Turns out people who have high levels of Self-Efficacy and Self-Leadership (which includes Personal Goal Setting, Positive Self-talk, Self-Monitoring, and Self-reinforcement) have much less difficulty with procrastination than those with lower levels of these personality characteristics. And they tend to be more productive generally. They believe in themselves and they end up confirming their own beliefs more often than not because the desired outcomes become manifest – Self-Fulfilling prophesy. (Phew, a lot of Self stuff in that paragraph!)
Wait a minute, did I say personality characteristics? Does that mean if I don’t have those characteristics I’m forever doomed to procrastinate and lay on the couch? Not necessarily. Though much of personality may be innate – in our dna – neural plasticity tells us that some behaviours can be learned, and become habits, new patterns of behaviour. It’s not hopeless, or fated: No excuses. But it takes some effort. Hence the appeal of the couch.
So lets examine each of those selfish terms one by one so we are clear about their meaning.
Self-efficacy: A person’s belief that he or she has the ability, motivation and resources to complete a task successfully. It is somewhat easier to hold these beliefs when it comes to doing tasks for others because the others often reinforce these factors and beliefs for us. It’s harder when the goal is our own: It’s harder to administer a boot to our own fannies!
Self-Leadership: The process of influencing oneself to establish the self-direction and self-motivation (self-efficacy) needed to perform a task. This is especially pertinent when it comes to self-goals rather than other’s goals. It’s up to you. Got it?
Personal Goal Setting: The process of contracting with one-self to achieve some goal or result. As for all goals these are more likely to be achieved if they are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable (but sufficiently challenging), Relevant, and Time-based. Goals are more likely to be achieved if they are written down and are publicly shared with at least one other conscientious person who will hold you to account. This is the reason most New Year’s Resolutions are not achieved – we make them only to ourselves and quietly, gradually forget about them. Goals also need to be realistic – if you don’t have natural talent for something all the self-talk (and all the resulting effort) will not turn you into a concert pianist. So pick goals in your natural areas of interest and aptitude.
Positive Self-Talk: The internal monologue we have with ourselves about our own thoughts and actions for the purpose of increasing our self-efficacy and navigating through decisions for a future event. The trouble is, for most of us the self-talk we engage in is negative! Arggh.
Self-Monitoring: is the process of keeping track of one’s progress toward a goal and includes the notion of consciously checking for feedback whether naturally occurring or artificially constructed. Research suggests that people who are high self-monitors perform better than people who rely on external monitoring.
Self- Reinforcement: A reinforcer according to social learning theory is a reward (or possibly a punishment) that follows from the performance of a task. Self-reinforcement is where we design a reward for ourselves for when we have achieved a certain goal or even a milestone towards the achievement of our goal. The positive psychology of self-reinforcement is when you have control over the reinforcer/reward but don’t ‘take’ it until completing the self-set goal! Research has shown that even among 5-year olds, having the capacity to delay gratification is a predictor of conscientious social behaviour in adult life.
In terms of basic personality characteristics it turns out that those with high conscientiousness and high internal locus of control (the belief that events are largely within one’s own control) have a higher capacity to practice self-leadership.
The thing of it is, if you have a natural tendency to these characteristics it is much easier to be pro-active and not procrastinate; if you don’t, it takes a lot of effort – and a lot of Positive Self-Talk, at every stage.
For more on Self-Talk, please go to our next ‘Chapter’: On Procrastination Part 4: Learned Optimism and Cognitive Therapy.