Liz's pitiful triceps

The enormity of very slow progress

Liz Sumner Goals, Procrastination Leave a Comment

There are a couple of goals that have been on my list for years. I re-write them nearly every day in my planner/journal. Gotta keep it top of mind, in your face, see what you’re aiming for. Every day I write them down. And that’s all I do.

You might think if I’ve ignored them this long that they don’t really matter to me enough to do something. But I do care. One of the goals would be life-changing, the other would certainly help my self esteem. Yet there’s something about both of them that makes resisting more appealing than taking action.

I suppose I could continue to live with flabby arms and the loathing of seeing them in photographs. But not being able to communicate well in my chosen country is a heavy burden. I miss so much and it’s hard to be myself with such limited language skills.

Now I know a thing or two about procrastination. I coach clients on how to overcome their resistance. I’ve written about it and significantly improved my skills at getting things done. But these two unmet goals defy my theories. 

I’ve been reading How To Raise Your Self Esteem by Nathaniel Branden (highly recommended) and the chapter on self-responsibility got me thinking. He speaks about places in your life where you wait for a miracle or for someone else to do something instead of taking action. These certainly fall in that category. I did some thinking about why that is.

The biggest issue for me is they are not easy wins. They will take a LONG time to see progress and slow progress is really daunting. It’ll take FOREVER (even longer if I never begin).

Another thing I realized is that neither of my goal statements is measurable. That’s a big error. I must fix that. But what measurement would be motivating and not just shut me down before I even start?

I’m remembering my conversation with Betsy Burroughs about using neuroscience techniques for habit change. She told the story of Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg who decided to start by flossing one tooth– a goal so small it “makes your amygdala giggle.” That’s what makes it doable– because it would be so silly to resist something that easy. Then over time you build up enough success that you begin to trust yourself and can imagine stretching a little more.

I’m going to start by picking up the 1.5 kg weight and doing one rep. For the language goal I intend to speak (or text) one sentence in Italian each day– not an order in a restaurant– and not composed by Google Translate. [Full disclosure: my gattile report doesn’t count unless I say something more complex than they have all eaten.*] I will do additional activities like return to regular lessons, and stop relying on my Italian friends to use their English. But my hope is to rebuild my faith in myself as someone who is actively pursuing this goal, even if the actions are tiny.

And by posting an embarrassing picture of myself I’m committing to you that I am in. I’m not likely to have Michele Obama triceps anytime soon, but it’s a start.

*Funny story: Early in my career as a cat shelter volunteer I saw the report of one of my colleagues. She wrote “Hanno mangiato tutto tranne la vecchietta nel ufficio” which meant all of them have eaten except for the old female cat in the office. 

Google translated that as “They ate everything but the old lady in the office.” I wondered why– too tough? Past her sell by? We’ll never know.

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