This question is about procrastination, really. We all know how things go when someone tells us what to do or how to behave: our first instinct is to rebel against any suggestion that we might not already know what is the right thing to do. This is especially true if we are faced with an order rather than a suggestion. (You can probably see why advertisements are usually framed in the shape of a suggestion that we might follow, or an obvious question to answer. The power lies in repetition rather than ramming the message down our throats.)
How does this translate to a situation where you are both the one giving the order and the one receiving it, and how does that look in practice? Here’s an example from the decluttering front:
Let’s say you have made up your mind to clear away all the back issues of your beloved “toy cars international” magazine – you have ‘collected’ them all since you were 12 years old and they have invaded every surface of your flat, especially since you have never bothered putting them in any discernible order. Did I say I like to exaggerate these things?
Anyway, you have decided to call an end to the madness, and you have made a good start, but then the evening came and when you woke up the next day, your quest didn’t seemed quite as urgent anymore. The problem here is simple: you do have some motivation, but it needs sustained support. Just telling yourself off for stopping the process is going to be counterproductive, you’ll end up where you started, asking yourself where you’ll end up if you don’t do this, and increasingly feel pressured by your own mind. Many people actually give up at this point. But not you: because you know the ultimate question to ask: “Would I rather…?”
In this case, you could ask yourself “Would I rather sit in my cluttered flat and feel anxious about it, or spend some time now and give clearing up another go?” or something similar. Questions are great because they leave an opportunity to say YES to something that you already know in your heart you want to happen. Telling yourself off for being lazy or not being motivated does not help one bit.
The interesting effect here lies in the fact that your motivational element is a question: when you ask yourself a question you are more inclined to make the right decision, make the better choice for you in general. You are more likely to agree that sitting and doing nothing will not get you anywhere, while making an effort has long-term ramifications that will most certainly improve your situation.
Think about elements in your life where you have to admit to yourself that things are less than favourable and ask the question. Give it a go.
This is the end of the mini-series, so let’s review the three questions:
Try this system on for size and keep going. Here are the previous posts in the series:
Ask the ClutterMeister
Ideas to help clear away the mess in our homes and in our minds.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.