Everyone wants the feeling of freedom, but procrastination can feel like we are caged and can't find the key. We all get stuck in patterns, and those patterns become habits. Procrastination is the same thing. If you are procrastinating – that’s a verb; it’s an action you are engaged in. It doesn’t mean that you ARE a procrastinator – that’s not who you are on an essence level.
It’s the same as calling yourself an "angry person." You are a person who is dealing with episodes of anger. Anger does not define your essence. It’s something that you experience – not someone who you are. Similarly, procrastination is an action (or non-action) – and it does not define you. It is a habit, a behavior pattern, that can be changed.
The question is why does this habit happen? In one word: stress. Procrastination is a coping mechanism to deal with fear or stress. And it doesn't mean you are lazy, bad, or flighty. It's a way to minimize the distress caused by stress or overwhelm, and in time it becomes a habit.
Like any habit, it has 3 parts:
So why does the stress come in? The critic's mind comes in saying the task you want to do is hard – you may not do it well, it can be daunting, huge, you are not sure how it will be received…So, it’s normal that your body and mind want to divert you, to give you some relief. Here are 5 ways to get unstuck:
So if the root cause is stress, it really helps to know what’s going on. I am stressed because________. What’s the reason? Your mind is saying, I’m overwhelmed, I can’t focus, I’m afraid I won’t do this well, I don’t have enough time, I’m afraid what I’m working on will be rejected. Be aware of the inner conversations that give rise to a familiar behavior.
Now, what is going on in your body? Shoulders tight, stomach is in knots; you want to eat all the chocolate in the house (one of my favorites). These are also your clues that you need to reduce the stress or approach it in a new way.
Ideally, break the state of procrastination by moving your body: some yogic breathing (navy seal breath), dance it out, go for a short walk – stretch. Get out of your head and into your body.
Developed by Mel Robbins, this is a science-based way to override the mental chatter and return to your own locus of control. It’s easy. Count 5-4-3-2-1, then GO! Then you have a window of opportunity to bypass the mind’s grip and you can get started. And that’s key, because it’s the starting that is the problem. Most people, when they start something, can ease into it in a deeper way. Just starting is the hardest part, and this just unlocks the door.
By breaking it down into a tiny task – I’ll make one phone call, I’ll send out one text, I’ll just work for 5 or 10 minutes, you override the fears in your mind, and get your body into action. If it's too daunting, like I want to launch the next chapter of my life, you're putting too much pressure on yourself.
You have beat the negative ego that would want you to think that YOU are stuck, that YOU are the problem, and that it will always be this way. NO – you are now creating a new habit. Find a way to reward yourself, at least let yourself know that everyday you reinforce this new habit, you are weakening the old one. In this way, you redefine yourself – you are no longer thinking of yourself, and getting down on yourself as a procrastinator. You are consciously and intentionally building new habits that redefine your path to living life as you choose. You are changing the narrative of your life.
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