Comedian John Mulaney likened canceling plans to that of…well, a euphoric sensation.
It’s one of those things that works like a gateway the first time you do it. You realize, “Wow, that felt amazing!”, get instant relief, and realize that you can do it again, and again, until it becomes a very dangerous and unproductive procrastination habit…
Inconsistency and unreliability, especially when dealing with others, is like a recipe for poison, a poison that is lethal to your success. It’s easily one of the most important factors for success in anything and a lack of it can spell your doom.
In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.
– Tony Robbins
Let’s talk about a simple mental shift and the associated actions you need to take to prevent the positive reinforcement of canceling plans ASAP.
1. Create a clear vision for your life
First and foremost, you need to get really clear about what matters most to you and what you want out of your life, whether it’s over the next year or your entire lifetime.
This might seem a little over the top, but it’s critical as it forces you to create a new lens with which you’ll come to view the rest of your life including the plans you make. Go all the way and include relationships, personal growth, professional goals, and anything else of importance to you.
It might not seem clear now, but read on and you’ll understand why this is so important.
2. When making plans, ask yourself “How does this connect to my long-term vision?”
A clear vision for your life does one very important thing as it pertains to making and canceling plans: it makes your priorities crystal clear.
When you consider making plans, or canceling previously made ones, that decision is then made with the backdrop of “how will this affect my long-term goals?” For example, one of my vision goals is to create and maintain a few quality friendships over the course of my life.
If an occasion comes up where I can either do that or potentially place that goal in jeopardy, that’s brought to light because of my vision. Without it, though, I’d be less likely to notice the impact of canceling said plans because my priorities would be less clear.
Say I have the chance to visit an event for authors. Being an author, that’s a great place for me to meet new long-term friends and advance my craft. If my goals weren’t clear, I might get tired and decide to cancel. However, my vision reminds me of what matters most to me.
This approach reduces the urge to cancel plans and encourages you to only commit to things you truly want to do in the first place, keeping you from being pushed by the winds of fate into things that don’t align with your priorities (as can often happen if you’re not clear about what you want).
Sure, sometimes you might still get tired and lazy, but this will at least reduce the frequency with which you cancel plans and focus your efforts at the very least.
3. Remind yourself of the impact of every little decision (act on commitments, not feelings)
Once you’ve done the above, to prevent the positive reinforcement you receive from canceling plans, you simply need to remind yourself of the impact that canceling said plans will have on your life and long-term goals.
If you do so, while you might still procrastinate, you’ll begin to replace the satisfaction with guilt and what once felt good and encouraging now makes you feel unproductive and unhappy with yourself, encouraging you to maintain commitments and feeling great when you do.
Remind yourself that every little decision matters. In one of my favorite books, The 12-Week Year, author Brian Moran says that greatness isn’t found in an award or trophy but in each moment. Each moment you decide to do what you need to do to achieve your goals, you’ve realized your greatness. And, to achieve your goals, you simply need to string together as many of these “moments of greatness” as possible.
I leave you with these words of wisdom from Moran:
There will be times when you won’t feel like doing the critical activities. We’ve all been there. Getting out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to jog in the winter cold can be daunting, especially when you’re in a toasty warm bed. It is during these times that you will need to learn to act on your commitments instead of your feelings. If you don’t, you will never build any momentum and will get stuck continually restarting or, as is so often the case, giving up….
Learning to do the things you need to do, regardless of how you feel, is a core discipline for success.