Often clients tell me they want to beat their habit of procrastination. Here’s my secret: there’s no such thing as procrastination. Well, okay, there is. In fact, you may be really, really good at it. But there’s no such thing as procrastination being the actual problem.
Procrastination is a symptom, not a cause.
Are you just lazy?
If I ask clients what they think is underneath their procrastination, they usually say with a laugh that they’re just lazy. But that doesn’t track because they’re not lazy; they’re probably the least lazy people I know.
I see underneath things. When I look underneath what appears to others as laziness, I see fear, doubt, and perfectionism. Fear of what might happen if they fail to do the thing they want to do, fear of what might happen if they succeed at doing the thing, doubt around whether they could ever possibly do it at all – and running through all this like a riptide, encompassing and creating it all, a crippling perfectionism. A need for everything to be exactly right, above any criticism, the first time, all the time.
Find the root!
We can turn the tide of perfectionism (and thus defeat procrastination) by finding its root. Who taught you that you had to be perfect to be acceptable? I’ve lost count of the number of clients who have told me that they brought home a test with a 95% on it only to be asked by their dad or mom “what happened to the other 5 points?”
Or maybe you learned you had to be perfect to be acceptable in the church, synagogue, or mosque you attended as a beautiful, impressionable, eager-to-please child. Maybe you learned it in the ballet studio from a demanding teacher, on the soccer field or basketball court from an angry coach, in classrooms from brilliant nitpicking teachers and professors.
You were taught it somewhere – or you came in that way, your soul wanting to finally, finally learn the lesson of unconditional acceptance. Because that’s what the opposite of perfectionism is: unconditional acceptance. That’s the cure, so to speak. So often my clients are afraid to unconditionally accept themselves; they sometimes flat-out refuse and argue about why they are truly unacceptable.
Why? Because they’re motivating themselves by being super hard on themselves, rejecting themselves if they are anything other than perfect (according to someone else’s definition of perfection). The tricky thing about this is that it works well for quite a while – often for many years.
Didn’t that mean teacher motivate you? That abrasive coach? The threat of hell or of your parents’ anger? We humans do respond to negative motivation; we’re hardwired to avoid pain even more than we’re hardwired to seek pleasure. So, it works, and we’re motivated, and we achieve, and we get a little addicted to that cycle.
Rejecting Yourself = Motivating Yourself = Success? No!
But that equation you use of rejecting yourself = motivating yourself = succeeding has a major flaw, because eventually it makes you start to low-key hate yourself. (You’re so mean to yourself – all that rejection!) You suppress that self-hatred; you deny it and won’t look at it, because you feel you need rejection to keep motivating yourself. So, your SELF gets sneaky and does what it needs to do to evade the critical judge (you): dodge, duck, and stall, anything to avoid rejection.
And you call that… procrastinating. And you assume it is the villain, not the constant self-rejection. Because you’re not looking underneath the procrastination, with curiosity instead of judgment, to see what’s there.
But if you look at that equation and say, “I’ve had it. There must be another way to solve this,” then congratulations! You’re halfway there. You’re ready to let go of rejecting yourself, which will lead to self-acceptance, which will release all that perfectionism… which will clear up the procrastination.
Unconditionally Accept Yourself
What happens when you unconditionally accept yourself? You’ll make friends with yourself. Your inner self will start to trust you again. Your self won’t feel the need to duck and dodge and stall, because it won’t feel that there’s really no way to ever get approval anyway. You’ll stop feeling so anxious and stressed. You’ll remember your passion and your joy. Your creativity will blossom. Your juices will flow. Your determination will return. You’ll have the ability to focus and reach your goals, because the stakes won’t be so impossible.
Did you ever have a real mean teacher? Did you learn your multiplication tables or state capitals or whatever from them? Yeah. Did they ignite your passion, your self-confidence, your creativity? Nope. You couldn’t wait to get out of that class, and you forgot everything you learned as soon as you left.
Did you ever have a teacher who loved teaching, who loved kids, who loved you because you existed, who inspired you, who you’ll always remember, who you wanted to please because you loved them, who is a big part of the reason you do what you do today? Be your own best teacher ever, inside your head. You’ve tried rejection and perfection to motivate yourself. Try unconditional acceptance. It’s not too late. I can show you how.
You will need to change some belief systems and energy patterns. You’ll need to learn a unique way of operating. I bet it’s not as hard or time-consuming as what you’re doing now. It’s easy and even fun.
So, if you’re interested in overcoming procrastination, in finally reaching your goals and dreams, you can book a free Get Unstuck Zoom with me HERE so we can uncover the main issue and get you started down a different path. We can talk about whether you’re ready for ongoing work and transformation. (I have so many amazing clients and am near capacity, but I do have two spots left opening soon in my one-on-one coaching practice.)