In my last blog, you read how my negative personality traits were impacting my life when I first started coaching. When my coach told me to look at my parents’ traits, I realized I had my own version of all of them, the good and the bad.
One of my Dad’s traits struck me in particular because I could see I was just like him. My Dad and I are both procrastinators. His version is he will put off projects until they pile up and become a huge albatross. For example, he put off cleaning his den and organizing his retirement stuff until my parents sold the house. My version was basically the same. I would put off doing things I dreaded or believed were a lot of work.
One of the most significant areas of my life where I was a procrastinator was with my body. I had been putting off getting healthy for years. My Procrastinator was keeping me fat. When I started working with my coach, I decided to stop procrastinating about losing weight, and get healthy. For a moment, I felt like I had taken down this trait. I had stopped it in its tracks and was making great progress with my body. But before I could stick a fork in it and say “done,” my coach had me observe myself to find where else it was lurking in my life. I realized that not only had I been a procrastinator with my body, but I was a procrastinator in every area of my life: I procrastinated at work with my writing deadlines, doing laundry, organizing my computer, changing the oil in my car, having important conversations with people, and the list went on and on. And I had great excuses for why I was a procrastinator: I was too busy. It was too much to handle right now. It wasn’t a priority. I didn’t care anyway. And so on.
But when I really looked at my trait, I saw that it was more far-reaching than I thought. I recognized my Procrastinator pattern and saw it everywhere. I waited to do something until the last minute or until I was forced to do it (like my Dad with his office) and then I would be scrambling to get it done or fix the situation. I was late on writing deadlines, I didn’t have the right outfit to wear for an event because my nice dress was in the laundry. I spent hours searching for files or documents on my computer because nothing was organized. I was late on bills, not because I didn’t have the money, but because I either didn’t have stamps or didn’t want to drive to the post office. Once I started to observe my trait, I saw it wreaking havoc all over my life. Not only was I not getting important things done, but I didn’t trust myself to plan my time well or to stick to my plans. That didn’t feel good at all.
After learning to spot my Procrastinator, my coach had me describe the trait in a particular way. I had to capture the voice in my head when I was in the middle of acting out the trait. This in-depth exercise of describing my version of the Procrastinator in all its rawest form, finally woke me up to how dire my situation was. Once again, I was going to push it until I was literally forced to do something. In this case, my health had started to seriously decline and I couldn’t procrastinate anymore. Next, it was time to “leash” my traits or they would forever run roughshod over my life, and I’d already had plenty of evidence of that. It was time to take down my Procrastinator in ALL areas of my life.
That’s when my coach had me come up with promises and consequences (aka the “leash”) that would stop my trait from running my life. Some of my promises were: I made deadlines for my writing assignments and put in a consequence if I broke the deadline. I designated one day a week for laundry and organizing my computer. I made promises in every area where my Procrastinator was showing up.
Almost immediately, I started to feel better about myself. I was finally getting organized and doing things that I had been putting off a long time. I was in control again. It wasn’t enough to just “leash” my traits. Though it’s the right way to start, you must also create new traits: ones that you want, to replace ones that you don’t want. My new trait was “Organized.” I started seeing myself as organized and taking regular actions to be organized. I made a promise that every Sunday I would organize my week with my calendar, meetings, schedule and projects. I put large post-its on the wall mapping out everything I needed to get done for the week, which helped me track my progress. As I’m sure you can imagine, my new Organized trait made me feel like I was in charge of my life. Now, I know some of you may be wondering if my Procrastinator trait sneaks back in sometimes.
The answer is “yes.” I will always be capable of being a Procrastinator and I must keep the right tension on that “leash.” So, what do I do when I realize I’m procrastinating about something? I put in a new promise and consequence to stop it. For example, I’ve been extremely busy lately with a directing project, which means I have been procrastinating on a few things. I’ve been putting off my weight loss surgery. It’s a big deal because I need to find a surgeon, take time off from work, etc. I spoke with my coach about it and I’m going to find a doctor and set a date for surgery before the end of the year. My consequence if I don’t do it? I won’t be able to watch Season Three of Downton Abbey starting in January 2013 until I have a date set for my surgery.
Yes, I’m hooked on that show and can’t wait for it to start again. I am not missing that premiere! And guess what else I’ve been procrastinating about? Writing this blog. Yes, it’s true. I emailed my editor last night that I was doing it today. How did I get myself to dive into it when I had several meetings and a lot to do? I gave myself a consequence that if I wasn’t done writing the blog before I went to bed, I had to get up at 6am and swim in our freezing, cold pool for a half hour. Now, I’m sure Michael Phelps wouldn’t have an issue with that consequence. Me? There is no way I’m leaving my warm bed at 6am to go swimming in a cold pool. As a matter of fact, I think it’s time to wrap up this blog. Before I go, find a trait that’s disrupting your life and take it down! I promise you, it’ll be worth it.
Below are the (simplified) steps to follow. I highly recommend you get a coach to help you with this work.
How to Design Your Personality
1) Find Your Traits Make a list of your parents’ positive and negative traits. Identify how you have each of them in you. Figure out which ones are getting in the way of your dreams. Pick one that you want to take down.
2) Observe the Trait Keep a daily log of the trait. Pay attention to it. What triggers the trait? What does the trait look like when you engage in it? In what areas does the trait especially act up?
3) Describe the Trait Once you know the trait, write a description of from the voice of the trait. Write it as if you put a microphone in your head while you are experiencing the trait.
4) Leash the Trait Once you understand the trait, it’s time to do something about it. Make promises that help you control or stop the negative trait. Implement a consequence to help you keep your promise.
5) Design a New Trait Create a new trait for yourself that is aligned with your dreams. Start embodying that trait.
6) Take Action Around Your New Trait Make promises to cultivate the new positive trait.