Conquer Yourself (Session 2): Understanding & Overcoming Procrastination
Part 2 of the Conquer Yourself series…
Harmonics: “Aqueous Transmissions” by Incubus
What would be your response? You’d probably do it without hesitation right? You might laugh at the whole idea and think something funny was going on.
But check this:
(Scenario B) Now imagine I took that same wooden plank, suspended it between two city buildings 100 feet tall over concrete pavement, and then asked you to walk across it…
What’s your response now? What are you saying to yourself?
“Nah, chill…” right?
“I might fall,” or
“The wind might knock me over.”
In this instance, your feelings about are different because the consequences of falling (i.e. failing) are different, and you’ve now lost sight of how simple the task really is.
Now, it’s no longer a simple test or a task, it’s your life. Adrenaline might be rushing through you as you visualize yourself falling 100 feet down…you’re not calm anymore and there’s nothing to laugh at.
Notice how the thought, “If I make a mistake I could die,” makes it impossible for you to take action.
Now peep this:
(Situation C) Same situation as before, with the plank in between the buildings sky high, but as you’re there shook frozen at the idea of walking across, you realize that the building your currently standing on has caught on fire…
So now what’s your response? Your focused changed, didn’t it? Now you’re going to find a way to get across no matter what, and the thought of falling or not doing it perfectly didn’t even cross your mind. You probably got creative and thought something like:
“I’d sit my ass down on that board and scoot myself over to the other side,” or
“I’d crawl on my hands and knees if I had to.”
But what happened??? Why did your feelings change so quickly? You just went from worry, ambivalence and hesitation to productive action and creative problem solving in seconds, but how???
Just like before, the possibility or fear of pain and death became the reality and certainty of pain and death, and that motivated you to take action.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE PROCRASTINATE…
Psychologically, we act out scenario B when we falsely associate our goals with our own self-worth, and in reality, we create scenario C as a result of that initial procrastination.
Underlying our physical procrastination is a mistaken, mental connotation between what we do and our sense of value as a human being.
On a deeper level, you raise the plank off the ground by making a straightforward task into a measurement of who you are: evidence of whether or not you’re acceptable and a forecast of your future life…whether you’ll be a happy success or a miserable failure.
Once you confuse just performing with testing your worth, “getting this job,” “passing this final,” “starting this business,” and “dating this person” get inflated and injected with a level of meaning that makes failure or (even slight mistakes) feel like the end of the world.
This leads to perfectionism, where error, criticism and rejection become equivalent to death. You demand yourself to do things so perfectly so that your audience will accept you completely, and this expectation freezes you up with anxiety and procrastination.
Anxiety comes from the perceived threat to your survival (visualizing failure and projecting it in domino effect, i.e. imagining catastrophic images of losing your position, never finding another job, destroying your social image, separating your family, etc. etc.), and then you escape that anxiety through procrastination.
Procrastination is deep because it’s actually a coping mechanism that accomplishes a series of things:
1) It allows you to escape the dilemma and feel a sense of relief.
2) It brings the deadline closer, creating the urgent “fire” of scenario C, which relieves you of the responsibility for making a decision and then scares you into action. Since procrastination motivates you, makes decisions for you, gets you to take action and overrides your perfectionism and fear of failure, it actually reinforces the subconscious belief that procrastination makes sense and has rewards (“I work best under pressure,” etc.).
3) Also, by delaying things long enough, the task no longer becomes a measurement of your true ability…what you could of done if you “had enough time.” Always remember:
~ Tony Schwartz
Deep, huh? lol :) So instead, imagine this:
(Scenario D): You’re back on the board once more, 100 feet above ground. There’s no fire this time, but there is a net – a strong, supportive safety net right under the plank…
How do you feel about it now? “Oh, that’s nothing,” right? “I can do that – if anything happened, I’d just fall into the net. It might even be fun…”
So that’s what I’m going to ask you do: let go of your perfectionist urge, and know that making a mistake does not mean death. Know that you can recover from any fall, and if need to, create alternatives that’ll allow you to bounce back.
Repeat after me:
“Whatever happens, I will survive and I will find a way to carry on. I will not let this be the end of the world for me…I will find a way to lessen the pain in my life and maximize the joy.“
“In order to maximize your performance in a stressful world, you must create a protected and indisputable sense of worth for yourself. Until you do, energy and concentration will be drained from your work and put into preparing for imagined threats to your survival, and then into procrastination as a means of coping…(so) Regardless of how you do it, provide a safe place where you make yourself free of judgment: a place and time where you can stop trying to perform…”
~ Neil Fiore, Ph. D.
Hope this helps. More tomorrow…
>> Conquer Yourself (Session 1): The Essence of Productivity
>> 4 Simple Steps to Consistently Get More Out of Yourself
>> The Now Habit by Neil Fiore, Ph. D.
>> The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working and more by Tony Schwartz
>> Take a second to “Share the Wealth” w/ anyone you think would appreciate it