Last night I was interviewed on Tom Cox’s radio show “Tom on Leadership” on the subject of procrastination. It got a huge response. My newsletter “Dr. Toni’s Five Minute Tips” also got a huge response so am including it here in my blog as well Tom’s blog which includes his summary of the four speakers on the subject. I have also included a link for downloading the whole show.
Procrastination – Habit or Addiction?
“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.”
Wayne Gretsky (world famous hockey player)
An interesting synchronicity occurred for me last week. I was asked to be on Tom Cox’s radio show on the same day I received an email from a reader of my advice column at Vision magazine, both wanting my advice on how to deal with procrastination.
The irony here is that I put off writing my column and my newsletter this week until the last possible minute! Why do we procrastinate? Is it the fear of success or the fear of failure? I actually think it goes deeper than that. Most people think they procrastinate because they are just lazy or undisciplined.
I don’t think there is one answer for the why of this habit but I do think, most procrastinators share one belief: the fear of the unknown. If fear of success is truly about low self esteem and therefore self sabotage, at its heart is a small vision of what is possible. If you cannot hold a vision of yourself accomplishing tasks that lead to the expression of your full potential self, it is probably because you believe that operating from your full potential self is too much work, too much responsibility. If you wait until the very last minute to get things done, however, the deadline looming will propel you forward as a means of avoiding the pain that comes with the consequences of not doing rather than the doing of the task. In a way, it is all about avoiding pain, now or later.
As someone who is a survivor of three near fatal experiences, I can tell you that when it comes to putting off the big tasks like life change, it can kill you or create lots of trauma and drama. My first near fatal experience happened because I needed to leave a job that no longer served me. I kept putting it off because I didn’t know what I was going to do to support myself and so an addict in the facility I was working in on skid row solved my problem: he flipped out and almost strangled me to death.
In incidence #2 , it involved a marriage I needed to leave and so I brought in three car accidents, and #3 was environmental poisoning in my home ( intuitively I knew I needed to move out a year before).
If we dont carry a big vision of ourselves and what we are capable of, we seek only comfort, the comfort in the short term of delaying making decisions. Isn’t this like so many addictions, the drive to not feel pain. So how does one go into recovery for procrastination addiction?
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?
As we enter the season of harvest tomorrow, the summer cycle is officially ending. Perhaps today is the day you take on one ineffective habit or task you’ve been putting off and experience the opportunity that procrastination has buried.
For more on this subject, listen in tonight Sept 21 at 8:00 PM when Tom Cox interviews four thought leaders on this subject. I am on first from 8:00 – 8:15.
call in number is (347) 838-8279.
And for those who wish personal consultation or to make direct contact with me, call:
Dr. Toni Galardi
“The LifeQuake Doctor”