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Chapter 1. The Procrastinator's Wake-Up ... > The Role of Fear in Overcoming Procr... - Pg. 10

The Procrastinator's Wake-Up Call 10 The Role of Fear in Overcoming Procrastination Edgar Watson Howe, an American editor and novelist from the early twentieth century, once said that "a good scare is worth more to a man than good advice." Recognizing that procrastination can have some pretty frightening consequences--or at least very inconvenient ones--is one of the first steps in breaking the procrastination habit. When faced with life-or-death matters or grave conse- quences like some of those I've described in this chapter, most people can manage to get them- selves in gear and do what's needed to prevent such unwanted outcomes. The Danger of Too Little Fear But what about when the consequences aren't so serious? There's no fear, or at least much less fear, to motivate you to act. You might assume, for example, that no harm can come from taking a few months to return a jacket you had borrowed from a friend. But what if your friend decides that this is the last straw and that your repeated lack of consideration means the end of the friendship? Occasional bouts of procrastination over relatively trivial matters are harmless, but you can't always be sure that the matter really is no big deal. The Danger of Too Much Fear A healthy dose of fear--whether it's fear for your safety, happiness, health, career advancement, financial security, or anything else--is a good thing. Too much fear is not. If you let yourself get overly worried about what might happen if you don't get something done, you can build up so much anxiety that you procrastinate even more. The anxiety and fear make you feel frozen in a sense, unable to take even the smallest action. You're Not Alone The only way to get myself moving on things I've been putting off is to logically think through the negative consequences that have resulted when I've procrastinated about something similar in the past. If the neg- ative consequences were disproportionately large compared to actually doing the damn thing, then I can get myself to do it. --Hal F., executive coach I experienced this one time when I put off billing a client for career counseling services. He was a young college student who had come to me for help in finding a summer job. His father had made the initial contact to schedule the appointment and to tell me that he, not his son, would be paying for the counseling. The father was a single parent and a very busy, high-level professional who wanted his son to get extra attention from me. He asked that I check in with the son by phone between our face-to-face sessions to help keep him on track with his job search. The client happened to come to me at a time when my caseload was very heavy and my life in general was quite busy. I gave the young man my full attention during our face-to-face meetings, but I did not keep tabs on him by phone as often as I should have. After a couple of months of working with him, I let him drift away without calling to encourage him to come back in to meet with me.