Procrastination... deferring our deepest desires.
Updated: Jan 6
the action of delaying or postponing something. "your first tip is to avoid procrastination"
synonyms: dithering, delaying tactics, dilatoriness, stalling, temporizing, hesitation, vacillation;humming and hawing; informal - dilly-dallying, shilly-shallying; informal - kicking the can down the road
I don't know about you... but I have done my fair share of dilly-dallying and shilly-shallying in my time. It feels so bad, yet why do we continue to do it?! Procrastination has been my dear old friend for many a year, and it's only now I'm really coming to understand the complexity of what seems like a simple issue... JUST DO IT! I'm happy to report (with science to back me up!), that we can seriously blame our brain (a scapegoat thank goodness) for keeping us stuck in not doing mode.
When you take a moment to think about how life on this planet has evolved in the last 200 years, it's mind-blowing. For many of us, we are now lucky enough to live in a safe clean environment, with shelter and warmth, food, water, medicines, transport and even education and entertainment. Hello wifi! While our ancestors had a much more rustic existence, we comparatively have a pretty cushy ride. Bad news... someone forgot to tell our primitive brain. The sweet thing has a little jet-lag and still thinks we're living in a walled kingdom with a limited food supply, and prey to being hijacked by attackers if we venture outside the city gates. It's doing it's best to perform it's essential task of keeping us safe, comfortable and alive.
Dr Douglas Lisle, researcher into human behaviour and evolutionary syndrome, and co-author of "The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness, devised the Motivational Triad to illustrate exactly what drives our behaviour when we are operating from our primitive unconscious brain, which is 95% of the time!
Have you noticed that whenever you have a task to do that you're dreading, and say to yourself... "I really don't want to do this," whether internally or out loud - you will suddenly find yourself making tea, de-cluttering your home, plucking your eyebrows, making more tea, or even sick in bed. Your primitive brain is successfully trying to keep you away from the thing you don't want. It's super good at doing it's job. It only wants you to do things that are fun, safe and easy. Which is fine... if you never want to leave the house again, have any new exciting experiences or grow and evolve.
Acclaimed British therapist and hypnotherapist Marisa Peer, who has spent decades researching and healing modern minds explains that "your brain listens to every word you say and wants to give you what you want. You have to trick your brain and tell it you LOVE whatever it is you are having a hard time doing."
Tell your brain what you want it do. Reassure it when doing something new and different, and program it with the belief that matches the action you need to take. Use simple and powerful language. "I love doing my finances. I love job-hunting. I love cardio. I love getting up early." Feels absurd but I'm smiling and mildly looking forward to all of the above! This may just work. Taking action requires less effort when you come from a place of elevated emotion. Think of it as a magic trampoline. Knowing that motion creates emotion is an important piece of the puzzle. Use exercise or physical movement to help you generate energy and enthusiasm, because when you feel good - you naturally want to move into action. I do my best and inspired work after a power-walk or yoga session.
Procrastination and motivation... becoming proactive.
Knowing what motivates you is fundamental in helping to heal your procrastination. Understanding the different motivational styles and how to harness them, can be super helpful as you move towards becoming proactive.
Briefly they are:
Conditional - for the reward at the end of the task
Intrinsic - for the joy in taking action and learning and growing
Reactive - moving away from an undesired outcome
Proactive - moving towards a desired outcome
Empathetic - for the sake of others
Self - for your own sake
The motivational style you adopt to move from procrastination into action will vary depending on the task, and where you are on your journey - but we all have our favourite go-to flavours. From my own life, I can see that up until very recently I was using mostly reactive and conditional styles. "I'll do my finances, but only because I don't want Man chasing me up (reactive), and then I will have a coffee and relax (conditional)." Since doing a lot of personal development work, I'm now really feeling the joy of being proactive and taking action for the benefit of my own growth and learning (intrinsic). It feels AMAZING. I also believe that changing up my exercise routine has helped to generate a lot of positive energy, elevated emotion and momentum. I now understand what it means to be in the flow.
Going deeper... self-sabotage and unworthiness.
A few years ago I came across this concept of procrastination being a self-sabotaging means to blocking our own success. Wow. It was one that immediately fascinated and resonated with me.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Marianne Williamson - A Return To Love
What if you actually did that thing that really scared you? What if it worked out? Are you ready to handle that? What if it wasn't the worst case scenario that you had to worry about, but the best? Are you ready to see yourself accomplish your goals and go after your dreams?
This is where the dilly-dallying and the shilly-shallying comes in. We get scared of the fact that if we take consistent wise action, the things that we want - just might happen. Holy cow. Then what?! For many of us that leaves us spinning in anxiety. It's safer just to faff about the edges of a goal or dream, than to really knuckle down and go for it. Do you believe deep down you are worthy of greatness? Do you think you're enough? Are you ready to allow into your life all the things you really desire? To be affluent, not just in money - but health, vitality, love, purpose and joy.
If the answer is no, then your primitive brain will do it's best to stop you from taking the action required to accomplish your goals and see yourself fulfilled. It will allow you to keep procrastinating your way out of abundance. It will keep you safe in the cosy walled kingdom you have made for yourself.
So now, knowing what you know... Are you ready to get out of your own way and start moving forward towards what you really want?
Tools for healing procrastination, and becoming powerful:
1) Tell your brain what you want it to do. "I LOVE IT.
Put your primitive brain at ease, and get it working for you - not against you. Start changing the language (internal and external) around whatever it is you're putting off. Be creative and playful, but find a way to verbalise how it will be good for you. Feel the shift in your energy when you start thinking and speaking about it in this positive way, then use that momentum to spring into action. It will feel weird at first... because it's unfamiliar. Your brain will tell you it's a silly idea. DON"T LISTEN. Persist and see what happens.
2) Choose your motivational weapon/style
Is your reason for doing the thing for your own benefit? - self. Or for the greater good? - empathetic. What will happen if you don't do it? Is that enough to inspire action? - (reactive). What if the thing you need to do put you one step closer to accomplishing a meaningful goal? - (proactive). Can you reward yourself (sensibly!) upon completion of the task? - conditional. And finally... how would it feel to do something challenging and grow from it? - intrinsic
I love this podcast from Master Life Coach Brooke Castillo on "Pro-activation." Getting things done ahead of time and what that does for you.... whoa!
3) Clean up your beliefs about your worthiness to receive. "I am enough."
Marisa Peer's brilliant masterclass talk on her "I am enough" philosophy is the perfect place to start to begin to understand how your brain works, and to begin shifting your beliefs to support your self-worth. They really are the three words that will change your life.
4) Simple but effective... Employ Mel Robbin's 5 Second rule
It's a simple but brilliant concept (and worldwide phenomenon) designed to beat your brain before it has the time to procrastinate. Inspired by a NASA rocket launch, you count backwards 5,4,3,2,1 - and then launch yourself into whatever it is you need to do - no thinking required! Learn more about it here in this great interview with Mel Robbins and Impact Theory's Tom Bilyeu.
5) Start small - but just start. As spiritual teacher Yogi Bhajan famously taught... "When the pressure is on, start and the pressure will be off." Don't we know it. Enjoy the feeling of relief that comes when you have taken even the smallest first step forward. You are on your way.
Ok guys, I hope this helps. From this recovering dilly-dallyer...
ps - Are you wanting to reduce anxiety and amplify ease? Let's chat. Click here to book in a free Clarity Call to see how Wellness Coaching can support you.