Life procrastination is what I call voluntarily putting off something you truly want to do, despite knowing that you'll probably be worse off because of the delay. Here's how to fix it.
People tend to think of procrastination in terms of concrete to-dos—waiting until the last minute to turn in a work report, say, or paying bills late. But it can also take hold when making life decisions both small and large, from Should I join a gym? to Do I ask for a raise? These missed opportunities can damage your career or relationship and also give you a nagging, frustrating feeling that you're stuck in a rut of your own making.
Procrastinators tend to be far more stressed than those who don't have this habit; they get sick more often, too. If you can suck it up and act, however, you'll find your day-to-day a lot more pleasant and rewarding: Your mind will be released from all that ruminating and second-guessing, paving the way for other opportunities.
Life procrastinators may dread failure. They may have a fear of success, an urge to be defiant, a perfectionist streak or a need to take risks—all of which can get in the way when trying to make a decision. Take my diagnostic quiz to see if you are a life procrastinator, then read 7 Ways to Stop Procrastinating to discover what's driving your indecision and find real-world solutions that will finally set you free.
If you chose "yes" for three or more of these questions, you're a life procrastinator. Check out what's behind your foot-dragging, then use my strategies to move forward. If you answered yes to most of these questions and you feel stuck on important issues (marriage, children, where to live), consider talking with a therapist. An objective outsider can be incredibly helpful when you want to make a major change.
Gail Saltz, MD, is Health's Contributing Psychology Editor.