Ask the LifeQuake Doctor
Dear LifeQuake Doctor:
I am an addict but there is no anonymous program for me. I’m not addicted to the typical things like drugs, alcohol, or food. My addiction however, is far more crippling. Mine is affecting every area of my life: my career, my health, and my family. I’m addicted to procrastination. I procrastinate over deadlines at work, when and where to take vacations with my kids, committing to an exercise routine, you name it.
How do I get over this? It feels like a disease as incapacitating as alcoholism.
Desperate for a Breakthrough
First of all, let me just say that desperation is not necessarily a bad thing. As much as that feeling can make us do destructive things, it can also motivate us to take risks because we are fed up with the same old, same old fear. Yes, fear. Procrastination at its core is motivated by the fear of change. Psychologists and motivational speakers have all debated as to whether it is the fear of success or fear of failure at the root of this complex. I submit that it is both but that the deeper issue is the fear of loss. If I make this choice, it might be “the wrong one”.
Choosing also means dying to other choices: committing 100% to this decision. What if this decision takes me on a path into an unknown future that I’m not prepared for? Stagnation sucks but it is something you are familiar with, something you think you can control. The problem is that this is pure illusion because we are evolutionary beings. Survival of the fittest means those who can adapt to change. If we try to maintain the status quo when what our soul needs is to get healthy through exercise, advance yourself professionally, or take a vacation and rest, and we make no decisions, we invite a crisis and the decision is made for you. Of course, when we move forward through the trauma and drama of a crisis we don’t have to own responsibility for the after effects. We can think of ourselves as a victim and simply cope with the aftermath. We are a nation of procrastinators. If you look to all the warnings that we received about terrorist threats before 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, we can see that this exists both personally and governmentally. I myself incurred three near death experiences over the course of twenty years every time I needed to make a change and did not listen to my intuition, so I understand this addiction. I would agree with you that it is an addiction because my definition is that addiction is whatever is between you and what you are really afraid of.
So, now that we are in the season of change where the leaves begin to change color as they die, it is a great time to celebrate and ritualize the death of this old habit.
Here are some tips:
1) Go back to your earliest memory of a decision you made that didn’t turn out as you wanted. Was it trying out for sports, turning in a school assignment you had really worked hard on, or telling someone you had a crush on, that you liked them? As you recall this event, where do you feel the emotion in your body? Now, focus your breath on this spot. As you keep breathing into it, allow your body to surrender and receive your breath just as you would if you were stretching a muscle that was tight. As the feeling begins to change, notice what feeling is replacing it. Now think of a time that you committed to something 100% and it produced your desired effect. For example, you ate healthy and exercised and your body got stronger. Place that feeling of mastery in your non-dominant hand, the one you don’t’ write with. Take your hand and place it over the spot in your body that once held the fear of commitment. This will anchor that feeling.
2) Take one area of your life that you need to make a decision about that has the lowest level of anxiety connected to it. If you need to make a career change and have been dragging your feet because you don’t want to do the same thing you’ve been doing and you don’t know what you are passionate about, do one little thing like pay attention to everything you encounter in a day that produces great enthusiasm or even mild interest. Keep a journal of all of it. Risking change through deciding begins with experiencing a good feeling around low level change like just committing to observation.
3) Commit to 15 minutes a day of quiet contemplation. No tv, computer, or even reading. Sitting still and centering yourself through the breath work of step one from above and then asking the question of your intuition: what step would you have me take next? All you need to know is the next step. The answer may come right away or it may come spontaneously when you are doing something else like a house – hold chore or as you wake up from a dream. The key is to know that you don’t have to know the five year plan, just the next step. Healing the addiction to procrastination requires tolerance for the unknown future. If you focus just on the truth of the next step, you become more oriented toward the journey of life rather than an end goal. Remember, when you take your last breath on earth, your thoughts will be on did I give it my all, not, did I make all the right choices?
Dr. Toni Galardi is a licensed psychotherapist, public speaker, and the author of her new book: The LifeQuake Phenomenon: How to Thrive (not just survive) in Times of Personal and Global Upheaval. Dr. Galardi works by phone internationally with people in transition. For those seeking private consultation, she can be reached at 310.712.2600. To submit questions to Vision Magazine for “Ask the LifeQuake™ Doctor”, contact Dr. Toni Galardi through her email address: DrToni@LifeQuake.net.