Sunday, August 9, 2009

i procrastinate -- do you?

Guess what? There is actually a research speciality on unlocking procrastination! Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D is an expert on the subject. I recently was inspired by one of his podcasts, "Giving in to Feel Good."

The study Dr. Pychyl summarized concluded that we put off doing things because we don't "feel" like doing it. It's called "negative reinforcement." Procrastination works because it temporarily reduces our anxiety about whatever we are putting off. We all know that, right? And I know I've heard the argument that a person works best under pressure. However, research shows this simply isn't true and that the cost of the stress caused by the pressure is far greater than the cost of the anxiety that initally led to the procrastination. In fact, it leads to what the researchers call, "self-regulatory failure" and damaging behaviors like drinking, gambling, excessive shopping, overeating and smoking. (You may also want to check out Dr. Pychyl's blog, Don't Delay.)

So how do we stop procrastinating? Obviously there is no easy or simple answer or Dr. Pychyl would be out of a job! But there are tools you can use, many of which we utilize in coaching:
  • Start paying attention to what your physical sensations are when you are procrastinating so you can catch the behavior more quickly. For instance, you may have a tight jaw, or notice an uncomfortable sensation in your belly. Then you can stop and say, "what am I avoiding right now?"
  • Get support in place. Find someone who will hold you accountable for what you say you will do. Set up small (obviously healthful) rewards for completing the task.
  • Set a timer; agree with yourself to work on the task for at least 15 minutes.
  • Take time after doing the thing you've been avoiding to notice and reflect on your feelings (which are different from your thoughts). This is the positive reinforcement step. Journaling can help you remember that it was worth stepping through the anxiety.
Now go do one thing you've been putting off and let me know how it goes for you!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wealth, Plenty, Poverty and Sin

I heard a thought-provoking sermon from our new pastor yesterday And I would love to blog about it -- if only I had more answers than questions. Instead, I am hoping to provoke some conversation. I will lay out my thoughts and really, really want to hear yours. So whether you're following the blog in it's home on blogspot or through the Facebook feed, let me hear from you!

I have always had what I would term "a calling." And I think from a very early age, that became intertwined with a mindset of living -- how shall I say it? -- "simply." So for most of my life, I didn't own much or accumulate much; it just wasn't of interest to me. And although I never became the missionary I thought I'd be, I did have a fairly simple and well, nomadic lifestyle. Then 15 years ago, something completely unexpected happened. I met and married my soul-mate, Paul, and grew roots. Deep ones. Roots that managed to permeat and attach to the solid rock ground of Round Rock, Texas. And with that came children and stuff. Lots of stuff. Too much stuff. Everywhere, stuff. If I had to change homes suddenly now, I'm pretty sure it would precipitate my first all-out panic attack.

Fast forward to yesterday. Father Dean was talking about "my world" versus the rest of the world; the size of my garage versus the size of most people in the world's homes. And I started thinking of the excess. The very fine food my family eats, the number of times we eat out, the sheer numbers of toys, books, socks, and electronics we possess. The kitchen gadgets and yard tools. Two cars. Our very own lawn mower. Organic produce in the fridge. Don't get me wrong - we're not rolling in money -- we make ends meet and not much more. Our newest car was purchased used and is a 2002 model. I'm fretting at the moment about the $2500 dental bill looming in the near future.

But it is so much more than most of the whole rest of the world. I'm looking at $2500 dental work. Fair enough, it's "necessary;" it's to replace a missing tooth. But I'm 50 and I only have one missing tooth. $2500 would house a family of 4 in Nicaragua for months. I'm typing on a computer that would buy their groceries for 15 weeks, maybe more. So I feel conflicted. Is it just me? Do other people grapple with these things? Is it just the Western way or is it time for us to really and seriously live another way? And what of my kids? Would it ruin their lives to change their standard of living at this point? Or are we ruining their lives by not changing?

And what of wealth and plenty? Because we do have enough, we are also able to give and we are thoughtful about our giving. You could call it a "tithe;" we give 10% and we are intentional about it; we spread it around, too. So can it be that some people do need to make more to support all those groups and people that help people who make less? And if I want to earn more to secure my kids' college education and our own retirement, is that smart? Or greedy? Or both?

Father Dean may have answered some these questions in his homily -- I am embarrassed to admit I got so lost in my own quandary I forgot to listen a little. But I doubt it -- I think he has more questions than answers himself. And my subsequent return to the gospel reading left me just as muddled. It seems to be saying "be satisfied with spiritual food," not "grow your own garden and feed the poor." So now it's your turn -- what do you think?