Procrastination Isn’t What You Think
“Procrastination” does NOT equal “lazy.” This is one of my favorite things to tell people who procrastinate, as so many of us do! Procrastination stems from the fear that “I don’t know how to do this perfectly.” You can say this in a number of ways, including, “I’m not smart enough,” and, “I’m not good enough.” Or, your inner voice might say, “I HAVE to do this perfectly,” or, “I HAVE to show everyone that I know how.”
When this form of Learned Distress is triggered, we do everything we can to avoid having “I’m not good enough” confirmed once again, or having people see our deepest secret – that we aren’t perfect. We hold off doing whatever the task is until the last possible second – until the pain of not completing it at all is greater than our fear that we can’t do it well or perfectly.
It can be helpful to know that the part of us that stores Learned Distress is 2 years old. You probably wouldn’t yell at a toddler for being scared, and it can be helpful to have this same compassion for yourself when you are feeling reluctant to start or finish a project or task. It’s also helpful to know that Learned Distress is just a feeling that can be unlearned, so that your well-being can come to the surface and allow you to accomplish what you want to do.
The well-being state in this “getting stuff done” arena has a couple of feelings associated with it:
1. Comfort with your own unique way of doing things. (instead of following “their” rules perfectly)
2. A sense that you have everything you need within you to achieve your goals
What’s the result when someone unlearns the Learned Distress behind their procrastination? Often without even noticing that something is different (typical with Quanta Change), people find themselves doing the very task they dreaded easily and without resistance. In fact, I often have to point out that they accomplished something that a week or two before seemed impossible.
As an example, a college student was struggling in his humanities class and was dreading the paper he had to write for it, so we began to work on this procrastination theme. As he unlearned layers of “I don’t know how,” he found a subject that excited him and decided to write about that. He was so excited about it that he actually finished his paper early – a first for him! He found that he did indeed have the ability to do it, and he found a subject that fit him – fit his uniqueness. He kept telling me, “It was so easy and fun!” He had never felt this way about writing a paper before. His teacher told him it was the best paper she had read all year.
What does the voice in your head say when you’re struggling to start or finish something?