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Break the Habit of Procrastination

Posted on: May 21st, 2020 by Domante No Comments

It is a beautiful Tuesday morning. You woke up with an intention to write an article / complete your to-do list / call a potential client / finish a presentation / start eating healthy and exercising. It is 11am already and here is what you have achieved so far…. Listened extensively to every self-help piece of content on how to start writing / added more items on to your to-do list / cleaned the bathroom / organised your sock draw / commented on every single post on your Facebook news feed / had three cups of coffee and ate a bag of cookies. At the end of this beautiful Tuesday you are beating yourself up about not having done what you promised yourself to do. Then you relax into the evening after promising yourself to do all of those things as soon as you get up at 6am on Wednesday morning. Tomorrow is a new day after all.

We need to demystify procrastination because it really is not an inherent character trait. All of us procrastinate because our brain is designed this way. Procrastination is the limbic brain (the oldest part of our brain responsible for our survival) getting in the way of our greatest intentions. Our prefrontal cortex (much newer part of our brain) is active when we are making plans for our future, making decisions, etc. It is responsible for all those beautiful intentions. According to Dr Timothy Pychyl (professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa), our limbic brain is so primal and so well developed – it overrides the prefrontal cortex. Limbic brain always seeks immediate pleasure and pushes us towards avoiding immediate pain. Running away from the danger, finding food and having sex ensured the survival of the species. In a much more complex world of today, that same mechanism is driving us away from challenging and uncomfortable tasks (immediate pain) that would ensure a long-term success to a bag of cookies (immediate pleasure).

Dr Timothy Pychyl says that procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem. It is about being more focused on the immediate urgency of managing negative feelings and emotions than on getting on with a task.

Why does limbic brain get activated? The task you need to complete may be unpleasant (such as sacking an employee, making a cold call, start running) or there may be some deeper-rooted issues like a fear of failure or lack of self-belief/your ability to complete the task, particularly if you are starting something new. Limbic brain does not distinguish between actual danger and perceived danger. For your limbic brain making a cold call equals encountering an angry lion. It would rather have you sitting comfortably on the couch eating a bag of cookies.

If you procrastinate frequently, it becomes a habit. Those neural pathways in your brain get really established. It means next time you feel slight discomfort or unpleasantness about the task at hand, your brain will go: ”Ooh, there is a bag of crunchy cookies in the cupboard, you know…” or “Ooh, the laundry basket is really overflowing – I wonder if children have any clean clothes in the wardrobe”.

How to get out of this loop?

Get into the habit of not negotiating with yourself, simply start doing what needs to be done. There is a great chance that once you start doing it, you will complete the task. Whether you use a 5 Second Rule, you practice taking control by meditating, you change the meaning of that unpleasant feeling or become a little bit more mindful, it is up to you. Every single one of these tools has the power to get you from thinking about the task to actually doing it.

Master Your Confidence

Posted on: May 14th, 2020 by Domante No Comments

There is a lot of mysticism surrounding confidence. We all heard people say (or even said it ourselves!): “I am not confident enough to take on this challenge”, “I like confident men/women”, “He/she is not confident enough for this role”. It sounds as if confidence is some sort of an attractive magical quality that you either have a gene for or you don’t. While many studies suggest that we are born with certain genetic predisposition – geared towards either more positive thinking or more negative, latest neuroscience proves that biology is not our destiny.

My father was always telling me that the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know. He used to illustrate it with tableware (precisely, with a cup and a plate). If a table, on which the cup and the plate are placed, is the “unknown”, and the areas that plate and cup occupy – what we know, then the circumference of the plate and the circumference of the cup would represent the contact between the “known” and the “unknown”. Plate’s circumference is far greater, therefore, it has more contact with the “unknown”. The more we are exposed to new learnings, life experiences, other people (especially those who don’t think the way we do!), the more we realise that there is only so much that we really know. Jumping to conclusions becomes insidious, because we are now aware that there is so much more to discover. Certainty then is very short-lived, so is confidence in anything other than our own ability to deal with life.

While confidence in general is a variable, confidence in yourself is something you can start practicing, build it day by day and, eventually, master – it is a skill. Self-confidence, broken into pieces, is simply liking, respecting yourself and knowing that you are capable of dealing with whatever life throws at you.

How?

In the words of Robin Sharma, “All change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous in the end.”

Overcome Addiction for Long-Term Success

Posted on: May 6th, 2020 by Domante No Comments

It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon, you open the website of your favourite retailer and start piling clothes into your shopping basket. Do you need them? Not really. However, you feel like hunting – putting stuff into the basket, deleting and replacing. It feels good!

Perhaps it is a Monday evening and you had a really really difficult day. You reach for a glass of wine that will make things just a little better. After all, it really did when you felt not-so-good the day before…

What we are truly after is a pleasure we get from dopamine release. Any addictive substance or behaviour is our shortcut to brain’s reward centre. Nicotine, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, food – all fall into this category.

According to Harvard Medical School, the reward circuit in the brain includes areas involved with motivation and memory as well as with pleasure. Addictive substances and behaviours stimulate the same circuit – and then overload it. Repeated exposure to an addictive substance or behaviour causes nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens (the area of the brain involved in reward and reinforcement) and the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain involved in planning and executing tasks) to communicate in a way that couples liking something with wanting it, in turn driving us to go after it. That is, this process motivates us to take action to seek out the source of pleasure.

The brain is very adaptive, so the same amount of alcohol, drugs or clothes in your shopping basket soon won’t be enough to get your reward circuit neurons firing. Therefore, you will need to increase the dose of your “poison of choice”. Needless to say, this is not a sustainable way of getting your dopamine high.

How to get out of this vicious cycle?

Switch from acting habitually to acting deliberately – with the outcome in mind. In other words, seek long-term rewards rather than instant gratification.

Acting habitually

A glass of wine tonight (you may think) will make you relax and cheer you up, however, it will add up to your waistline and toxicity. Buying three beautiful dresses will give you a moment of (so called) happiness, however, it may get you in debt. That cigarette (you think) will relieve your stress for 5 minutes, however, smoking will make you age faster among other things. Somewhere along the way we picked up these habits, and now they are our brain’s immediate “go-to”.

Remember, our brain is designed to protect us from pain and seek pleasure – to make sure we survive. Whatever you associate with pain, your brain will make you run away from. Whatever you associate with pleasure, it will make you seek.

Acting deliberately

It is acting with the outcome in mind. Think about your result.

There is nothing wrong with having an occasional glass of wine, piece of cake or going shopping as long as we are doing it deliberately.

Create rules for yourself that really contribute to your long-term success. If you want that dress or a glass of wine, make it a reward rather than an instant gratification. Delay it. Allow yourself some time to “deserve” it.

Always strive for a long-term success rather than short-lived instant pleasure. Don’t let addiction (however mild you think it is) get in between you and your dreams.