Once upon a time there was an important project waiting to be completed that would be of benefit to you and those around you and it never got done. Gasp!!
Have you ever set out to complete a long term project just to find yourself distracted by other tasks that seem to get in the way? Or you complete part of your project and then lose momentum? Or you feel discouraged with the temptation of quitting as a route of choice – which may be a form of procrastination. If you get up in the morning with the intention of taking a step toward working on your project and find yourself cleaning the bathroom instead you are not alone. I have found myself cleaning toilets (which I deplore doing) on more occasions than I like to admit.
If you find yourself going to bed with the promise that tomorrow will be different and you make a to do list with a clear cut plan and then find yourself busy with trivial tasks such as dusting the baseboards of the entire house, you are most likely engaged in experiential avoidance. This is not all bad. You need to look for the gold hidden in procrastination (experiential avoidance) as a way to focus and stay the course. I have to admit again, my baseboards are immaculate.
I have a project I have been working on and managing to put off completing by engaging in menial projects. I now have a spotless house, the cleanest closets, and most organized garage in the neighborhood. My project of agony is that I am working at writing a book. Writing the book proposal for submission to multiple publishers has been the hardest part. I find I make promises to myself to write first think in the morning. I solicit permission nagging (they have my permission to nag me) from my family and friends to help me stay focused on my long term desire of being a published author. More than being a published author I value sharing information which can help other people. It’s not that I don’t ever write. What happens is everything else seems to pull me away from writing. You could say I have a lot of excuses every day before I approach the task of writing. It feels embarrassing to admit this private secret to you. You might be familiar with this type of thinking and feeling. Feeling too tired to exercise then guilty you didn’t exercise.
When you have a to do list and the same item keeps sifting to the bottom and you feel the burn of personal horror at the failure to work on your project keep in mind there is something very important to you veiled within the tendency to procrastination. When you notice yourself walking away from your to do list take a breath, travel inside, and peek at your thoughts. What are they telling you? Look closer and listen to the rumblings under the procrastination. Can you glimpse a spark of fear? What if you fail? What if you succeed? What if your project is rejected? What do you want to do with your life? Hidden away is your passion to accomplish something important to you within your life. It might be to get married, have children, travel, paint, volunteer, speak or publish a book. Sometimes the important stuff is disguised as ambivalence.
The pain of procrastination does not come to you because your project or goal is meaningless. Your pain is pointing to the treasure shrouded with dismissive gestures. The fire of persistence that fills your cup with purpose and meaning is muddled in there with procrastination. Furthermore, it is normal to engage in behaviors that move us away from feelings of discomfort. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy moving away (experiential avoidance) is viewed as part of human nature. We all do it! You, me, they, and them. Repeat after me.
We all procrastinate! And it’s normal.
Pack your suitcase we are going on a trip. Your packing list includes the fear of failure, the fear of success, the worry of rejection, and the anxiety of stories from the dark side. Are you ready? NO! That’s okay. Your suitcase is large enough to hold all your feelings, thoughts, and sensations. It will expand as needed when traveling on your journey.
Where are you going? Your choice. Close your eyes and say the first thing that comes to your mind…… Again, where are you going? Blurt it out! Open you mouth and move your lips!! You can say the first thing that comes to your mind. Quickly!!! Let it just pop out of your mouth. I am going to……………..FANTASTIC!! Notice how you feel when you say it aloud. EXCITING!?!!? SCARY?!?! Now let’s get going. Keep your eyes open and your compass direction set for the course. For your course I suggest you can make a list or journal about your commitment to your adventure. After all, it’s your life. It can help to share your commitment with another supportive person.
Notice what happens as you begin to take action. Maybe the stuff in your suitcase you are carrying begins to show up. Maybe not. You can notice it and know you can have discomfort inside and still keep moving. You do not have to empty the suitcase or even rearrange it to walk your path. You only need to take one step at a time in the direction of your compass. If you find yourself cleaning the baseboards or bathrooms in the house turn your energy into the sparks that will light a fire and blaze toward your purpose.
One last word. If you find yourself procrastinating you are not alone and you can always get back on track. There have been many famous procrastinators that found a way to get back on track to do great things. Grab your suitcase and let me be your guide as you fine tune your trekking skills as you navigate the trail ahead.
- Bill Clinton
- Dalai Lama
- Victor Hugo
- Franz Kafka
- Saint Augustine
- Frank Lloyd Wright
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Truman Capote
- Margaret Atwood
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Below are a few resources on motivation
What do you do you to stay the course or to get back on track. Your ideas and strategies can help others so please share in the comment section.