The hidden truth about procrastination & proven tips to start achieving your goals now
How many times has procrastination prevented you from pursuing and achieving your dreams?
Are you afraid that your goals and dreams won’t come true because you’ve put them off for too long or given up on them in the past?
The truth behind why many of us struggle to achieve our dreams lies in our mindset- and procrastination is no different!
The better you understand why you procrastinate, learn to recognize when it’s happening, and practice choosing different solutions in your day-to-day life, the less likely you will be to procrastinate in the future. That means you’ll be more likely to accomplish your goals and make your dreams a reality.
You don’t have to stay stuck!
What is Procrastination?
Put simply, procrastination is the voluntary delay of an important task.
But, if you’re one of the 25% of adults who experience chronic procrastination, you might have an inkling that procrastination is more than a simple delay tactic…
…and you would be right!
Procrastination isn’t just a decision to put something off. It isn’t a time management problem, nor an issue of laziness. And it has nothing to do with your capability or what is actually possible for you to do, be, or achieve in life.
Procrastination doesn’t even have much to do with the task you’re avoiding in the first place.
At its root, procrastination is an avoidance of the negative emotions your brain has associated with the results and consequences of completing the task and accomplishing the goal you have in mind.
When it comes to pursuing our dreams, there are often two parts of us at work:
- The part that wants to move forward and accomplish what it is that we desire
- The part of us that argues for why we can’t or shouldn’t move forward
The part of you that argues for why you can’t achieve your goals or move forward to accomplish your dreams is your current “paradigm.”
A paradigm is the collection of beliefs and patterned thoughts you have about who you are and what you do or do not deserve. Your paradigms influence your behaviors, which, in turn, determine your results.
If you want to know how your paradigms are impacting you, you just have to look at the results you’re experiencing.
Are they constrictive or expansive? If your results feel limiting, then chances are, there is a paradigm at work against the results you wish to manifest.
Most of our limiting paradigms stem from our brain’s natural desire to keep us safe.
Part of each of our brains is designed to keep us safe. This part of the brain prefers what is familiar, even if what is familiar isn’t what we consciously want.
There is a certain sense of comfort in what is already familiar. The reality we already know is predictable. As a result, our brains will often have a hard time embracing what is new and unknown- even if the new reality we long to create looks and sounds absolutely amazing!
To understand how the safety-seeking part of the brain functions, think of it this way:
Imagine your ancestors living in the wilderness and doing everything they could to survive. To stay alive, they learned as much as they could about their surroundings- what plants were safe to eat, where the best hunting spots were, and how to make shelter when they needed it with the resources they had.
Now, imagine they also had to learn how to avoid being eaten by the giant, dangerous tigers that roamed the wilderness where they lived.
Those ancestors probably figured out how dangerous the tigers were the hard way- through loss. So, in order to preserve life, they learned all the best ways to avoid the danger of the tigers.
Then they passed those stories of loss and how to overcome the tigers down to each and every one of their offspring, ensuring everyone could remain safe in their tiger-infested reality.
At some point in the future, imagine the food in this wilderness was more and more difficult to find. The size of the tribe had outgrown the environment they had been living in… and, of course, there was still the issue of the dangerous tigers.
Let’s now say that I time traveled back to this tribe, and I offered them a brand new wilderness in which to live. It had ample food, plenty of space for everyone, and it was completely tiger-free…
…but it was also completely different from the place they had been living in for all this time. (Much like the dream life you’re manifesting is probably completely different from your current reality!)
Objectively, those ancestors should probably love the idea of more food and more space. You would think that they’d take me up on my offer to relocate immediately, right?
Except, in addition to the ample food and space, the brand new, unknown wilderness would also mean new dangers and unfamiliar obstacles. They would have to grapple with the potential for more loss and pain as they learned how to survive in a reality that was completely new to them.
The ancestors would have to figure out which plants were safe to eat and which were poisonous. They would have to figure out where to hunt for food and where to find shelter.
And even though there wouldn’t be any dangerous tigers in the new location, who knows what other dangerous things might be lurking there? How would they protect themselves from something they couldn’t see and didn’t yet understand?
Even if there wasn’t enough food in the familiar location, at least they would know where to find it when they were able and what was safe to eat.
And even though there were problematic tigers in the familiar location, at least they would already know where they were and how to avoid them.
In the same way, your dream- the life that you would love and the goals you want to accomplish- is an unknown wilderness. And from your brain’s perspective, it may hold great promise, but it also holds great potential danger.
To avoid as much potential danger as possible, your brain creates constrictive paradigms that can keep you stuck in the familiar, the safe, and the comfortable.
And it’s very likely that those paradigms are the root causes of your procrastination.
RELATED: What is a paradigm shift?
The Causes of Procrastination: How Negative Self Paradigms Keep You Stuck
Like in the story above, even if your goals and dreams start revealing themselves, your current paradigm, by its very nature, will strive to keep things exactly as they are.
You may start out feeling inspired by your goals and dreams. You may even start to generate some success turning them into your reality… but soon, your current paradigm will use whatever tactic it can to keep you safe in the familiar.
Those tactics to keep you stuck can, and often do, include the cycle of procrastination.
Procrastination is a form of self-sabotage and an effective way to keep you in a place that feels safe and familiar. It helps you avoid the potentially negative consequences of something new and unknown.
The paradigm keeping you stuck will usually cause you to procrastinate in one of three ways:
Just as you’re about to take the action required to achieve your dreams or move forward on an important goal, your paradigm pipes up and says something like, “Maybe you should do the dishes first,” or “But your favorite show is on TV! You can do this other thing later.”
Distraction can look like poor time management or an inability to prioritize specific tasks in the right way. As a result, you may find yourself always scrambling to do things last minute.
If you experience distraction as a mechanism of your procrastination cycle, it can be easy to beat yourself up over perceived character flaws or failures. Remember that what may appear as a shortcoming, in this case, is actually a coping mechanism to help you avoid the potential impact of accomplishing those tasks in the first place.
Do you find yourself succumbing to feelings of fear, doubt, and worry and then avoiding tasks and goals as a result? This is dissuasion.
Dissuasion can show up as:
- A fear of failure
- Worry about what others may think of you
- Doubt that you’ll be able to complete the task well enough (so why bother?)
- Fears about what would be required of you after completing the first step
Dissuasion can look like low self-esteem or perfectionism. It’s sometimes written off as negative moods. Your paradigm will use dissuasion to derail you from taking action by telling you the reasons why you won’t succeed, causing you to abandon your pursuit of what you would love.
3. DEFCON 1
DEFCON 1 occurs when your paradigm goes into defensive HIGH ALERT and puts you into “fight or flight” mode. As a way of coping with the emotional discomfort of DEFCON 1, which looks like fear, catastrophizing, or panic, the brain responds through the nervous system.
If you’re experiencing DEFCON 1, you may find yourself experiencing higher levels of stress or a heightened emotional response around a task or goal than would seem normal. In turn, this stress might trigger reactivity, defensiveness, or combativeness around the goal, or cause you to feel shut down whenever you try to move forward.
Many people misinterpret fear as a sign that they shouldn’t move beyond their comfort zone – but this feeling is really your paradigm trying to make sure you remain stuck.
These are the three methods your current paradigm will use to chip away at your enthusiasm, resolve, and momentum toward your dreams through procrastination.
The Secret to Getting Unstuck: How to Stop Procrastinating
The secret to getting unstuck begins with noticing when your paradigm is telling you to stay stuck instead of encouraging you to follow your dreams.
So many people make the mistake of classifying their negative self paradigms as personality traits, mental health issues, or character flaws, when in reality, they are coping mechanisms the brain has learned in an effort to keep them safe.
From that perspective, when we notice when our constrictive paradigms are being triggered and how they’re showing up in our lives, we afford ourselves the ability to explore the deeper feelings behind the coping mechanisms we’ve learned to use.
Deeper understanding leads to greater self-compassion and more varied solutions in the face of challenges, like procrastination. We can acknowledge and seek to understand the impact and origins of our procrastination while also recognizing that there is another part of us that wants to pursue the goals and dreams we’ve created for ourselves.
If your current paradigm begins making a compelling case as to why you shouldn’t or can’t take action toward creating a life you love living, recognize the moment for what it is. Realize that your brain is prioritizing the short-term rewards of safety and comfort over perceived danger.
Then, let the part of you that does desire to move forward to accomplish your dreams help you stand tall against the paradigm holding you back.
The next time your paradigm tries to dissuade, distract, or delay you, use these tips to help you stay on track:
- Don’t dwell on feelings of failure or self-blaming thoughts: Remember, procrastination is a cycle driven by negative thoughts and fear. If you find yourself procrastinating and playing into your negative self paradigms, choose curiosity and self-compassion first.
Studies have shown that responding to procrastination with compassion rather than focusing on negative feelings makes people less likely to continue to procrastinate in the future. Low self-compassion, on the other hand, leads to even more chronic procrastination.
You can still hold yourself accountable for your behaviors and, at the same time, understand that your brain is just trying its best to do what it was designed to do- keep you safe- even if you don’t need it to keep you safe that way anymore.
- Embrace discomfort: Your brain is wired to avoid immediate discomfort. It’s why the instant gratification of avoiding a task in favor of something less-painful (like watching your favorite television show or taking a nap) works so well for chronic procrastinators.
But truly successful people have learned to be willing to experience discomfort for the sake of the long-term benefits of personal growth and evolution. In the same way you can also learn to delay the short-term benefits of immediate gratification for the long term results of success.
- Support your long-term goals with a vision: At Brave Thinking Institute, we talk often about the benefits of having a vision for your dreams. The habit of visualizing the outcome of your goals, grounding your present-day actions and decisions into the possibilities of your future self, and connecting with your why (the reasons you’re doing what you have chosen to do) are each powerful motivators in the face of procrastination.
For example, if you want to start your own life coaching business so that you’ll have the time-freedom and income to take your kids to Disney World next Christmas, imagine that, as clearly as you can, every time your paradigms pop up to keep you from moving forward. You can find motivation and inspiration in the big picture of your goals, especially when procrastination is keeping you stuck on one, small step.
- Break every big task or big project into more simple, smaller tasks: One of the key places procrastination can take hold is through overwhelm. Instead, focus on dividing each project, step, or phase of your dreambuilding into small tasks that are clear, measurable, and attainable. You’re much more likely to find the motivation to take a step forward in the direction of your dreams if you have clarity about what exactly you need to do in this present moment, and how.
- Choose the next action, nothing more: In line with avoiding overwhelm, remind yourself: You only do the next, single action step you can take right now, with what you have.
Your limiting paradigms may be triggered by the entire scope of what you’ll have to be and do in order to achieve your dreams, but they are far less likely to react as strongly to just the next, single action. For example, leaving your current career and starting your own life coaching business may feel daunting, and for good reason, but I’d imagine that filling out a simple form for a free strategy session with Brave Thinking Institute doesn’t feel as scary in comparison!
- Celebrate!: As you complete tasks and accomplish goals along your journey to bigger and better things, make time to celebrate! Amp up the positive reinforcement for taking steps in support of bringing your dreams into reality- it will help you maintain motivation and help your brain connect more fully with the benefits of the new reality you’re creating.
Using these tips, you will begin installing a new pattern of thoughts and beliefs that will support you in moving forward on your success journey, instead of continuing to live to the old disempowering paradigms that seek to keep you stuck in what you already know.
Tell yourself that today is the day you are going to pursue your goals and dreams and take action, no matter how big or small.
You were made for more, and there is no more perfect time than now.
For more proven tips and step-by-step strategies on how to overcome your fears, limitations and procrastination in order to create a life create a life you truly love living, click here to download a FREE copy of my Stronger Than Circumstance ebook.
- The principles of human psychology that explain why we repeat patterns in our lives that hold us back from achieving all we want (like chronic procrastination!)
- The physics behind the Invisible Laws of Success – and why you can tap into them just as surely as you can tap into the power of electricity
- 3 proven mental strategies to transform your fixed mindset and empower you to finally take action to create the life you’ve been dreaming about (one strategy is just 3 simple words!)