There’s that thing you keep meaning to do that you know will change your life for the better. You know the one, right? The bad habit you want to break or the good habit you’d like to start. Maybe you want to simplify your life, learn how to set boundaries and reduce stress and you know this change will help you live better.
But change takes work and you’re already so busy and tired. Now you’re stuck in a mental game of whack-a-mole: the change idea pops up into your mind; you feel guilty for procrastinating; you whack it back down; it pops up again. Rinse, repeat.
What if putting off a potential change is actually a good thing?
What if plain old procrastination became an opportunity for more intentional living?
“Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”- Rainer Marie Rilke
Real and meaningful change is difficult. So it makes sense that it shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Our chances of successful change are much greater if the commitment is made after careful consideration and preparation that outlines a plan for success. Changes made this way tend to last longer and be more effective.
The American Psychological Association says, “Lifestyle changes are a process that take time and require support. Once you’re ready to make a change, the difficult part is committing and following through. So do your research and make a plan that will prepare you for success.”
“Success depends on previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” – Confucius
Our action-oriented society rewards us for decisions made quickly and decisively, which makes thoughtful contemplation harder. We also tend to be uncomfortable with uncertainty. Taking time to think through a decision before making it means sitting with the discomfort of all the “maybes” and “what ifs” for a while without jumping into action.
How procrastination can help you prepare for change
Time gives you a chance clarify why you want to change your life. The limits on your time, energy and willpower are real. Because of this, it’s a good idea to make sure that the change you want to make aligns with your priorities in life so you’re not wasting your time.
It’s also important to clarify what you expect from the change. What are the psychological, emotional or physical benefits you think changing your life provide you? What will this change not fix? Are you prepared for the fact that the change may not provide you with exactly what you’re hoping for?
Finally, it will be helpful to consider the ramifications of making this change. You can as yourself these questions to gain clarity:
- How much time and energy will it involve?
- What other commitments or activities will you need to let go of for the change to take place?
- What resources will you need (time, energy, money, etc.) to effectively make this change?
- What support system can you put in place to help you stick with it once the change is made?
- How will this change affect those you care about and care for?
A period of thoughtful consideration also gives you a chance to come up with a plan for getting back on the wagon when you fall off. Change is a process and progress will not always be even.
Think first, act later
Psychologist Guy Winch, Ph.D., says “Recognizing the various psychological injuries we sustain when we fail and learning how to treat them will help you recover more rapidly and more fully, both psychologically and emotionally, and increase your chances of success in the future.”
Just contemplating change without acting on it right away has enormous benefits. It can help us determine if the change is ultimately what we want or need. We can consider what this change might mean to our daily life as well as the lives of others we care about. We can also consider how to best implement the change, so it has the greatest chance of success if we decide to make it.
What habit change would you like to make that will help you live with less stress and feel less overwhelmed by life? What thoughtful steps can you take to prepare for this change?