-term productivity. Be flexible and creative in finding solutions that work for you.

oh. given the challenging nature of their goal. Non-procrastinators can usually experience those emotions briefly and then return to a positive or. I always screw up. . really. you should see a doctor or psychologist. . neutral mood that allows them to continue to do their work. but after that I ll get back to the work I had planned to do. may experience such episodes many times a day.Weinberg Important Note: The panic discussed in this chapter is the ordinary panic of everyday life. They re too dumb to appreciate real music. there was no real harm done. the musician consciously interrupts her negative thoughts and starts a more objective. And the club manager must think I m a jerk. Besides. I m going to get a quart of ice-cream and rent a bad movie and crawl into bed. I just can t stand it. .www. too I only sold two CDs. and they re cheap. Notice how. Everyone experiences regular episodes of fear. If you suffer from disabling anxiety or panic attacks. I m such a dope. What if. . a complete loser. at least. I ll spend a few minutes making some notes on the experience..com/page 47 Remember the musician s negativist response in Chapter 16: What a disaster. anger. and maybe call a friend for support. ambitious dreamers. but what would that accomplish? Nothing. I feel like crap. too. and I really did try my best. she had instead reacted this way: What a disaster. and their panic amplifies their fear and anxiety until they can no longer function.and how that action not only helps her mood but helps her get back to work? A key difference between the musician in the first example and the one in the second may be panic. Procrastinators cannot: they panic. confusion. well. in the second speech. . functional line of thinking . I m sure he ll never let me perform there again. disappointment and other negative emotions. I could keep on dwelling on this and calling myself names. I m such a dope .hillaryrettig. I don t even know why I bother to try. And this town-it s full of jerks.

and then get a sudden. but forgets how to do it when she has a flat on the side of a highway. be the definition of panic: the state of being unable to cope.m.but wham: you ve been bumped off your path.it actually feels like a calm. Stealth panic often precipitates the trance-like state we discussed earlier that makes it easier for you to keep procrastinating. So is someone who knows a school subject well but bombs the test. like get a cup of coffee. Perhaps you were semi-aware that you should have been doing something else. They can do that because it s usually much easier to solve other people s problems than our own. but never quite aware enough. I ask them. in fact. suddenly it s lunchtime. or focused . even trivial decision . or who plans and practices for an important meeting but screws it up. This could. You don t feel panicked . First you get the cup of coffee. What I call stealth panic may actually be a more common cause of procrastination. so that you don t even make it to your desk. is disable your coping mechanisms. negativity and hypersensitivity. But panic often happens much more quietly than that. The other thing panic does. Stealth panic is what happens when you sit down to do your work at 9:00 a. Sometimes this happens even before 9:00 a.. Students regularly come to me with problems that they claim to have no idea howwww.m. What advice would you give someone else with the same problem? and they invariably rattle off a good solution without even stopping to think about it. Someone who is able to change a tire during practice runs in her driveway. is panicked. then you make a personal call. then you read the newspaper.and then. Stealth Panic We re all familiar with the type of high-energy panic where you feel frantic and out of control. and then you do some Internet shopping .Then they retreat into escapist behaviors such as perfectionism.hillaryrettig. irresistible urge to do something else. com/page 48 to solve. mainly because we panic over our own. besides amplify negative emotions. wham!.

The problem is not the problem. Where s your willpower and discipline? How can you be so immature? Don t you realize what s .hillaryrettig.enough. and just above your fear. but in reality it takes a lot of the pressure off. because once you eliminate panic. problems are almost always much easier to solve than we imagine. Minimize or eliminate that panic and you should be able to manage episodes of fear. is the panic that amplifies that fear until you can t manage it. The key to overcoming procrastination is to learn to defeat panic and. I know there s a lot of stuff going on. eventually. let s examine some false ones that people commonly try to no avail. Now that we ve characterized the general nature of procrastination.hillaryrettig.c om/page 49 to not experience it at all. Underneath the distractibility and antiproductive behaviors such as perfectionism. we are ready to start exploring solutions to it. That would seem to put a lot of pressure on you. to actually stop what you were doing and get back to work. You know you need to do your writing. Before we get to the true solutions that really solve the problem.com/page 50 Part II.. What he means is that the problem just is. THE SOLUTIONS Chapter 20. stop being lazy. says. Yeah. negativity and hypersensitivity. As my teacher Jerry Weinberg. The problem is your reaction to the problem. but your reaction to it will make it easier or harder to solve.. there s no excuse not to. but it doesn t matter. False Solution I: Mean Mommy/Mean Daddy The most common false solution to procrastination is to try to bully ourselves into working through it via an internal dialog that runs something like this: Come on. though. thereby avoiding the need to resort to antiproductive behaviors and allowing you to return quickly and easily to your work. Some of these will probably be familiar.www.www. The Solution We now arrive at the true heart of fear-based procrastination.

shame. since you didn t write anything over the weekend. The truth is that most of us react to the mean mommy/daddy the same way we would to an external bully: by becoming resentful and oppositional. and it only inhibited my success.for instance. is the mean mommy/daddy approach so prevalent? I . and blame: I call it the mean mommy or mean daddy (take your pick) inner dialog and. if it doesn t work. a family member in trouble. that means you re just a faker and a fraud.which. The mean mommy/daddy voice is the voice of perfectionism . The mean mommy/daddy approach has other problems. I talked to myself like that for twenty years. ashamed or otherwise vulnerable. but deeply unfair. It s a stream of self-abuse. as you now know. and many of my students have also spoken to themselves like that for decades and it also didn t work for them. and you ve got to write twenty pages today.at stake? You ve got to get your act together or you ll fail! And then what will you do?! Oh. It also tends to attack most ferociously when you are frightened. and if you can t do it. It also tends to lie about the nature of your work and situation . or for not meeting your urgent responsibilities. anxious. Be doubly on your guard during those times. Don t listen to it. guilt. trust me.www. is not only antiproductive. which. whereas it s only making it worse.co m/page 51 Where Mean Mommy/Mean Daddy Comes From Why. is not laziness or immaturity but fear. That s what real writers do. It sounds as if it s trying to solve your problem. not just ten. yeah. guilty.hillaryrettig. It misdiagnoses the root problem. It is also the voice of negativity and hypersensitivity. repeating Anne Lamott s apt phrase. or some other legitimate crisis? Punishing yourself for being sick. what if the lot of stuff going on mentioned in passing above were illness. It also undermines you by reinforcing bad ideas about yourself and robbing you of self-esteem. So now you ve added those antiproductive attitudes on top of whatever other factors were inhibiting your productivity. it doesn t work. is the voice of the oppressor.

the artist . Mean mommy/daddy buys into the hype and says that if you re not succeeding easily. Our society also promotes the idea that success is easy. the artist-protagonist from Joyce Cary s great novel The Horse s Mouth (later made into a great movie starring Alec Guinness). no gain. we hear all about how Microsoft Corp. We also don t hear about his incredible luck in having grown up in the early era of the personal computer. for instance. it still tends to discount the role of luck and perseverance in success. and also of all the ubiquitous bullying advertising slogans such as. We also pick up bullying from the media. These advantages don t diminish his brilliance. In popular culture. The business press is filled with rags-to-riches and overnight-success stories. and even in cases where it isn t pitching those exact narratives.may starve for a while. many successful people also either forget their early struggles or choose to omit them from their official biographies. Even the . others not. but in all cases their approach was misguided. Think of Henry Miller s fictional alter-ego or Gulley Jimson. (To be fair. coaches and drill sergeants bully their charges into seemingly miraculous accomplishments. Some of these people may have been well-meaning. teachers. bosses and others. but not nearly so much about how he grew up in an affluent family. A related myth is that the struggle for success is glamorous. just do it! and no pain. but they did contribute enormously to his success.) So. which likes to portray simple solutions to complex problems.think it s because many of us learned it from bullying parents. there must be something wrong with you. with a father who was a highly successful business lawyer and a mother who was well connected in Seattle society. founder Bill Gates was a young genius (which he surely was). but is compensated for that inconvenience by living an interesting life surrounded by fascinating people and punctuated by comical situations.if he isn t living an improbably affluent life to begin with . Think of all the sentimental movies in which tough-but-caring teachers.

elder-care and housekeeping. anyway . to top it off. or to a lesser degree. which I think is a good thing: but a likely consequence of that choice is that your success will come slower. Mean mommy/daddy doesn t acknowledge this reality and buys into the hype that the struggle is fun and glamorous. In real life. By the way. How could they reasonably be expected to be as productive as someone who doesn t have those huge responsibilities? But mean mommy/daddy doesn t care about stuff like that and just blames you for being unproductive. even William Faulkner himself he of the famous quote. in fact. Many women. the Ode on a Grecian Urn is worth any number of old ladies that has been used to guilt-trip generations of writers even he . there must be something is wrong with you. In fact.and the artists in these kinds of works always seem to find someone to cadge a good meal off of. mean mommy/daddy refuses to acknowledge that success is much harder to accomplish if you are not willing to exploit others or stint on your relationships and responsibilities. in fact.com/page 52 they are not to be scoffed at. aren t. at any given time. Most of us.and terrifyingly offer no guarantee of success. as they feel they ought to. our struggles are often much more protracted . have trouble with this because they are still primarily responsible for child-care.starving seems like such fun . If a writer has to rob his mother he will not hesitate. Mean mommy/daddy doesn t recognize that truth. however.and then. mean mommy/daddy says that if you re not enjoying your struggle. Anyone who persists in their dream in the face of such a struggle should. be lauded . They are often difficult and frightening enough that they derail most people from their ambitious dreams. than someone who exploits people or ditches his responsibilities. however. in particular. and tells you that you should hold yourself to the same level of productivity and achievement as someone who either exploits people or neglects responsibilities. and sowww.hillar yrettig.even if they happen not to be working as hard. the artist frequently later hits the jackpot and achieves professional success. Finally.often lasting years or decades .

e. they use positive reinforcement and encouragement. coaches.when you think you ve screwed up are the times you should doubly work to avoid it. So.but.hillaryrettig. if you think about it. He may have been devoted to his art. .com/page 53 Enlightened mommies. or perceived power. bosses and mentors all know that bullying doesn t work. but he was also devoted to her and supposedly visited her daily. You can also. over the one being bullied. and the times when you feel most justified in doing so . making money. False Solutions II and III. or doing volunteer work. daddies. bullying actually tends to create behavioral change in the opposite direction from that intended. but that you should only do so in a objective. and so the bullying doesn t work at all. Over the long term. compassionate and constructive way. and it usually only works temporarily.. www. that s the mean mommy/daddy. the power differential doesn t exist. Chapter 21.g. and so instead of trying to influence behavior via harsh criticism and negative labeling. Of course. Bullying Backfires The final reason people bully is that bullying sometimes works . when you re bullying yourself via the mean mommy/daddy dialog. A parent who forces his child to take piano lessons when she doesn t want to usually creates an adolescent who wants nothing to do with piano. Selling Out and Stalling Out Selling out is when you sacrifice your ambitious dream for other dreams or activities. Remember: there s never a reason to talk badly to yourself. raising a family. it usually only works when the person doing the bullying has power. or otherwise makes you feel bad. do not despair: you can honor your relationships and other commitments. If your inner dialog shames or guilts you. AND also do great work. except to make you feel bad and your procrastination problem worse.didn t neglect his mother. That is not to say that you shouldn t address your perceived shortcomings and failures.

Many people make that mistake because they fall into the trap of thinking there s only one path to their goals often the unrealistic path portrayed in the media and then. such as compulsive housekeeping. But we can also apply it non-pejoratively to those who wind up over-compromising and ditching too much of their dream. *A businessperson whose dream is opening a restaurant. In reality.com/page 54 Most people do not like to compromise on their paths. finds out that there are indeed people out there who are willing to fund his cause.) *An activist who lacks the money for a big campaign can get people to donate money and services. The artist who asks her boss for flextime discovers that she has more control over her schedule than she thought she had had.g. for instance. or hiring outside help.hillaryrettig. when they are having trouble succeeding via that path. Besides. she can teach in exchange for those services. video gaming or partying. can start a catering or packaged foods business first. a 4 day/10 hour workweek) so that she can devote more quality time to her art. television watching. however. they abandon their dream. can often arrange flextime (e. sacrifice your dream for less worthy aims.www. there are usually several (at least) paths to success: *An artist who must work at a full-time day job. has a terrific silver lining. Web surfing. The businessperson gains valuable experience in a food-related industry while building her capital. I don t really like to use the term selling out. and perhaps every compromise you might be called on to make. but it s better to compromise than to ditch your dream entirely. forced to fundraise. . or use low-cost guerrilla marketing-type techniques. Or. The activist. (If she s broke. she can hire a part-time assistant to help with artsrelated chores like preparing canvases or cleaning the brushes.of course. but who lacks the money to do so. Or. each of these compromises. because it s often used to negatively label people who are simply doing their best to make difficult life choices. she can free some time for herself by either getting her family to do more of the chores.

blame. fear . Stalling out is the opposite of selling out: it s when you sacrifice everything else in your life for your ambitious dream. The Cure The cure for both selling out and stalling out is.There s always more than one path to success. family or other constraints. Trying to live a false life . too. And to the extent that your goal requires fresh ideas and insights.along with misinformation . and you should never respond to fear with punishment. Remember that there is no absolute right or wrong answer to the question of how you should live your life. Your ambitious dream could be the central. since this strategy is based on deprivation and denial. also. Remember. you re probably miserable and not doing much work. either. Naturally. no mean mommy/daddy!) Often. until you re doing little other than your work . Basically. consult a mentor (see Chapter 30). much less thrive and achieve an ambitious goal. If you find yourself clinging to a dream of an idealized path that is impossible for you to follow. Instead. your interests narrow and narrow. you will probably be lacking those. use the solution for dealing with fearbased procrastination that I discuss starting in Chapter 25. in the context of such a deprived and lonely existence. ask yourself . given your financial. but it s no less realistic for all that. guilt or otherwise abuse yourself for doing so. (In other words. and your relationships become more and more limited. defining element of your life. as most of us can t endure a life lived in denial.is at the root of these strategies. and even a compromise path offers considerable joy and fulfillment. or it could play a subordinate role to family or other values. this dysfunctional path is also celebrated in numerous tortured artist and monomaniacal entrepreneur stories. not to shame.except that. Few people can survive. If you can t find one that works for you. first. that the foundation of all anti-procrastination efforts is honesty about who you are and what your values and needs are.even from good motives is simply not going to work. instead of selecting a compromise path that you can follow.

How do you know when you re dithering versus solving? Easy: if you ve been working to solve your problem. and you re not devoting any time to designing and implementing a solution. the problem never gets solved. feeling guilty. you re probably dithering.www. including worrying. therefore. no matter how long or seriously you do it. because part of what you do to solve a problem is characterize and analyze it. False Solution IV. so that you don t have to feel guilty for ignoring it. or his whole life. The hallmark of dithering is that. refining the strategy if it doesn t. and feeling sorry for yourself. precisely defining it. then you are dithering. Even the toughest problem is solvable. You do it . as I ll discuss later. you are almost certainly dithering.hillaryrettig. But if all you are doing is thinking about the problem and how miserable it s making you. testing the strategy. it often takes only a small amount of actual solving to make noticeable progress. Dithering includes all the other things you do about your problems. Another difference between dithering and solving is that dithering tends to focus on the problem. you are making no progress.whether fear might be at the heart of your stubbornness. beating yourself up. implementing the strategy if it tests well. while solving focuses on the solution. at least to some degree . Dithering is pernicious. researching it and its possible solutions. developing a strategy for solving it. this is true even in cases where a person dithers for decades.com/page 55 Chapter 22. complaining to family and friends. But dithering doesn t really solve your problem. That isn t an absolute rule. If. or feel like you ve given up hope. Another difference is that dithering tends to occur in isolation. Sadly. Dithering Solving a problem means taking specific actions such as observing its symptoms or manifestations. It gives you the illusion that you are solving your problem. but making no progress. and evaluating success or failure.and.

Okay! That s it for the false solutions. There are three true solutions to productivity. dithering services the important purpose of keeping them stuck while maintaining the face-saving illusion of progress. on the other hand. therapist. more than one of those. etc. but professionals such as a doctor. than to observe. teacher or mentor. define. it may be because they don t know that they are. But it could also be that. usually involves other people-and not just yourwww. onto the true ones! They are probably what you ve been waiting for. dithering: they think they are solving. Solving. Solution I: The Three Habits of Productive Work All productive work can be broken down into these three behaviors: . often. spiritual advisor.com/pa ge 56 friends. And. Why would anyone waste time dithering when they could be solving their problem? In some cases. When you confide in friends and others. twelve-step sponsor. they have a natural inclination toward isolation. But most of life s toughest problems. including procrastination. or at least in the privacy of your own thoughts. and then I move in successive chapters onto the other two. And instead of using these people as an echo-chamber to reflect your own thoughts and feelings back at you. due to their fears. Chapter 23. Now.hillaryrettig. or ignore their advice.yourself. can best or only . in the privacy of your own room. or to hear your own ideas and emotions echoed back at you. Maybe you don t even listen very closely to what the people you are talking to are saying. in fact. and so I m excited to present them to you. The next chapter begins with the simplest one. you listen closely to what they are saying and do your best to follow their advice. in order of complexity. you use those conversations more to vent. they don t really want to solve their procrastination problem and make progress on their goals. For them. and you can use them all individually or together.be solved with the help of a community. Because many procrastinators tend to be ashamed and insecure.

2.m. Web surfing. Instantly starting the work you are supposed to be doing. or even 8:00:10. These behaviors are the essence of productive work. You need to train yourself to be exactly where you are supposed to be-not thinking about it. In other words. No Cheating! Here are the three behaviors again. 2. consequently. the word exactly means on the dot. and make little or no progress on your most important goals. you begin your work. and only your work. 3. the word instantly means that. These important words all amount to the same thing: NO CHEATING. 3. In Behavior #2.that wasn t scheduled for this time period. but let s be extra-careful and remind ourselves that impromptu unscheduled phone calls (even urgent ones).hillaryrettig. In Behavior #3. They are also the points at which procrastination happens. and other activities are all procrastination. about a second after your butt hits the chair. Instantly starting the work you are supposed to be doing. 8:05. Staying focused on the work for twenty minutes or more. not 8:01. newspaper reading. Staying focused on the work for twenty minutes or more. the word focused means that you are thinking about your work. You can spend your whole career immersed in these activities. the points at which it can be attacked. this time with some important wordswww. 8:00 a. The work you are supposed to be doing should be self-explanatory by now. So is doing other work . not en route.1.com/pag e 57 italicized: 1. Not even a little In Behavior #1. virtuous-feeling work .even important.. not pouring a cup of coffee-at the exact moment you are supposed to be there. coffee sipping. Showing up to work exactly when you are supposed to. and. pure and simple. you are not thinking about other work you could be . Showing up to work exactly when you are supposed to.

doing, or your worries regarding your work, or philosophical issues related to your work. (Philosophizing is important, but don t let it interrupt other work: schedule it in.) And, of course, you re not thinking about your personal life, last night s television show, or the birdies cheeping enticingly outside your window. Twenty minutes or more. The amount of time one can, or should, stay focused on work differs from person to person. Most people, however, can train themselves to work in a focused manner for at least twenty minutes before having to get up and take a break. After your break - and your breaks should be as long as you need them to be, especially when you re first tackling your procrastination problem - you can return to work for another twenty minutes. Initially, however, working for twenty minutes may seem as unrealistic as flying to the moon. So start with ten minutes, or five, or two if you need to. (Use a kitchen or other timer to keep track.) Then, take as long a break as you need, praise yourself for your achievement as discussed in the next chapter, and repeat. As you get more and more comfortable with your work, you can build up to tenwww.hillaryrettig.co m/page 58 minutes of sustained work, then fifteen, twenty, thirty, etc. The key is to be patient and not push it, since pushing yourself basically invites the mean mommy/daddy to come in and take over. Chapter 24. Practicing the Three Productivity Behaviors Now that you understand the Three Productivity Behaviors more fully, you can begin practicing them. There are five keys to success: 1. Start Small, and Aim for Tiny Improvements 2. Lavishly Reward Every Tiny Success 3. Ignore Failures Except to Learn From Them 4. Anticipate Plateaus and Backsliding 5. Keep at it!

1. Start Small and Aim for Tiny Improvements Start small means practicing the Three Productivity Behaviors (a.k.a., notprocrastinating ) on no more than two or three tasks at a time - and the tasks you practice on should be easy ones. Starting with that novel you ve been blocked on for ten years is probably a bad idea. Household chores are a great thing to initially practice on because we tend to procrastinate on them not out of fear, but simply because they re tedious. So practice notprocrastinating on doing the dishes or laundry (or mowing the lawn, or taking the car in for an oil change, etc.), if those are tasks you habitually procrastinate on. (Practice Behaviors #1 and #2 only, obviously - you don t want to spend a lot of time doing chores.) Simple personal care tasks like flossing and taking vitamins are other good candidates for practice. If the tasks you are practicing on seem embarrassingly small or trivial, you are doing it exactly right! The key is to get used to the feeling of not-procrastinating, and you will only have the opportunity to do so if you initially practice on activities that offer a high probability of success. Also, pay attention to the (probably numerous) areas of your life where you don t procrastinate, and note the feeling of calm self-control you have when approaching those tasks. It is that same feeling you are aiming to invoke around the tasks you are currently procrastinating on - and once you can invoke it, youwww.hillaryre ttig.com/page 59 are well on your way to solving the problem. (Yes, you are aiming to create certain feelings within yourself. As I ll discuss in Chapter 32, successful people consciously work to achieve certain moods, as opposed to passively accepting whatever emotions happen to seize them. Many unsuccessful people, in contrast, don t even know that that s even possible to do.) Keep practicing the Three Productivity Behaviors on simple stuff, and you will naturally get better at not-procrastinating. You will then become less afraid, ambivalent and conflicted, and start to make the crucial shift from seeing procrastination as an

inherent character flaw to seeing it as a behavioral problem you can solve. Meanwhile, getting the dishes done, flossing regularly, etc., will themselves have a beneficent effect on your mood, and also empower you to make more changes. Only after you have gotten good at not-procrastinating on the trivial stuff should you begin practicing it on your art, business, doctoral thesis, activism or other ambitious endeavor. Now, it is doubly important for you to start small. If you re a writer, don t set out to write an entire chapter, but only a page or paragraph. If you re a visual artist, don t aim to paint a whole new picture, but simply to mix some colors or fix a detail on an existing painting. Or, if you re an entrepreneur, don t aim to spend the entire morning doing sales calls, but only ten minutes. In other words, when operating in the scary realm, start really small. And only after you ve gotten good at not-procrastinating at tiny tasks, do you take on the bigger ones. And only after you ve gotten good at doing the behaviors for ten minutes (or five, or two, or whatever works for you initially), do you start practicing behavior #3 - slowly building your endurance so that you can do your scary work for fifteen, twenty, thirty, etc., minutes at a time. 2. Lavishly Reward Every Tiny Success If you follow my advice to start small, you will have many successes, by which I mean instances when you were able to resist procrastinating and get right to work. It s important, in those instances, to celebrate your achievement! Pat yourself on the back, indulge in a treat, and generally make a fuss over yourself. As mentioned earlier, this kind of positive reinforcement not only boosts your confidence and improves your mood, but helps imprint your achievement in your memory so that you can call on it when needed: so that, when you one day find yourself about to procrastinate, you can think, I m feeling tired and anxious and I really want to ditch my work, but - wait a minute! - I felt exactly the same way last week, and managed to get past it and have a productive afternoon. If I did it then, maybe I can do it now. I ll set my timer for five minutes and

today.see if working that long gets me back on track. but instead respond with compassionate objectivity.hillaryrettig. As we discussed in Chapter 9.com/page 60 It doesn t matter how small the achievement is. be a compassionate observer and analyst of your situation. and that there are plenty of other things he has succeeded at. reminding him that the failure probably isn t as awful as he thinks it is. the child grows up to be a resilient adult who is not so afraid of failure that he procrastinates. www. With the benevolent parent s help.or taking them at all. Gee. and only makes things worse. 4. Ignore Failures Except to Learn From Them When a child fails to meet a goal. mischaracterizes the problem. depletes your self-esteem. and Cope With. Anticipate.give yourself at least a mental pat on the back. For bigger achievements .i. Even if it s something as simple as taking your vitamins exactly when planned . next time I won t call my girlfriend until after I ve finished my work. I didn t get much work done. I was upset after that lunchtime phone call with my girlfriend. it was an upsetting call. if you frequently neglect to .e. the mean parent tends to criticize and blame. Criticism. as discussed earlier. while the benevolent. effective parent offers compassion and understanding. 3. keeping in mind that there are often perfectly good reasons behind procrastination.. the proper response to failure is to ponder it just long enough to come up with a solution so that the same thing doesn t happen again: Okay. you should not criticize or blame yourself. You need to be your own benevolent parent.make sure to make a big fuss and give yourself some kind of tangible reward. Then. What happened? Oh yeah. which means that whenever you fail at not-procrastinating or another goal. Instead. Plateaus and Backsliding . even if the procrastination response itself isn t optimal. undermines your self-confidence. Well. breaking out the notes to your novel for the first time in a year . move on without remorse or regret. The benevolent parent also helps the child keep the failure in perspective.

Both are discouraging. not a reflection of who I intrinsically am. due to personal issues. 5. including illness or a financial crisis. I went through a several-week period where.and neither should you. month or year. If that is indeed the case. let s face it. I was getting little done. Keep at it! What can I say? Those who succeed are always those who persevere. Plateaus and backsliding often indicate that you are setting too-ambitious goals. The . you will be able to return to your work . and hope to do better soon. but knew to keep self-criticism to a minimum.A plateau is when you remain stuck at a level of achievement despite repeated efforts to move ahead. I kept reminding myself: This procrastination problem is a problem I need to solve. Then. remember to set more modest and attainable goals in the future. ****** Case Study: Getting Past a Plateau While writing The Lifelong Activist.www.quite possibly bringing to it a richer perspective as a result of your sabbatical. I was frustrated. Sometimes. Eventually. If something does pull you away from your dream. If you have an off day. They never give up . just do what you need to do without shame or remorse or regret.hillaryrettig. Backsliding is when you actually lose ground and become less effective.com/page 61 Plateaus and backsliding can also indicate that you are experiencing personal or other problems that are interfering with your ability to do your work. But they always come back to it. they have to temporarily put their ambitious dream aside while they work on other priorities. the solution is to go back to a prior level of accomplishment you re comfortable with and stay there for a while until you regain your confidence. can take precedence even over making progress on our heartfelt dream. Most of us can tackle only one major problem at a time and. many problems. The situation will improve when I m ready for it to improve. week. don t criticize or shame or blame yourself: just accept it for what it is. and yet both are an inevitable part of any personal growth process.

Always Begin Your Day with a Schedule Scheduling is important because vagueness opens the door to the kinds of fears and uncertainties that can lead to procrastination. I dug deep into my computer hard drive and resurrected a program I hadn t needed in a couple of years: my software stopwatch.and my tiny successes motivated mewww. blame and negative self-labeling meant that I was able to maintain my self-confidence.hillary rettig. Ideally. Five Success Tips 1.and having to set it at mere five-minute intervals was more so.lack of shame. guess what? The strategy worked. The strategy worked primarily because the five-minute time limit I selected was so small that success was more or less guaranteed . committed to focusing on my work. Try to create your schedule the night before so that the act of scheduling itself does not itself become a form of procrastination. you will have gone through the mission and time management processes discussed in The Lifelong Activist and will know how to create a manageable schedule that reflects your core values. I set it for five-minute intervals and. during those intervals. After a few weeks of struggle. If not. ****** Chapter 25. which aided me in solving the problem sooner rather than later.) Having to use the stopwatch again was a little humiliating . (In between those intervals. quickly and spectacularly! In fact. it took only a few hours of stopwatch-practice for me to return to my normal level of productivity.like putting training wheels back on a bicycle . I eventually had the presence of mind to do what I just told you to do in case of backsliding: return to a prior level of productivity. . at least come up with a simple schedule that says specifically what you are going to be doing or working on every hour of the day. I could take as long a break as I wished. But.com/page 62 enough so that I was able to get past my block and keep going with the process.

despite repeated attempts. therefore. writing implements. ) If necessary.. That means everything: books. even paper clips. Then I can take a break. ****** 3. (Now you understand the meaning of the proverb he who hesitates is lost. computer files. Stay Calm Strong emotions. gently reassure yourself. they will often wander directly toward your fears. (E. paper files. It should all be available. If you catch yourself feeling fear. Approach Your Work Without Hesitation Remember how Productivity Behavior #1 is showing up to work on time. you are unable to show up for work scheduled and prepared. I m just going to write for ten minutes that s all. telephone numbers. that may be a sign that you have a high level of fear that is causing you to procrastinate. since our fears are often strongest before we actually start our . Hesitation gives your thoughts time to wander.I ll tell you how to deal with it starting in the next chapter. anxiety or doubt. bump you off your path. Don t worry . to remain calm as the clock ticks toward your start time. and if you ve got a procrastination habit. organized and in perfect working order. Work. tools. They also make it harder for you to stay focused on the present so that you can practice the Three Productivity Behaviors. andwww.g.hillaryrettig.to avoid confusion that can bump you off your path . put yourself in a little trance just long enough for you to glide over to your desk and start working. Be Prepared The Boy Scouts got this one right. For the same reason as #1. ) Practice gliding over to your desk and starting your work without any hesitation.2. try not to hesitate. and materials needed to accomplish your work right out there in front of you. 4.you need to begin your day with all the information. above . (Cell phone charged? Pencils sharpened?) ****** Note: If. as you learned in Chapter 19.com/ page 63 Productivity Behavior #2 is getting right to work on the right stuff? While practicing those behaviors.

for the moment. when our work isn t fun. Solution II:www. Our only real course is to courageously face down and explore our fears.chunks and working on those one at a time.com/page 64 A Process for Overcoming Fear-Based Procrastination and Panic If you ve been making good progress toward solving your procrastination problem using the Three Productivity Behaviors. and the circumstances surrounding them. trying to work past that fear is often futile.hillaryrettig. but it s crucial. If your project seems scarily big or important. and many successful ambitious dreamers have learned to do this automatically. If you can t eliminate the fear. however. tiny! . it s because we re frightened or panicked. the big picture. As you now know. try breaking it down into small no. however. either about the work itself or something else in our life. Instead. And so. then there probably isn t much fear or panic underlying your procrastination. which consists of these nine . especially if the effort is accompanied by mean mommy/daddy type self-criticism. then you probably do have fears and/or a panic response you need to address via the Process. Don t Make Your Work More Difficult Than It Is Don t fall into the trap of assuming that procrastination is inevitable. (And don t forget to have fun!) Often. while ignoring. you can t manage to adopt the Three Productivity Behaviors no matter how hard you try. Popular culture likes to portray the act of creation as a kind of epic struggle because it makes good drama. This sounds like trivial advice. Chapter 26. but that s the wrong model to follow. and you may not even need to use the Fear Defeating Process described below. and the experience should be like play: easy.we ll discuss a technique for doing so in the next chapter. we come to the process for overcoming the disabling fear that lies at the heart of so many procrastination problems. safe and fun. 5. don t worry .work and disappear if we just persist for a few minutes. finally. you should approach your work with a light touch. If.

) When you re in that trance. Design a solution for overcoming your obstacles. Start to implement the solution and (optional) return to your path. . 5c. 6. and c all happen simultaneously while journaling. or in many other books as well. If you can do that . And .) 5b. (5a. Start your work: catch yourself procrastinating. Celebrate your victory. Step #2.com/page 65 you are doing. you re only dimly aware of whatwww. and the hours just seem to melt away. 7. As mentioned earlier. when you look back at your wasted day. Some people don t enter too deeply into that trance. 9. Don t criticize. as it allows you to avoid doing your work without experiencing guilt or shame.that trance is the whole point of the procrastination. Characterize your obstacles. blame or shame yourself! (No mean mommy/daddy!) 4.steps: 1. b. Watch change happen! I discuss each individually below. many people enter a kind of trance when they procrastinate . Repeat when needed. Oops! I m procrastinating. (Those come later. Start journaling. 2. Use mission and time management to establish reasonable goals and a reasonable schedule. Step #1. Use mission and time management to establish reasonable goals and a reasonable schedule. You can read about them in Parts I and II of The Lifelong Activist. I know . and via journaling: 5a. They can be in the middle of an unscheduled video game and think. really. 3. .hillaryre ttig. Start your work: catch yourself procrastinating. But please don t neglect mission and time management because they are essential parts of the solution.I ve said it many times. 8. Defuse your panic.

or call a friend and have a focused and analytical conversation with him or her. it may take some time and practice for you to reliably catch yourself early on in the act of procrastinating. Do not even add a mildly negative phrase such as. You know why you shouldn t do it. however.or thirty-minute intervals. and (c) come up with solutions for overcoming those obstacles. so just be careful that you don t.relatively quickly. But writing offers important advantages over the other methods. Tell yourself. Your main tool for doing so is journaling. incidentally. There are many ways of journaling. but the one I want you I want you to do here is the uninhibited stream of consciousness type journaling that is also . you can dictate an audio journal into a tape recorder. so please at least try it. (a) defuse your panic. Don t criticize. If. or am I procrastinating? Keep working at it. you are one of the many people who really zones out. not to NOT lapse into mean mommy/daddy-type self-criticism. and eventually you ll be able to quickly and reliably catch yourself in the act of procrastinating. then you ve completed this step. The important thing to note here is that the moment you catch yourself procrastinating. at fifteen. Oh. blame or shame yourself! Be careful. One thing that may help is to get into the habit of asking yourself. but there are a few tricks to it that I ll share with you in the next chapter. be an objective. compassionate observer of your own situation. you should stop whatever you are doing and begin journaling. I m procrastinating. in this vulnerable moment. Am I doing what I m supposed to be doing. Step #4. Step #3. Now is the time to figure out precisely why you needed to procrastinate at this moment. (b) characterize the precise nature of your obstacles. which will help you. Instead of criticizing yourself. Start journaling. If you don t like to write. Journaling isn t hard. Too bad. not the least of which is convenience.

and 5c all happen simultaneously while you re journaling. spelling and grammar don t matter: just get everything down as honestly and as fast as you can. In reality. It s no wonder that journaling is an accepted therapeutic tool for working with many types of distressed people. journaling is the very best use of your time. attention and respect most of us crave but never get enough of. before getting down and dirty with your procrastination problem. So your first step. in fact. It also provides a way for you to really focus in on your problems. The time you invest in journaling now will be returned to you a hundredfold or more. After a journaling session. Defuse your panic. If you are desperate to get some work done. however. 5b. . The simple act of writing down your problem is often all it takes to relieve a lot of the anxiety and panic surrounding it. Journaling is. is to defuse any panic you may be experiencing. It basically dumps your thoughts and feelings. which empowers you to solve them. in undiluted.com /page 66 journal. For this kind of journaling.sometimes called free writing. journaling is a miracle cure for panic.hillaryrettig. It s a way of giving yourself the time. victims of violent crime. onto the page (or screen). and journaling may even seem like a waste of time. once you start to overcome your procrastination problem and work more productively. including cancer survivors. as it is your main tool for solving your procrastination problem. Fortunately. ****** NOTE: Steps 5a. you may be reluctant to stop andwww. uncensored format. ****** Step #5a. troubled teens and people in jail. you can t solve problems while panicked. you should feel mentally and even physically more relaxed. powerfully healing. As discussed in the Chapter 19.

usually because they are painful. You will then be using journaling mainly for its analytical and problem-solving benefits (5b and 5c).it s because you need to. you should quickly become less prone to panic. Trying to solve a problem you haven t fully characterized is an exercise in futility .com/ page 67 ****** Important Note .hillaryrettig.Journaling sometimes uncovers memories that we can have trouble handling. or many hours (maybe.Journaling yourself to a calm. You may even wish to consult a therapist before you start journaling. if you are concerned about how the process will affect you. Characterize your obstacles.e. reflective state of mind can take a few minutes.. It can also force our attention to issues that we have been in denial over. Either event can be traumatic. but that typically takes much less time. If journaling isn t helping to calm you down but.in .with fear. and more quickly able to recover from it . Don t be impatient: trust the process and understand that this intensive-journaling phase is very important and probably won t last long. ****** Step #5b. see a therapist or other specialist. or if it is raising issues that you are not sure you can handle. in your journal. you ve also. spread over a weekend): the important thing is not to rush it. If you are journaling for a long time . If you keep practicing the Fear Defeating Process when you feel afraid. This snapshot is likely to tell you exactly why you re procrastinating . confusion or other strong emotions. is making you more upset. rather. It s important to characterize obstacles precisely because the more precisely you characterize them. analytical explorations of your situation. been creating a snapshot of your mental state. either. centered. a few hours.i. At the same time you ve been calming down. the precise nature of your obstacles. the more focused and effective a solution you can come up with.and thus have less and less to journal about. and eventually won t be needed much. including memories of childhood abuse. history and needs pouring out of you and onto the page .www. or long.

and haven t heard from her since. suppose you should have been writing a school paper. and that demotivates you.fact. *You re not feeling well. did it? Use your journal to create a list of the specific obstacles that are preventing you from continuing with your work at this moment. it s probably what you ve been doing all these years when working on your problems of laziness. etc. *Your computer keeps crashing. That s worrying you. which interferes with your ability to focus on this project. directed at the wrong targets. These are all Logistical or Situational Obstacles. and have never been confident of your writing skills. The fact that the solution to many of these logistical or situational . hate to write could easily be grounded in perfectionism. And also a good chance it will contain one or more Logistical or Situational obstacles.c om/page 68 and work. but someone else has checked them out. lack of discipline. *You needed some library books to complete the project. but instead spent the past hour doing other stuff. *You had a serious fight with your girlfriend. didn t solve your procrastination problem. although some hint at one or more Big Four underneath. *You are pretty sure you won t do well on the paper. yesterday.hillaryrettig. *You and your girlfriend are madly in love. All of that effort. There s a good chance that the list will include one or more of the Big Four: perfectionism. and you feel cheated at having to stay inwww. *You hate the class and/or teacher. negativity. For instance. *Your roommates are all out having fun. For instance. so the whole project seems futile and a waste of time. In the course of your journaling. you discover that the reasons you haven t been writing are one or more of the following: *You hate to write. hypersensitivity and panic.

This shouldn t be used as a license to procrastinate. *You are pretty sure you won t do well. The solution to the Big Four obstacles is. Step 5c. Design a solution for overcoming your obstacles. should help remotivate you. *You hate the class or teacher. is how often even seemingly unvanquishable obstacles turn out to be rather easily solved. *You re upset about the fight with your girlfriend. when Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals the Almighty Oz to be a flim-flam man. by the way. Pull back the curtain of your panic and antiproductive thinking. SO ask a friend to edit your writing. if you can come up with some good things towww. To repeat Jerry Weinberg s dictum: The problem is not the problem. however. however. and why the subject is meaningful to you. you may be able to easily overcome your Logistical and Situational Obstacles.obstacles is simple. you must learn to persevere in the face of stress or misfortune. Once you do that. Extra points. and that. or anyone else who could give you perspective and guidance. successful life. SO try to see the big picture about what brought you to the class to start with. and your toughest obstacles are often revealed to be small and easily solved.com/page 69 say about the class and teacher.hillaryre ttig. I ll discuss below. So: *You hate to write. but understandable and forgivable. or even trivial. a technical assistant. In other words: nothing to be ashamed of. as discussed in Chapters 15 through 18. work to reattach yourself to your passion for the subject. in turn. In other words. librarian. to replace dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors with functional ones. I want to be very clear that all of the above obstacles are not just reasonable. once they are exposed to the light of day via journaling. actually. and once you defuse your panic. It s like in The Wizard of Oz. SO consult your professor. and have never been confident of your writing skills. First. SO call her briefly and patch . To live a happy. The problem is your reaction to the problem. What s amazing.

Do you. daily path). and therefore better places to start? Do you have a tendency toward rigidity or stubbornness that causes you to get stuck at certain points in your work? This kind of information about your work habits is extremely valuable. and the steps you need to take to do so can be painful. Step #6. as discussed earlier.) Go ahead and use your journal to design detailed solutions to your logistical and situational obstacles. explain to her how the fight is interfering with your ability to write your paper. (Ditto. After you ve both calmed down. Your goal here is to implement just enough of the solution you ve designed so that you can calm down enough to return to your daily schedule (a. like many people. Don t get sucked back in to whatever fight you were having. *Etc. the situational obstacle is a health problem.. and enlist her caring help. time-consuming and scary. for instance.things up. Start to implement the solution and (optional) return to your path. since it enables you to optimize your scheduling and the way you approach your work. Sometimes. have trouble getting started? Are you more focused and less distractable in the mornings. You don t want the solution itself to become a form of procrastination. or plan to consult a couples counselor. Your situational obstacles. (Expensive. If. the purpose of this call is not to argue but to remind both of you about how much you care for her and that you intend to work things out with her. At the same time you work to characterize your immediate obstacle.a. tend to involve other people or circumstances outside your control. just writing out the problem in detail is enough to get you back on .k. after all. As such. also look for work patterns that help or hinder your productivity. the solution may be to make an appointment with your doctor. afternoons or evenings? Are some parts of your projects much easier than other parts. you might have a frank talk with your partner. they tend to be harder to overcome than the other obstacles.) If it s a troubled relationship.

there s no wrong way to do this. It is up to us to counteract that negativity both for ourselves and those around us. As I ve mentioned repeatedly.if you think that only a clear win against your procrastination problem is worth celebrating . . It doesn t matter whether you ve returned fully to your path or not.your path . . Treat yourself to a movie. however.hillaryrettig.a lot. although that in and of itself is a worthwhile goal. So. . . making a phone call or two . . congratulate yourself . you should be able to return back to your path in less and less time. Eventually. it is important to celebrate every small achievement or victory in every area of your life. procrastination. . Again. Step #8. . You are finally grappling with your procrastination problem in a meaningful way. Celebrate your victory. so that you have that memory and those skills readily available the next time you do battle with your old nemesis. If you ve made it this far in the process. Or all three! Make a fuss: if you don t. and you should take as much time as you need. Repeat as needed. Or. That s a huge step. especially early on. . CD. you are victorious. If you don t believe me . writing out the solution . . who will? This is not merely an exercise in feeling good.com/page 70 Step #7. and you should give yourself huge amounts of credit for it.then please go back and reread Chapters 15 (perfectionism) and 20 (mean mommy/daddy). bubble bath or sinful dessert. after years or perhaps decades of fear and dithering. and we continue to be oppressed by those in adulthood. Or. Or. Most of us grow up oppressed by too much negativity and criticism. taking some more substantive and time-consuming steps . Call up a good friend and boast of your achievement.www. Celebrating yourself also helps you own your victory and the skills that went into achieving it.

Therapy. this time around. Self-Care and a Created Community. highly disciplined and highly committed. and the mean mommy/daddy dialog that fear tends to drag in its wake.you shouldn t consider your procrastination problem licked. . That s because. That s because beating procrastination is an act of profound self-liberation that helps you redefine yourself and your possibilities. The problem. is to apply the techniques I discuss in a very patient way. . I have no doubt that many readers of this e-book are poised to make that journey within a very short time.Even if. Step #9.meaning.hillaryre ttig. many begin to make amazingly fast progress at their goals. be prepared to repeat this process as often as it takes and occasionally throughout your entire life. as discussed earlier. paradoxically. often making more progress in a fewwww. I discuss these in this and the next two chapters. obstacles and panic many shoot ahead like arrows toward their goals.com/page 71 weeks than they had in years. . onto journaling and other tools for change . Chapter 27. undisciplined or uncommitted. persistent enemy: it will return. Watch change happen! When I teach my students these techniques for defeating their fear-based procrastination. however. Tools for Change I: Journaling There are four main tools you can use to help you defeat your fears and spur personal growth: Journaling. Procrastination is a wily. Rest assured.their fears. they are actually highly energetic. you are able to quickly defuse your panic. Self-liberation is an exciting journey to make and an inspirational one to witness. overcome your obstacle(s). Now. in contrast to their negative self-image of being lazy. . is that they were trying to solve the wrong problem(s). fear. So. . you score a spectacular success . The trick. so that there are few or no opportunities for disappointment. and return to your path . Once they start trying to solve the right one . that by persisting you will get to .

That s definitely the way it is for me. And I guess I m a jerk.although. especially. and it shows in my sentences: Well. or hour. Still. as possible. It s not like he s always unreliable . however. or stream of consciousness writing. something obviously happened to Frank. . What a jerk. of journaling. In other words. www. . in the last chapter. That s no excuse for being a . now that I think about it. he s got other virtues: he really sticks up for me when Liz gets on my case. In fact.he told me that. too.com/page 72 My sentences are short because my anger is preventing me from holding a thought for very long. And I guess he s going through a difficult time with his girlfriend . When I start journaling. and with as little inhibition or censorship.) By the end of a half-hour. I can t believe he stood me up for that meeting. I tend to type like a demon. so much as your thoughts and.Journaling would seem like the easiest thing in the world-and it is! Journaling is just the writing down of your thoughts and feelings at any given moment in as much detail. What I don t mean by journaling is keeping a chronological calendar detailing the events in your life. and he was really terrific during that project we worked on last summer. The Journaling Arc You ll recall how. (Your journaling really is a window into your emotional state. he s not the most dependable of guys. the truth be told. I don t care about the events themselves. I hate him. automatic writing. I m much more relaxed and in control. almost fragmentary.hillaryrettig. As soon as I finish this. All of these terms are fine by me. he did ask me to cut him some slack. or three hours. The kind of journaling I mean is sometimes called free writing. . and my sentences are short. as in this hypothetical example: Damn I m upset! I can t stand it! I don t know what to do! I want to kill Frank. your feelings surrounding them. I ll give him a call to make sure he s OK. especially when I m upset or angry. I said that journaling calms you mentally and physically.

Note not just the calmness and longer sentences. Just get your feelings and thoughts down. lists. You will probably notice a similar arc in your own journal entries. The more the merrier. but that you may often overwhelm with rationalization. control and compassion .they re all okay. but the more contextualized. paragraphs. . also. of course. A computer. If you don t like to write. focus on the soft heart voice inside you that is telling the truth. accurate view of Frank and his situation. As discussed in the last chapter. the better. The faster you write. Don t worry about spelling or grammar. because fast writing leaves little time for self-censorship and rationalizations. I call the path one travels in one s journal .com/page 73 journaling at the moment you catch yourself procrastinating. and don t stop to think or ponder. the easy transition to problem solving (calling Frank before meetings). a sheet of paper. but maybe in the future. and get it down on paper. and throughout your career. Tips for Effective Journaling Here are some tips to help you journal: Speed is key.from fear. anger and blaming. Some people journal first thing every morning. or any other format is also fine so long as the format doesn t interfere with your primary goal of writing freely and honestly.hillaryrettig. . instead. as a form of meditation and reflection.no-show. or last thing every night. Also. and use it to track your emotional growth during each journaling session. . Any medium and format are fine. Note. Others journal at odd times whenever the mood strikes them. compassionate. Look for it. try talking into a tape recorder. to calmness. a dinner napkin . and still others set aside a few hours every week or month. I ll take the precaution of calling him beforehand to remind him of meetings.the journaling arc. you want to startwww. because you then have the best chance of capturing and characterizing the precise problem. Whatever works for you is fine. But you can journal at other times. as well. .

Guys can journal. Seriously: everyone. I think therapy is wonderful. Not me. make sure you keep your journal private. Sometimes. or conducting an extensive. Many people are ashamed to admit that they are in therapy. Write until you re written out and can think of nothing further to say. statesmen. This may take a few minutes. the class goes dead quiet.hillaryre ttig. Many of history s most famous male scholars. Not surprisingly. don t rush it: if you ve got a lot to write. I have been in therapy. We all carry around emotionalwww. for two decades. You should. there are usually plenty of men receptive to the idea of journaling. or an entire day or weekend. too. Don t show your journal to anyone. That s it for journaling! Try it out! Chapter 28 Tools for Change II: Therapy and Self-Care Go to therapy! I tell my classes. If you are a guy (or gal. unvarnished. and scientists. I think everyone should be in therapy. saw keeping a journal. the students giggle in an embarrassed way. self-reflective correspondence.com/page 74 . I urge you to get over it. To ensure that you tell the whole. as an essential part of their quest to lead a civilized and accomplished life. Therapy very much remains a taboo subject. However long it takes. Most of the time. on and off. you re done. often embarrassing and often painful truth. a few hours. it means you ve got a lot to say. at least once in their lives. too. among others. and therapy has been among the best investments I ever made. Don t rush it: when you re done. In my classes. but also plenty of others who think it s a sissy way to spend their time. as if people are too embarrassed even to giggle. for that matter) with that prejudice. It has helped me get past the problems in my life much faster than I could have ever done on my own. The reaction I get is interesting.

Since I ve made a good living writing now for more than twenty years. They see therapy as simply one more tool they are using to build their success. I think ambitious dreamers have it tougher than many other people because of the innate difficulty of our missions and the lack of societal and (often) familial support. Seeing a therapist is a sign that you have the strength to admit to. and I ve come to think of therapy as graduate school for the emotions (or was it remedial?). Some people might prefer to consult a spiritual advisor or some other kind of professional. Also. .baggage from our childhood. How to Write: Advice and Reflections (Quill. 1995) . I have no problem with that. Another possibility for readers of this e-book is a life/career coach who. and work on. These are all good reasons to see a therapist. not for writing. but nothing could be farther from the truth. Some people think that seeing a therapist is a sign of weakness. life is often difficult and stressful. my therapist. a good man trained at the Menninger Clinic. That s why so many successful people see a therapist and are quite unashamed of the fact. . but would urge you to see a therapist in addition to whomever else you see. like myself. expressed the hope that therapy would pay for itself. Seven years of therapy was no more expensive than graduate school would have been. and even without a lot of baggage. specializes in addressing problems related to procrastination and blocks. at least for a while. addiction and other situational obstacles. but it was through that process that the breakthrough came. . . But such a person may not be able to help you with relationship problems. The Pulitzer-prize winning writer Richard Rhodes draws a direct line between his therapy (for post-traumatic stress syndrome resulting from an abusive childhood) and his professional success: I started therapy for myself. When I groaned at the expense.Richard Rhodes. it did. your problems. unless he or she also happens to be a trained and licensed therapist who specializes in those problems.

and go out and find someone. be persistent in seeking out the best quality medical or therapeutic help you can find for these conditions. Schedule regular appointments with your doctor. and get lots of sleep. is enormous. or bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression). So I urge you to try therapy or coaching. It is also hard to take care of others. emotional and material needs. or advocate for them. If you ve got attention-deficit disorder (ADD). That s because I saw that the insights and lessons I was learning in therapy could help me in all of the important areas of my life. Stop dithering. but dithering. depression. attentiondeficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Eat nutritious meals.hillary rettig. and if the first one (or two or three) professionals you try don t feel like a goodwww. dentist and ophthalmologist. or leads to more unhappiness. in my experience. take care of yourself. Make sure your home and workspace are maintained in a way that s conducive to your happiness. The difference between a good therapist or coach and a great one. and don t deny your physical. This is particularly true if you have been thinking about it. inhibits success more. get plenty of exercise. keep looking. So. And then do what the professional tells you! Nothing. especially at an ambitious dream. self-care should come before everything except emergencies. in terms of being able to catalyze your success and happiness. Nothing except a real emergency would cause me to miss a therapy session. but one reason therapy worked for me was that I made it one of my top priorities. and I always took my therapists recommendations very seriously. peace and productivity. Deal with your issues. If your physical or emotional being is not healthy.I don t know about Rhodes. The act of discovering and meeting those needs forms the foundation of a happy and productive life. Self-Care As my therapists have taught me. Shop carefully. obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).com/page 75 fit. then you can t hope to be productive. than one of these conditions left . when your own needs are going unmet. addiction.

when surrounded by people who constantly criticize us or put us down.without experiencing even the slightest twinge of guilt. Self-care doesn t have to be a major effort or expense: it can be as simple as taking time out for a movie. You need to . a meal with friends.untreated. OK? Chapter 29. Conversely. and also to give yourself little treats as often as possible . or taking a taxi instead of a bus once in a while. or a walk in the park. Treat yourself well whenever you ve had a success. just for the heck of it. however. And treat yourself well whenever you feel like it. Whom we choose to associate with is one of our most crucial life decisions. Ask your doctor or therapist specifically what steps you can take so that your condition has as limited as possible an impact on your ability to achieve your ambitious dream. Getting rid of naysayers is only half of the battle. The key is to generally treat yourself well. encouraging people.com/page 76 Tools for Change: A Created Community As you have heard me say earlier.hillaryrettig. not just because negative people drag us down.once a day or more is great . You need to replace them with a supportive community. especially if they are actively involved in helping us reach our potential. www. while the latter are often more likely to tolerate skeptics and nay-sayers in their lives. but because we tend to live up. to the expectations of those around us. no matter how minor. Just treat yourself well. and treat yourself especially well whenever you ve had a failure or disappointment. it s almost impossible to maintain a positive view of oneself. It can also be buying a colorful new sweater. It s a wonderful thing when those around us have high (but not too high) expectations for us. or to succeed at anything. or down. a key factor separating successful from unsuccessful people is that the former surround themselves with supportive. Don t make the mistake of thinking that this community will magically accrue around you if you just do your own thing.

That often consists of a group of very special friends whose major values they share. If this is the kind of family you aspire to. please make sure that your spouse or partner is 100 percent supportive of your mission. The major categories of people you want in your Created Community include mentors. and perhaps also some kids or companion animals. Although rare individuals are able to thrive without one. and so you may seek out only a few very close friends or a wider circle. in turn. colleagues and helping professionals. Many ambitious dreamers create a different kind of family in place of. family. and whom they. or formalized. commit to supporting.co m/page 77 to create some kind of family for yourself.hillaryrettig. friends. and manage it. most of us cannot. it is very important for youwww. I hear more anguish from students on the subject of families than anything else. This can be an informal. Friends People are social to varying degrees. and we suffer if try. and whom they know will support them in good times and bad. An unsupportive spouse is one of the most painful. situational obstacles. Either is OK. and hardest to solve. but I discuss the other categories briefly below. We are all familiar with the traditional nuclear-type family consisting of a spouse or partner. Just three reminders: 1. A party animal lifestyle is generally incompatible with success at an . provided your relationships are healthy and don t interfere with your personal growth and success. Mentors is a very important topic that I discuss separately in the following chapter. since many of us have families who are hostile to our values and life choices. family relationship. or in addition to. Especially if you are distanced from your birth family. Family Family is such a delicate topic.create your community. the nuclear one.

ignore her. or interfere with your ability to attain it.ambitious endeavor.but to do so in a compassionate. leave it. And. Recognize that it is possible. Don t worry: another opportunity to work in the field will almost inevitably present itself . The rule is simple: don t let anyone abuse you. Wonderful friendships not only bring light and color to our lives. 3.including. 2. or for any other reason. Friends have a responsibility not just to objectively state the truth .and if it doesn t. If you have a position in such an organization. in theory at least. com/page 78 comprehend the roots of her intolerance and hostility: it s a job for a therapist. Many activist. They also have a responsibility to praise you and acknowledge your achievements. anyway. So is a doormat / go-to person lifestyle in which you cannot or will not say No to requests that conflict with your mission. arts and academic organizations are badly run. and all too common. and high ineffective and unevolved in others. If a colleague criticizes you harshly for being insufficiently committed or dedicated.hillaryrettig. This includes other dreamers. it s still the right choice to leave an abusive situation. should share their world view and goals. Don t waste time trying to help herwww. regardless of what they say their motives are. Someone who undermines or harshly criticizes you is not a friend. or how awe-inspiring their intellectual framework. perhaps. unpleasant truths . for someone to be highly effective and evolved in some areas of life. supportive way. . This problem seems particularly prevalent in the arts. they sustain us through the inevitable dark moments. and also treat their employees and volunteers badly. Don t settle for less! Colleagues It s a sad fact that some of the people who treat ambitious dreamers worst are colleagues who. activist and academic realms. and I don t care how illustrious their achievements or credentials are.

or maybe you can consult with a knowledgeable family member. a nutritionist. here: Be kind. Helping Professionals By helping professionals. a doctor. . massage therapist. spiritual advisor or anyone else you feel you should consult about your physical and mental health. and willing. dentist and ophthalmologist. they have a lot of knowledge about how to do it. and to help you along the way. Mentors typically offer one or more of the following benefits: *Information. and ignoring them invariably leads to trouble. and that you may be using your professional zeal as a rationalization to support this engrained defensive behavior. therapist (or coach). Recognize that your anger and intolerance probably stem from childhood. or twenty years from now. Chapter 30. but they exist whether you focus on them or not. As someone who has spent years dealing with her own anger issues. perhaps. first of all. And they are available. They are where you hope to be next year. Then.and getting it as part of your life planning. Finding and Cultivating Mentors Mentors are people who have already achieved some of the things you want to achieve. needless to say. I mean. to tell you how to get there. don t abuse or attack others. Just make sure you re getting quality advice . You may not like to focus on these issues. coworker or friend for free. acupuncturist. You may have to hire someone with these forms of expertise. not only after you find yourself in a jam. I urge you to deal with yours. I also mean good personal finance and insurance help. not just for your own sake. five years from now.And. Philosopher Philo of Alexandria s advice is particularly apt. Because they ve done what you are trying to do. for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. but that of those around you.

and underrated. They often know lots of people. and. They don t just have the information. The right mentor can literally take years or even decades off the time it takes you to succeed. You should also have mentors for your personal life: for dating. and of what can go right and wrong as you pursue your ambitious dream. etc. without mentors. and they often know important. meaning that they can help you reach your goals faster than anything else. They have a good grasp of the big picture. and enjoy. but also be the kind of people who like to help.g. they know how to apply it. while others may be mentors in another (e. *Contacts. home ownership. In other words. bosses and other authority figures are natural choices. parenting. art. career strategy). or your academic field). Although many teachers. health and fitness. finances. of strategy.. Mentors are probably the most powerful success catalyst around. All of your mentors should not just have specific information and other resources that you need. influential people.*Wisdom. Some might be experts in an important allied field. Who Are Mentors? Some people may be mentors for you in one area (e. You re never too successful or accomplished to need mentors. the process of mentoring.g. Your mentors contacts can be of enormous help to you as you build your career.. This is a very important. contribution of mentors. grants and other opportunities that can help you. such as high tech or public relations. you should cast as wide a . Anyone and everyone who meets these criteria could be a mentor. Here s how to find and work with them.com/page 79 *Opportunities.hillaryrettig. marriage. Mentors often know about jobs.www. they should understand. you are almost certainly doomed to time-wasting and frustration. You should have as many mentors as possible in as many different specialties or fields that are relevant to your career as possible. Finding and cultivating mentors should be a primary goal of all ambitious dreamers.

and should be approached with care. How to Establish a Mentor Relationship Below are examples of the wrong and right way to establish a mentor relationship: Wrong Way: Ian is attending a reception at an activist conference when he spots the celebrated activist Jane Smith across the room. Others are former students or coaching clients. He s always revered her and now. Would you be my mentor? Jane would have probably been surprised. You can t go around asking strangers whom you ve just met to mentor you. Not very encouraging. Some of my most important mentors are people who are younger than I am. but it could have been worse. he reviewed her most recent writings and found an article of hers that he particularly liked. During his research. long-term commitment than she may be ready for. Before showing up. he thinks. and after a few moments she excuses herself to talk with someone else. but who have knowledge. I am grateful for mentoring from whatever source it comes. he discovered that an activist he knows quite well is actually friends with Jane. studied the attendee list at the conference before coming. The conversation languishes. just as you can t go around asking them to marry you. She thanks him. but then he can t think of anything else to say. and then given him a polite refusal. and so he got that activist to agree to come to the reception with him . Had Ian naively said. Pete.net as possible. the word mentor can imply more of a serious.com/page 80 her and says he s always admired her and her work. So. Both relationships imply a serious long-term commitment.hillar yrettig. he decided to introduce himself to her during the reception. is his chance to meet her. Noting that Jane Smith would be there. he barrels across the room and introduces himself towww. Here s a better way to get someone on board as a mentor: Right Way: Another activist. Even if the potential mentor is someone who already knows and likes you. experience and skills I lack. He gave it some thought and came up with some follow-up questions or points about it.

and that one article in particular.com/page 81 *Didn t approach Jane cold (i. by demonstrating that he really. It s a drag. Jane is not yet a mentor for Pete.e. *Presented himself in a professional manner.) Then he asked his questions. Then Pete said: This has been a great conversation. arranged an introduction). Would it be okay if I contacted you after the conference to get some advice on this? Jane gave him her business card and invited him to get in touch. Pete knew that every first meeting is an audition. Pete dressed with care. Pete did many things right. Jane appreciated his interest.www. and found his questions insightful. and we re having trouble getting the attention of the local legislators. but who know little about them and what they do. *Expressed a very specific knowledge of Jane and her work. and also rehearsed what he was going to say. At the reception. skewing towards a more professional look. truly . The conversation continued for a few minutes. and it turns many of them off from meeting or helping new people. (He had rehearsed ahead of time. I don t want to monopolize your time. and so was happy to talk with him. but she has agreed to give him at least some assistance.he had studied up on Jane s work. *Was prepared . When it came time to actually attend the reception. But I m working on a fair housing campaign that s very similar to the one you ran in Cincinnati.and introduce him. Many famous or important people are constantly being approached by people who want their help. He spoke in a relaxed voice and didn t ramble on and on. and there are lots of people here who want to talk with you. including: *Planned ahead (studied the conference agenda). and Pete told Jane how much he liked her work. but I know you re busy. However.. which is the first step toward establishing a mentor relationship. his friend made the introduction.hillaryrettig.

don t seek an inperson meeting unless you have something specific to discuss. and. if you haven t spoken with a mentor in a while. you could consult your mentor intensively during a specific project that lasts a week or a month.hillaryrettig. and by the way. Note that a handwritten note or card is often more meaningful and valued than an e-mail. *Was conscious of her situation and respectful of her time. once every six months. Pete set himself apart from the crowd.com/page 82 . but unless the mentor also happens to be a personal friend. You want your interactions to be meaningful .and not a dashed-off thank you note. contact your mentor frantically for advice. What you don t want to do is drop out of sight and then. Or. Oh.e. as a result. wound up with several potential mentors. Pete took a similar strategic approach with several other VIPs who were attending the conference. you don t want the mentor to feel you ve wasted his time. once every year or even less often. one that was both within her field of expertise and not too time-consuming. when a crisis emerges.. but a carefully written one. he will help you out. And you need to be appreciative.www. That means you have a defined goal for each interaction and show up well prepared. Working with Your Mentors You want to stay in regular touch with your mentors. That could mean once a month. Thank you notes are required after every meaningful exchange or bit of assistance your mentor gives you . Sometimes. but he will likely also feel somewhat used.above all.i. depending on the specific nature of your relationship. *Made an appropriate request .knows and values Jane and her work. You can do this through e-mail or in person. and not for a while after that. *Made his request only after a friendly dialog was established. it s good to get in touch just to update him on your situation and progress. If your mentor is nice.

Or.And. This sounds scary. happiness and effectiveness. by all means mentor them. Sooner or later. you should mentor! However unaccomplished you may feel. Chapter 31. but it is actually a good thing. he will appreciate your willingness to reciprocate. finally. Be sure to get that information to him. The Ultimate Solution (Solution III) to Managing Your Fears: Develop an Empowered Personality When you start making progress on your procrastination problem. Mentoring Others Mentoring (as opposed to being mentored) is. which is why a lot of even very busy people welcome the opportunity to mentor a few select protégés. a fantastic growth experience. Many youth programs and schools have mentor programs. or make a contact. as I ll discuss in Chapter 32. If you don t want to wait until someone approaches you. for example. that is probably not the case. if someone comes up to you seeking advice or guidance . So.and you feel comfortable with them and their request. or picking up the bagels and coffee for a meeting. because it will be changing in the direction of greater calm. Yes. In . Even if your contribution is just doing some copying. you should always seek to reciprocate.and it will happen sooner or later. you ll see a newspaper article. This is why you should also mentor. that your mentor will find useful. Even though you may feel that you have little to offer your mentor. Or. you could start a mentor program within your workplace or another organization you belong to. or get some information at a meeting. you may be able to assist the mentor in some difficult project he s involved with. confidence. especially if you follow the advice in this e-book . you can always join a mentor program at a nonprofit organization or charity. your personality will change. There is probably no organization that wouldn t benefit from having a mentor program in place. you probably have lots of wisdom to impart. and there are definitely people out there who could use it.

is making good progress on her ambitious dream and in other areas of her life. . Below.fact. as a result. . I describe the empowered mindset and compare it with its opposite. . Feel powerless and out of control .com/page 83 out and enlist them as role models and mentors. . tend to be . There are empowered people in every field. and you should seek themwww. you ll be developing what I call an empowered personality. the unempowered mindset. . Feel empowered and in control Take responsibility Not take difficult situations personally Help others Unempowered people.hillaryr ettig. in contrast. . Empowered People versus Unempowered People Empowered people tend to be . An empowered person is someone who has made great strides in conquering her obstacles and. . . Positive Action-oriented Planning-oriented Solution-oriented Optimistic They tend to . Negative Passive (not action-oriented) Planning-averse Blame-oriented (not solution-oriented) Pessimistic They tend to .

Note that while many empowered people are successful people in the conventional sense. You shouldn t hesitate to approach empowered people because most of them understand the importance of networking and mentoring. They are at home in the universe and in their own skins. command great salaries.those who are younger or less-experienced. that you re hanging around with the wrong crowd. you always want to time your introduction carefully and be well prepared for the encounter. tend to have an expansive world view. People like that are not truly empowered and should be avoided. Becoming empowered is largely a matter of . and their power. worse. (A sure sign. not all successful people are empowered. and the world at large. .or. others in your life. . passion.hillaryrettig. They remain subject to a fear-based. There are plenty of people out there who run large organizations. like all self-actualized people. and empowered people. or have developed awesome intellectual frameworks. Of course. Chapter 32. tend to be very selective about those whom they choose to work with or mentor. or whom they perceive to be less powerful. ) But hang in there and get used to the energetic new vibe. What Empowered People Do Working to empower yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself.Evade responsibility Take difficulties personally Not help others Empowered people tend to be self-actualized and. exploit . and yet have not conquered their internal demons. by the way. Remember: every introduction is an audition.co m/page 84 you yourself are low-energy or haven t met that many empowered people. . ifwww. because they value their time highly. wisdom and tenderness makes them highly attractive to others. zero-sum mentality that causes them to shut out . Some empowered people may even strike you as too happy and high-energy.

a boss s boss. things and people that make it possible for you to do your job your success infrastructure. a bathroom. or better. and it should be one of your top priorities at all times. a human resources department. As you can see. most or all of the following: a desk. An unempowered person will sit around bemoaning all the resources he needs but doesn t have. They also . which means that you probably need an equivalent. and consulting experts and others. or harder. I call all of the money. on your first day of work.forming certain emotional and behavioral habits. attending classes. and not biased against soft subjects such as self-help. success infrastructures tend to be big. you automatically acquire. colleagues. computer assistance. phone. he creates his success infrastructure.hillaryrettig. a salary. In doing so. Below is a list to get you started: as always. complex and expensive. benefits. electricity. will identify a need and quickly start working the phones to get it met. www. An empowered person. Empowered people welcome challenges. and constantly reading. They are naturally curious about a wide range of topics. applaud the tiniest bits of progress. rule book. and with little or no effort on your part. and never bash yourself for your perceived shortcomings. than corporate work. They are lifelong learners. office. computer. records of your predecessor s work. lights. reference books and other materials. That is an ongoing process. however. Many people avoid challenges and the unknown. Empowered people build infrastructures to support their success. no one s going to provide that infrastructure for you: you need to create it for yourself. take it slow. and a budget for additional purchases. When you take a job in a corporation. infrastructure for it. Empowered people educate themselves. a boss. schedule. in contrast.com/page 85 Pursuing an ambitious dream is as hard. If you work independently. but empowered people welcome them as growth opportunities.

Empowered people anticipate. That s often not the case. . however. fear and anxiety. Even as our country tries to cope with terrorism. An able-bodied individual might decide to face claustrophobia by taking up scuba diving.hillar yrettig.not just because they know that the world runs better when everyone gives back. they are determined to cope. but they figure out ways to cope. in Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life. For forty years.know that success often comes from pushing oneself just a little bit beyond one s comfort zone. but protégés. he threw up.com/page 86 performance. Even worthwhile challenges can be scary. The comfort zone is defined by fear and our perception of our limitations. each time. or are unusually good at coping with stress. Here s what Christopher Reeve. most of us know intuitively that living in fear is not living at all. had to say about comfort zones: The vast majority of people live within a comfort zone that is relatively small. which brings us to . . A person living with a disability may find the courage to leave the comfort zone of his own house for the first time. and learn to deal with. but many experience the satisfaction of moving into a larger comfort zone and the joyful anticipation of more success. They understand that the fear and other negative feelings are transient and relatively unimportant in the larger scheme of things.people to mentor . Fortunately. but also because they know that mentoring is one . the life of an ambitious dreamer provides no shortage of opportunities to be challenged. Successful people may get just as scared or anxious as anyone else. Recall Steven Pressfield s story about how Henry Fonda threw up before every performance. he went out and gave hiswww. In fact. but few of us dare to expand it. however. Unsuccessful people often assume that successful people find success easy. Those who dare sometimes fail and retreat. We are occasionally willing to take small steps outside it. Empowered people seek out protégés . Empowered people seek out not just mentors. and then.

They make a conscious effort to replace dysfunctional thought patterns with functional ones. he immediately stops that line of thought and replaces it with another. mentoring is also one of the best ways to expand what Stephen Covey. . they replace: Negative thinking with . . . . The crucial question is: What do you do in between those moments? My suggestion is that.com/page 87 Empowered people understand that success is sometimes a performance. but they tend to get worse over time. And because the goal of mentorship is to help your protégé evolve into an empowered person. which brings its own stresses. Empowered people also know that success. Empowered people deal quickly and decisively with their obstacles. . . . . That s because they know that. more objective and compassionate one. Resilience Panic with . act as if you are . Many people. Empowered people reprogram their thoughts for success. What a jerk I am .hillaryrettig. even in moments of non-motivation. Compassionate observation and analysis Perfectionist thinking with . For instance. not only are obstacles a serious impediment to success.of the best uses of their time. thinking Self-criticism with . for example. or positive. Calm and perspective So. . .www. and also increases your base of knowledge. . We all have moments when we operate at peak performance and feel on top of the world. along the lines of. . author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People calls your circle of influence. Self-acceptance or self-praise Judgmental thinking with . Objective. Don t let that happen to you . . Mentoring helps you identify and reinforce your strengths. if an empowered person screws up and then catches himself thinking negatively. .start dealing with your obstacles now. find that their relationships deteriorate as they become more professionally successful. can worsen many situational obstacles. Reasonable goal setting and tolerance of error Hypersensitivity with .

Simply by practicing at performing at peak. but our actions often dictate our emotions. . as well as any comments and suggestions about this e-book. Many salespeople. facial expression and other physical attributes affect not only their mood but their customers . Experts such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.com. for all of your hard work. are very familiar with this phenomenon: they are taught that their posture. That s because the smile initiates a sequence of hormonal and other events that relaxes us and makes us feel good. Perfectionism and Blocks. the amazing secret that empowered people in every field eventually learn: that with enough practice mimicking peak performance. rituals. who must be on close to 100 percent of the time in order to make their quotas. you will actually start experiencing the real thing more often. say that while we can t operate at peak all the time. that we don t just smile because we re happy. They are taught to smile even when talking over the telephone. And that will be the most amazing reward of all. You should do the same thing. you can train yourself to enter into peak much more easily and frequently. at lifelongactivist@yahoo. I hope you found it useful. .## Thank you for reading The Little Guide To Beating Procrastination. athletes and other peak performers develop a personal collection of tricks. Research has shown. we actually become happier when we smile. This is because of a wonderful thing that behavioral scientists have discovered: that not only do our emotions dictate our actions. the salesperson s voice sounds much more forceful and dynamic when she smiles.highly motivated. And here s the icing on the cake. we can probably do so much more frequently than we realize. author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. because although the customer on the other end of the line can t see them do it. Try it. Professional salespeople. and physical and mental exercises to help themselves get and stay pumped for their workday. And you ll find more information about me. I welcome your questions. performers. and wish you the best as you travel along the path to your dream. for instance.

hillaryrettig. .my workshops and coaching services.Hillary Rettig .com. and The Lifelong Activist and my other books at http://www.