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Stop Procrastinating

I have never begun any important venture for which I felt adequately prepared.

–Sheldon Kopp

I hate procrastination with a passion, despite being a much more avid user of it than I would like to be.  It stops you from doing all the things you want to do with your life because you’re too scared, or you’re not prepared enough (At least, that’s what you tell yourself.) to do.  I mean there are literally thousands of justifications that you can come up with that make it ‘okay’ to procrastinate.

But, despite the fact that procrastination holds you back from your dreams to the extent that it does is not why I despise it so much.  No, the reason I despise procrastination is for one, very simple reason.  It feels terrible to procrastinate.

Procrastination is this way of avoiding pain.  It’s a rather natural function that we evolved so that we could avoid situations that would be potentially harmful to us when we had to worry about that kind of thing.  Much like fear, procrastination is sometimes (But very, very rarely in comparison to fear.) useful.  Most of the time though it just gets in the way.

‘Why are you talking about procrastination when this article is entitled ‘Get Started on Your Goals Now’? you ask, being the incredibly intelligent and ravishingly good looking reader that you are. Good question!  Here’s why I’m talking about procrastination:

Ready? Aim? Fire!

I didn’t come up with this concept, but rather I’ve read about it from many different sources and have found that it is by far a more eloquent way of illustrating what happens when people start to procrastinate on getting moving with their dreams.

Most of us are quite familiar with the phrase ‘Ready? Aim?  Fire!’  If you were applying the phrase to the process of achieving your goals it would be quite a snug fit.  Let me explain.

In the ‘Ready’ stage you’ve decided what it is you want to do.  You know what your goal is, when you hope to achieve it, and you’re ready to get moving on making it a reality.  This stage is simple and everyone goes through it relatively quickly and easily when they’re setting goals.  There’s no problem with the ‘Ready’ stage.

The second stage, ‘Aim’ is when people prepare to tackle their goal.  They do all their research, they prepare all the materials they’re going to need to move towards their goal, and sometimes they wait for the time to be right.

When people are aiming is where the problems start coming in.  Many people will toil endlessly ‘preparing’ for their goal when in fact what they are really doing is tricking themselves into procrastinating.  This isn’t to say that the entire process of aiming should be cut out.  It’s good to aim, and sometimes it’s essential.  I wouldn’t expect anyone to go into a major business venture without doing their research and knowing what they’re getting into.

But there’s only so much you can prepare for.  You can know, generally speaking, what you’re getting into; but there’s no way to ever know how what you’re about to do is going to pan out.  It’s impossible for you to know if the query letter you send out is going to be accepted, or if people are going to love your new business idea, or if the investment you’re about to make is going to pay off.  You can’t know it because you don’t have a time machine, and no amount of aiming will ever replace that.

And that’s scary.  It will always be scary, and you will likely never feel like you are 100% prepared for what you’re about to do.  There will always be those unknowns.  That’s not to confuse having a load of unknowns because you didn’t do proper research with having those intrinsic unknowns that exist in life like how something is going to work out.  You can make an educated guess, but that’s the best you’re going to get.  There are no guarantees.

I’ll expand more on this in just a minute, but for now:

The ‘Fire!’ Part is easy to explain.  This is when you’ve decided what you want to accomplish, you’ve done the research you need to do in order to get there and now you take action.  This is the most important part of the process, and also the part that a lot of people never get to.

Ready? Fire! Aim?

Thus the ‘Ready? Fire! Aim?’ approach was made.  Instead of spending all that time preparing to do what you want to do instead of actually doing it, once you’ve decided what you want to do you take action immediately.

That’s not to say that you never Aim, though.  Even though the Aiming takes place after Firing in this method, the reality is that they both occur at approximately the same time.  So if you wanted to write a book, you would start writing that book immediately while doing the research to find out what you would need to do in order to get it published.

Why do it this way?  Because as I mentioned above, you could potentially take forever during the aiming stage and never get around to writing said book.  You’d find yourself so busy reading about how to write the perfect novel, how to find an agent, how to write a query letter, how to approach a publisher if you don’t want to go through an agent, what a reasonable rate is, how long your book should be, etc. etc. that you never write much of anything.

You just end up forming this grand scheme in your head about how great your unwritten book will be (Or project of any kind, but I’m going to stick with my book example for illustrative purposes.) and how you’ll be the next great fiction novelist while the reality of the situation is that you’re no more a novelist than the weird guy who smells funny who sat next to you on the bus this morning.

And in doing so, you build up this enormous goal that you want to achieve, but that at the same time scares the hell out of you.  It scares you because where you are now and where you want to be seem to be light-years apart.

By firing while you’re doing the aiming process, you avoid this sort of self-hype.  And you also avoid falling into the trap of aiming indefinitely because just as soon as you’ve started aiming, you’ve also started firing.  Thus no matter how long you spend during your aiming process, you’re still moving towards your goal.

Furthermore, the closer you get to that goal, the easier it will be to let go of that aiming process.  Progress is addictive.  So is action.  Once you realize how much closer you are to what you want than you were two weeks ago you won’t want to toil endlessly on planning because you’re already doing what you wanted to do.  There’s no longer anything to be afraid of.

So get firing already!

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