As a life coach, one of the first questions I ask my workshop participants is, “Why aren’t you currently producing the results you want?”
Procrastination is the number one reason.
I ask them why they procrastinate, and they say it’s because they don’t want to do it.
I ask them why they’re doing something that they don’t want to do.
They say because they have to.
But this is an illusion. I know where they are getting tripped up: They’re lying to themselves.
They are pretending that they have to do something that they don’t want to do.
If you’re a grown adult, there is nothing you have to do. Every single thing you do is because you choose to do it. You have free will. Unless you are in an abusive relationship, absolutely nobody is making you do anything.
To procrastinate means to delay or postpone doing something. By definition, if you are procrastinating, it means you have already chosen to do something. Sure, your choice may have been influenced by others, but you were still the one who, after considering other’s influence, decided to do it.
We procrastinate when we are stuck in an illusion that we are being forced to do something that we don’t want to do.
So I ask participants, “Who is making you do it?”
After a bit of digging, my clients always identify the person, people or group who they feel they have to please. “I feel like I have to do well at work to please my boss,” or, “I feel like I have to get good grades to please my parents.”
Wherever there is the perception that someone is making us do something, there is resentment.
Procrastination, for many of us, is a form, albeit ineffective, of punishing those who we think are making us do something. Avoiding doing our work is a sneaky way of getting back at our boss for making us do something we don’t want to do.
Procrastination is actually a survival response. Whenever it feels like someone is making us do something, it triggers our inborn fears of being dominated. So, we procrastinate in order to avoid domination and prove “you can’t make me.”
But we are reacting to an imagined threat. In most cases, no one is forcing us to do anything.
We chose to do it. We are committed to doing something or else we wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If we chose not to do it altogether, then we would have nothing to procrastinate.
When we procrastinate, we are resisting doing something that we have already chosen to do, and resisting anything—like holding a door shut when someone is trying to open it—takes a lot of effort.
So, while it seems like we are taking the easy way out by procrastinating, we’re actually just wasting our mental energy by resisting our own choices.
The way to transform this is to realize that there is no threat. No one is trying to dominate us. We don’t have to do anything to please anyone. We have every right to sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing until our landlords kick us out.
We will no longer feel the need to procrastinate when we remember that we actually chose to do the thing we are procrastinating.
We have to remind ourselves about why we chose to do it.
Everything we do has a greater purpose. When we are connected to this purpose, we can be inspired to do even the most menial tasks.
Taking out the trash is transformed into creating a clean, safe home environment where we can thrive.
Calling grandpa is transformed into honoring our commitment to staying connected.
Doing homework is transformed into a stepping stone for making the kind of difference we want to make in the world.
When we remind ourselves of the reason we chose to do what we are doing, we are connected to our source of inspiration. Completing the task is simply honoring our commitments.
The task doesn’t seem so hard anymore. There is nothing to resist.
But in order to do this effectively, we have to be really clear about what we’re committed to. If we’re procrastinating, it’s because we haven’t fully chosen our commitments. We allow ourselves to remain undecided about what really matters to us, which conveniently allows us to justify dilly-dallying.
Ask yourself: What’s the bigger picture of what I’m doing? Why does it inspire me?
If we don’t want to be miserable, then we have two choices. We realize that we’re actually not committed to doing what we thought we were and decide not to complete the task altogether, or remember our reason why, focus on what we’ve committed to, and get it done.
Rather than focusing on your resistance toward what you’re doing, focus your attention on the reason you’re doing it. This will allow you to overcome your internal resistance to the task and be inspired to do it.
Don’t swim up stream if you don’t have to.
Author: Brandilyn Tebo
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock