Many people don’t have the self-awareness to know what their good personality traits are and what their bad personality traits are. I’m not one of those people. I’m probably more self-aware than anyone you’ve ever met. Which means out of a long list of unflattering personality traits, I know exactly what my worst one is.
I’m not sure if there’s a simple name for this behavior so I’ll just describe it instead: Whenever I receive positive feedback on something I’ve accomplished—no matter how insignificant—my immediate instinct is to slack off and stop doing that thing I just got complimented on. Maybe you’d call it over-contentness, I dunno.
A few examples to make sure you know exactly what I’m talking about:
- A couple weeks ago my teacher at UCLA gave me some glowing remarks about a pilot script I’m writing. My immediate reaction was to “take it easy” the rest of the day…relax, have some drinks, watch some hockey. Nevermind the fact that I had another section of my script due to her in 10 hours that I hadn’t started writing yet. I deserved to coast the rest of the day because someone said something nice about my writing.
- When I was training for a half marathon in January, I had decided that I’d probably keep the training going and try to run a full marathon later on in the year. But after I ran the half marathon, the people who ran it with me commented on how good of shape I seemed to be in during the race. I haven’t gone on a single run farther than three miles in the seven weeks since I got that positive feedback.
- It was no different when I was in sales. Any day that I actually made a sale, I was already inclined to mentally check out of work for the rest of the day, even if that sale happened at 9AM. But if my boss or one of the executives got particularly excited about the sale and complimented me on it, look out. There was no limit on the lack of productivity you’d see out of me for the next couple weeks.
You can’t really call this characteristic I’m describing “procrastination.” It’s not like I’m delaying a task and taking on things of less priority. I’m literally doing nothing but soaking in self-satisfaction in these situations.
So why am I wired like this? Some people are wired differently, right? Some people make that big sale and immediately pick up the phone to make more of them. I’m assuming the top writers in Hollywood sell a script and immediately get to work on the next one, probably the same night they make the sale. First time I make a big sale with my writing, I’m vacationing until the money’s all gone.
For those of you reading this who are psychologists, behavioral specialists or motivational coaches, can you give me some feedback on how to break a 30-year-old slacker of this behavior? (And don’t you dare say you enjoyed the blog in your feedback!)
Oh, and for those of you who saw me at the wedding in Boston last weekend and complimented me on losing some weight, thank you. You know what I was doing at 2AM after taking in all of your generous comments? I was destroying a 30-count of buffalo wings alone in a hotel room. I washed the wings down with a tall glass of blue cheese. So thanks again. All you did was guarantee that the next time I see you, I will be 100lbs heavier than the fattest I’ve ever been.