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Hack your goal procrastination with a dose of ‘regret intolerance’

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After living through the year that followed a script written by the psychopathic creation of a mad scientist experimenting with DNA from Margaret Atwood and Cormac McCarthy, I seem to have misplaced my points of reference for many things including what motivates me.

It was Australian-actor Damon Herriman’s interview on ABC Radio’s ‘How Big is My Trailer?’ that reminded me of what broke my cycle of procrastination nearly 20 years ago—by articulating it in a way I had not considered.

Over the years I have stripped my social media down to things I need to see, and people I love to see. Then Lucifer Atwood-McCarthy cast me in his 2020 dystopian movie as a woman who searches for her motivation through puppy videos, and meaningless banal inspirational quotes that draw me again into that time-sucking wormhole.

I have come to realise two things: I have the right to feel crappy sometimes and should be handed the TV remote and dark chocolate Kit Kat in lieu of toxic positivity.

And, if you are going to hit me up with a motivational quote, it better make sense.

Now, I’m no slacker when it comes to procrastination, having many years behind me and countless runs on the board for putting off till tomorrow what I can do today. It wasn’t until my mid-30’s that I hacked my motivation—and it was not through a profound quote, hypnotherapy, book, coach, weekend retreat or pill.

Let me take you back two decades to when, as a 30-something mum, I wanted to get fit.

I was trying to follow a 12-week program which required me to run a few days each week for which I’d set the alarm for 6 am. Each morning when the alarm sounded, I’d switch it off and go back to sleep.

I went through the ‘I’m a tired busy mum’ justification, and the ‘I’ll run later in the day’ promise—but never did. It was exhausting, waking to a 6 am alarm that reinforced my defeat before I even started. What madness it was to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

I decided to give up the fitness program and stop the ludicrous cycle of letting myself down if a plan I had for the following morning didn’t work.

That night, I moved the alarm out of arms reach and wore my running tights to bed. The deal was that if I went back to bed after standing to turn off the alarm, already half-dressed, I would quit.

If, however, I went for that run, I’d progress to Day Two. I had the resources, my husband’s support, a fully functioning alarm clock and now I had something else—fear of what I might miss out on if I didn’t give it a crack.

When asked in his interview on ABC Radio if it was determination that propelled him from insurance company clerk to full-time actor, Damon Herriman replied emphatically “absolutely not”.

He said instead that it was his avoidance of regret which he refers to as his ‘regret insurance’, that had him take the leap. Here is a man who would rather have tried and failed, than not tried at all—oops, may have just snuck in a motivational quote.

Damon expected he may fail—which he didn’t—but the bigger fear was his regret of not trying. This regret insurance policy did not cover the failure of outcome but was an indemnity against always wondering what could have been.

I ran that first time at 6 am on a dark winter’s morning, and a second time on an equally harsh morning, and again on an excruciating third morning. Still today, 20 years on, I never bounce out of bed feeling like I’d rather be exercising than sleeping.

What gets me upright and out the door is knowing that come evening, I will sit with a smug look on my face knowing I kicked procrastination to the kerb for another day.

I can only partly control the outcome of any challenge I choose to take—there are many variables and no iron-clad guarantees. Regret, however, is a 100% certainty if I don’t even try.

I am grateful to have been reminded that my ingrained and instinctual drive to continue to challenge myself comes not from how I feel when I start, but how I will feel if I don’t start.

Along with lactose, I’m regret intolerant.

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