How To Deal with Procrastination – Part I

19a - procrastination

Even the most driven, successful, resourceful, motivated and well-intentioned person in the world deals with inspiration breaks, time offs, laziness and gets spaced out, every once in a while.

The difference maker, then, is to know one self, acknowledge the space and time required to bounce back, and gather the tools to keep delivering.

Learn how to anticipate your daily, weekly and monthly productivity breakdowns, avoid burn outs, meltdowns and break downs, and – most off all – get to know yourself, your wants and needs, your plans and goals, your dreams and desires.

What is procrastination? Why do we procrastinate? How should we deal with procrastination in order to have more productive and fulfilling lives?

Procrastination has nothing to do with taking a pause, resting or that “dolce far niente” we enjoy so much in a Sunday afternoon. Although it might be seen as a daily break period or energy loss, it is more accurate to see it as avoiding suffering.

Procrastination is the single and most fundamental reason why we give up on some activity or never even find the energy or time to start. Since it can emerge several times through the course of our daily life we should understand first what this is, where does it comes from, why it installs so easily in our routines and how we can prevent it from happen.

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“What would the child you once were think about the adult you’ve become?” (Robin Sharma)

A few years ago I took a moment to think about this and I’ve realized that the child I once were enjoyed playing basketball, loved chess and wanted to be a musician. I also realized that I stopped playing basketball for about 10 years, never developed ability in chess and I wasn’t playing music that I really liked.

What happened? Most of all, why do we struggle so much starting a new diet, enduring a fitness training, waking up earlier, meditate, going to work, practicing a new song on our instrument, and so on?

How do we stop procrastination, once and for all?

Firstly we need to acquire the consciousness of WHAT we are doing. We are procrastinating. We are deliberately postponing our activities, our work or our personal investments by collapsing into a vegetative, demoralized, uninspiring frame of mind, instead of being productive, actively energetic and happy.

Secondly we need to understand WHY are we avoiding a task. Work on WHY and the process – the HOW – will unveil. It will empower you with the ability to take control of your life, regaining control of WHAT you really enjoy doing.

Here are the 5 main reasons why we avoid a task:

            1 – To avoid overwhelming;

            2 – To avoid things we don’t enjoy;

            3 – To avoid our mind’s suffering story about an activity;

            4 – To avoid present suffering through distracting activities;

            5 – To avoid a task that isn’t the right fit for us.

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1 – How to deal with overwhelming?

The mere fact of having a lot of things to do can be extremely stressful and painful. In this situation, the task at hands is way to big for our current abilities or it takes too much time to finish.

When this feeling settles, one should do the following:

  1. Break the big task into smaller chunks;
  2. Focus on one thing at a time;
  3. Set a deadline to finish the job.

In the state of surrender, we see clearly what need to be done and we act by doing, focusing on one thing at the time. This is the core of The Mindful Practice Process.

Remember the proverbs:

  • Penny and penny laid up will be many;
  • Slowly but surely;
  • Little strokes fell great oaks;
  • Slow and steady wins the race.

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2 – How to deal with un-enjoyable tasks?

Take a moment to think if the task at hands is, definitely, not enjoyable.

Were you already feeling unhappy BEFORE you started performing the task?

Where did that unhappiness came, from the task it self or from something else? Did you started thinking that it was the task it self that made you unhappy?

Identify what thoughts make you suffer while you perform the task. Thoughts like anxiety, inadequacy and comparisons may disrupt your natural excitement and happiness levels over the task at hands.

19c - Procrastination-Dinosaurs-Noahs-Ark-cartoonA) Anxiety

When we focus on a result and fear a negative outcome we may experience anxiety. Since you can never know what is the best possible outcome, worrying over a future result adds nothing to your inner peace.

This is like throwing a seed into the ground expecting it to rise instantly into a beautiful tree. You can’t predict or control the outcomes of your actions so focus on the present moment and enjoy.

Think positive and visualize all the good outcomes from the future task at hands. Also visualize the worst-case scenario and the tools you could use in order to outcome that negative experience. This will prepare you for want may come.

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B) Inadequacy

Insecurity thoughts like “I’m not good enough” lead us to a feeling of inadequacy towards a task, and this feeling can be very demoralizing and atrophying.

The solution for this is to ask yourself:

  • “Do I know that feeling is true?”
  • “Haven’t I done this before?”
  • “If I’m not capable at this time, what should I work on to make myself capable?”

Find out if your feelings and thoughts about inadequacy are true. If they are, you only have two options: Give up and move on, or buckle up and maximize your performance. What’s it going to be, mate?

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C) Comparisons

We often idealize the perfect world, the perfect life, the perfect marriage, the perfect job or the perfect moment. By those standards, the real world always seems to be lesser than the perfect imaginary fantasy world in our heads.

When you daydream you start believing that the present moment is insufficient and lacking. That creates boredom and unhappiness.

But the truth is that “There is never ‘Nothing’ going on”. Something is always happening, and even when you think that the tree you have planted stopped it’s growing that’s the moment when the roots of the tree reach deeper into the ground.

The world is an enormous place and there are millions of different things to explore out there. Our only concern, as human beings, should be what to choose next. Where will you focus your attention now?

In order to stop unrealistic comparisons that only get’s you down, try the following:

  • Be mindful about the present moment;
  • Take time to notice things outwardly and inwardly;
  • Stop daydreaming – ”Don’t think about the sunset. Look at the sunset”;
  • Notice how thoughts create suffer and part you from peace.

To compare is to live in thoughts, and they can distort your perception of reality. Start feeling more deeply what is actually happening, and less what your thoughts say about it.

Understand that achieving goals or finding purpose and meaning doesn’t change your real life while your old thoughts remain in your mind or aren’t eliminated.

Outcomes don’t impact your peace. Outcomes don’t change the thoughts in your head. Only you can do that by shifting your focus and attention to “What Is”.

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Next week, in Part II we will cover:

3 – Our mind’s suffering story about an activity;

4 – Present suffering through distracting activities;

5 – Tasks that aren’t the right fit for us.

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For more on the subject check Noah Elkrief’s site on http://www.liveinthemoment.org/how-to-stop-procrastinating/

“Here And Now” – Mindfulness 101

18 - Here and Now

Mindfulness is all about HERE and NOW, the conscious state of being focused in the present moment.

One of the top Mindfulness contemporary investigators happens to be my friend and family Vasco Gaspar. Lucky me!

Certified by Google’s Search Inside Yourself program and author of the 8-week Mindfulness program ZorBuddha, he has released his new book Aqui e Agora (Here and Now).

So, WHAT is this trendy avant-garde kind of concept? HOW does it work? And WHERE do I start if I want to practice it? Furthermore, let’s take Mindfulness into our workplace, rehearsal studios, and performing stages, transforming our music here and now.

Attention is the basis of all higher cognitive and emotional abilities.

The quality of our attention determines the quality of our results. Therefore one should embrace a training process that calms and clears the quality of the mind.

What is  the root of the word Mindfulness? In Tibetan the word “Gom” means to familiarize, to accustom to self. In Pali the word “Bhavana” means to cultivate.

Hence, Mindfulness is mental training, focus of attention and mind strengthening.

John Kabat Zinn defines Mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non judgementally”.

Mindfulness is an intentional awareness that is cultivated by paying attention.

The observation of our thoughts and emotions will lead us to the self-knowledge, which enables self-mastery.

The most conventional activities that promote Mindfulness are:

  • Meditation;
  • Yoga;
  • Tai-Chi;
  • Visualization;
  • Qi Gong;
  • Chi Kung;
  • Martial Arts, and the like.

Notice that  we can only pay Mindful attention to one to seven things at the same time. Automaticity is not mindful. Our conscious span of attention can manage around 40 different stimuli and Multi-tasking is a rapid shift of attention between different tasks. But unconsciously the brain can process around 2 million information.

The challenge, then, is to Focus on the Present Moment using:

1 – Body Sensations: Body Scan and mindful walking.

2 – Thoughts: Observe and let them come and go, as if they were clouds passing by over a blue sky.

3 – Emotions: Exhale anger, resentment or hate and inhale peace, light or love.

One of the most important brain characteristics is its neuroplasticity, the capacity to grow and change through experience and training. Mindfulness improves our focus and attention; which allows the brain to fire the circuits we need to achieve mastery and peak performance. But as a muscle, it has to be practiced.

Here are some benefits of Mindfulness:

–       Increased emotional intelligence;

–       Increased interpersonal sensitivity;

–       Increased personal resilience;

–       Increased self-awareness and awareness of others;

–       Increased concentration and attention span;

–       Increased capacity to hold and manipulate information;

–       Increased well-being and overall work and life satisfaction.

–       Enhanced communication skills;

–       Improved sleeping patterns;

–       Reduction of stress levels;

–       Reduction of health-related absenteeism;

–       Reduction of impulsivity;

–   Reduction of psychological distress (including depression and anxiety)

Are you feeling more focused and aware? Can you take that frame of mind into the practice room, music lessons and concerts?

Here’s a simple exercise to get you started: Pay attention to your first thought towards a person and mould it into a shape like “I want you to be happy”. Compassion and good will creates trust in others, and you can build those qualities simply by paying attention… HERE AND NOW.

For more on the subject check Vasco Gaspar’s article The Mindful Revolution

How To Coach – The Best Approach

16 - John Wooden

John Wooden is recognized to be the most successful coach in the history of collective professional sports. Ten times NCAA basketball champion in 12 years, he achieved an unprecedented record of 7 titles in a row. Yes, SEVEN! Can you guess how many times in the whole history of all sports combined the world has ever had a 7 in a row champion? Not many…

We’re talking about the best of the best at coaching, teaching and mentoring. Luckily his methodology was studied and, what’s most intriguing, other great Masters of coaching share the same ideology, posture and advice of the so-called “Wizard Of Westwood”.

Forget about inspiring speeches, strategic drawings on the board, extra work for the lazy, character or personality, expressions of displeasure, praise and compliments. Clear your mind and come along:

  1. Planned workouts;
  2. Short drills;
  3. Rapid fire stream of words while performance occurs;
  4. Short, punctuated and numerous comments;
  5. Hard driving quick steps instructions;
  6. Information on what to do, how to do it and when to intensify an activity;
  7. Demonstrate the right way to do a drill, exemplify the incorrect way and re-display the correct way;
  8. Short and clear demonstrations of performance;
  9. Intensification of guidance as the practice session moves on;
  10. Undivided attention to the smallest detail;
  11. Spontaneous instructions and decisions as reactions to the student’s actions;
  12. Set specific goals;
  13. Set targeted information;
  14. Fix errors on the fly;
  15. Communicate in chunks – teach an entire move and break it down to the fundamental actions (Deep Practice Method applied to coaching);
  16. Explanation – Demonstration – Imitation – Correction – Repetition;
  17. Work on small daily improvements (it works and last longer);
  18. Repetition until automaticity;
  19. The deeper you practice, the better you get;
  20. Rest, focus and start again.

Important: The premise for the described approach considers already ignited and inspired advanced learners. Before this stage Master coaches are able to create and sustain motivation to get the learner involved, craving for information and expertise. Positive reinforcement is highly advised.

For more on the subject check “The Talent Code”, by Daniel Coyle

Master Coaching

15 - Master & Disciple

A Masters responsibility is not to find talent. You can’t find talent. Hence, the disciple’s responsibility is, first hand, to work on the fundamentals. Only then both can see where it led.

The ability to communicate ideas and translate them into the seamless performance of a difficult task is something a Master Coach is very notable at.

Discipline, professionalism, exactitude, technique, timing, inspiration by information, preparatory work, punctuality, exactitude, precision, strategy, conceptualization, power of communication and wisdom are the mould on which Masters are forged.

A Master is usually misunderstood as a Leader. Both categories, however, cannot blend in one single concept. A Leader is someone with a vision, someone informed, competent and versed, an eloquent commander. A Leader is a captain or a preacher, the one who has been blessed with the gift of speech. His experience can inspire us through sharing his knowledge in a motivating way.

Think about personalities like Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, The Dalai Lama, Phil Jackson, Carl Sagan, Steve Jobs, Fidel Castro, Ché Guevara, Alexander The Great, Winston Churchill, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. They almost impose a sense of obedience in others by respect and confidence.

“We the people” follow Leaders because of the authority of their words and the confidence and purpose of their actions. Leaders have the ability to mobilize great masses and influence them. They led people by beliefs and ideals to achieve common conquests and greater good. Leaders lead.

Now think about Yoda, Mr. Myagi or that schoolteacher or basketball coach you had when you were a kid. You’ll probably have an image of a reserved and mostly quiet person, right? An older figure, which have been teaching for the most part of his life. You can sense a steady, deep and unblinking gaze.

Masters listen far more than talk and avoid inspiring speeches. They have an extraordinary sensitivity toward the person they are teaching, offering small, targeted and highly specific adjustments. Each message is customized to each student’s personality, and their advice specifically meets each student’s needs.

The examination, diagnosis and prescription of a Master occur within seconds and resemble a doctor’s recipe for success. “Take this medicine and you’ll be fine.”

The Master shows the path and goal not only by words, gestures or tone. He becomes the action needed by the disciple and communicates it via targeted, precise, unmissable and accurate signals. There are no judgments or manifestation of personal preferences towards one disciple or the other, much less for different performances presented. The starting point for the days work is HERE and NOW. Always.

While a Leader has the ability to reach to a crowd, a Master works on one single subject at a time, with the objective of incrementing the growth of the disciple’s skills.

Both figures are desirable in one’s development as a human being and as a performer. But wouldn’t it be great to have our own personal Masters guiding us through the challenges of life, pushing us to the limit, unveiling opportunities and possibilities not recognizable at first sight?

A Master knows the world around the same way he knows himself. Sometimes he even shows you that he knows you better than yourself. Have you ever had that feeling or experience?

For more on the subject check “The Talent Code”, by Daniel Coyle