3 Simple Steps To Finishing What You Started (Says Science)


The only person responsible for your success is you.

Have you done all of the research to find the perfect dance, cooking or photography class but still haven't signed up? Or maybe you've spent big bucks on language learning software but still "no hablas Español?" How about that blog you started and haven't updated in months?

The key to becoming more productive—enough to see things through to the end and beyond—isn't to read hundreds of motivational quotes. It is to stop ignoring the humongous, gigantic issue staring you right in the face.  Your inner drama queen is not to be taken lightly. It will chew up your discipline and spit it out every single time.

I know the d-word (discipline) gets a bad rap. For so many people it conjures thoughts of drill sergeants, pain and loss of free will. But I'm here to tell you that self-discipline will give you more freedom than it will ever take away.

In fact, research by Wilhelm Hoffman at the University of Chicago concludes that people with high self-control are happier. The study finds that the self-disciplined handle obstacles differently than everyone else. Better choices are made without stress or anxiety, even in the face of impulses and emotion.

I bet you're wondering, who are these people and how are they still finding the energy and focus to work on their goals even on a bad day? Folks with high self-control get tired, uninspired and distracted just like the rest of us do, but they generally figure out how to end up on top every time.

What's their secret? They neutralize the drama in their life. That's right; they save theatrics for movie night.

People who follow through have figured out how to deal with emotions head-on in those crucial moments that threaten productivity. When poop hits the fan, they don't ignore or fight feelings. That's way too stressful and counterproductive. It's the reason why so many of us gave up on our New Year's resolution already.

As humans, just about everything we do is based on emotion. Knowing how to work with them to our advantage is key! Anyone can train themselves to do this. So how do you reign in your inner drama queen? That little voice in your head that whines and complains when things don’t go exactly how you planned?

1. Get To Know Thyself:

Pay attention to what triggers you to deviate from the plan. Write it all down. What are your distractions, time-suckers and temptations? Is it Facebook? Television? Chocolate fudge brownie sundaes?

Become more conscious of what makes you tick and what totally deflates you. Also, think about external obstacles that may keep you from reaching your goal (like having to work overtime when you planned on going to the gym at 5:30, for example). 

List them all and understand as many as you can. This is the most important step. How thorough you are with this will determine how well the inner drama queen technique will work for you.

2. Create An If-Then Plan:

This is the cool part. Have you heard of if-then planning? It was first introduced by NYU psychologists whose participants doubled and tripled productivity after implementing it. Countless studies since have been dedicated to observing if-then's effectiveness in negotiation, weight loss and even combat training. This stuff is super powerful when used correctly.

The concept is simple; create your own comebacks for known stumbling blocks. It's like being a stand-up comic getting haggled by his audience. They always know what to do next.

"If I have to stay late at work and miss my kickboxing class, I will do 45 minutes on the elliptical machine," or "If I see more than a half-hour's worth of social media messages to respond to first thing in the morning, then I will answer the most important 5 and get back to writing my book."

Further research has found that the specific type of response you hit back with makes a difference. Your comeback has to have substance. You want to replace the issue completely in order to maximize your results. Not by what the study refers to as "ignoring and negation."

For example, how likely do you think these will work for you? "If I get the urge to eat a chocolate fudge brownie sundae, then I will ignore it." The negation version is "If I'm at the ice cream shop, I won't buy anything." These aren't nearly as powerful because just like any good drama queen, your emotions don't like to be ignored.

You need to address the issue by substituting it with an action that neutralizes that "if." Here's a strong if-then: "If I get the urge to eat a chocolate fudge sundae, then I will eat my favorite fruit snack, sliced apple with peanut butter."

See the difference? When emotions try to hijack your progress, you've gotta give it something to do. If you leave it up to ignoring, or negation, you will end up debating with yourself and this will give your emotions just enough time and leverage to win the argument.

When you already know what to do, you're not caught off guard at a weak moment with no "if-then" weapon in your arsenal to attack with. This is how to take control of your emotions and keep your goals in focus. You don't even have to think—just do!

3. Get It Done:

Before you know it, you're back on track because your "then" action appeased your emotions enough to take the edge off, allowing you to maintain control.

Take these three steps one "if-then" at a time and you will finish what you started. Once you have your emotions in check, you have the freedom to do anything you want!

So here's your assignment: Right now, I want you to do step one. You can break down step one into sections: temptations, distractions and impulses. Don't stop until you think you have everything you can think of.

Choose what you consider to be the biggest issue on the list. Give it an if-then plan. When it happens, don't think…just do!

Ready to make it happen? Here are a few things to remember. The study by Wilhelm Hoffman found that the people with high self-discipline also faced far less situations where they’d have to deal with huge setbacks. For example, don't go to the ice cream shop in the first place. Do pack your favorite fruit to eat so you will have it at the opportune moment.

Don't be afraid to adjust your if-thens to align with your life as things change. Maybe you've developed a new vice that you need to get under control. Add it to the plan.

There are iPhone apps you can use to correspond with your if-then planning. Isn't that awesome? Find one that works for you.

Now here’s what I want from you:

  • Tell me what happened when you started adding if-then planning.
  • Share your story.
  • And if you know anyone else who can use a little more follow-through in their life, make sure you pass this on.

Aisha Amore is a coach and creator of Sexy Beast Project. Contact her for information about how to feel sexy, confident and powerful. You are welcome to sign up for free daily affirmations of sexiness here, because what woman wouldn't want fun, motivational blurbs of goodness reminding her everyday?


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