Procrastinators: Listen Up!

A big enabler of perpetual procrastination is what I like to call, “Southern Hospitality Syndrome.” Simply put, this is when you have a habit of being kinder to others than you care to be toward yourself. It sounds like the epitome of “nice” and the opposite of “selfish,” but if this syndrome sounds uncomfortably familiar, it may be seriously contributing to your procrastination.

If you have Southern Hospitality Syndrome, you are probably keeping commitments to others while ignoring or compromising commitments to yourself. After a while, letting yourself down in this manner will begin to compromise your self-care, self-esteem and self-worth – and may leave you hopeless to change or downright depressed. How?

Let’s say that you and I were scheduled for a lunch date and I couldn’t make it. What would I do? Call you up and reschedule, of course! If I did nothing at all…never called, never acknowledged it…just blew off the whole thing, what would I be? Disappointing? What if I did it more than once? Then what would I be? Unreliable? What if I did it all the time? Well, I’d be a jerk, of course!

Now, ask yourself…how do you treat the commitments you’ve made to yourself? With the same respect as you do with commitments to others???

If not, and if you are constantly letting your internal commitments slide, that’s a problem far bigger than just a missed commitment. That is creating a self-image problem while inadvertently perpetuating your continued procrastination.

See, here’s how your brain works. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a broken commitment with yourself or one broken with someone else. So, if you keep telling yourself that you are going to clean the garage, organize the office, cut the grass or even write that book and you don’t do it, your brain starts to think (and therefore, have you believing) that you are an unreliable jerk who doesn’t stick to your commitments.

If you think something over and over…you eventually believe it. That’s all beliefs are…just thoughts that you’ve had over and over. You may actually have yourself believing lots of things that just simply aren’t true…that you can’t finish anything, won’t start anything or that you don’t stick your guns about positive change in your life.

This is dangerous. If you believe something, anything…your brain will work overtime to perpetuate it…to make it so, even if it’s not true! See how this can smash your new ideas, stunt your growth at work and keep you from accomplishing your dreams? This means that you have to take some action today and get those beliefs turned around!

You change your beliefs by simply changing your thoughts. So, the next time the vacuum breaks, or you skip the volunteer job, or you blow off your yoga class, go ahead and give yourself a nice dose of Southern Hospitality!

Treat yourself as you would if it were me that was meeting you on your living floor to fix the vacuum. Picture your neighbor waiting at the mission for you to help out. See your best friend honking the horn on the way to the yoga studio. In short, stop being a jerk to yourself!

Do yourself the best favor ever and start by just doing it! Keep your promise to yourself and get it done! This means that you will have to be a very careful scheduler. I mean, do you make dinner plans with someone knowing that you will be canceling? No! You are careful when you make the date that nothing will get in the way.

If you really can’t follow through and something really has come up, simply “call” yourself up and make a new, realistic plan – just like you would if it were anyone else. Use a calendar and “reschedule” yourself. Treat yourself just as you treat others. Know that you will get to it, mark a specific time and date for it and be true to yourself.

Soon you’ll have your brain’s course corrected, believing that you are quite awesome. You’ll be doing all that “needs to be done,” “should be done” and that you “really want in life.” You’ll actually believe that you’re the reliable one who always gets it done and perpetuating that belief by thinking it over and over…and you’ll be right!

Let it go, stay pumped, get it done, be you and go get it,
Cheri Augustine Flake, LCSW