I would venture a guess that as of this very moment, there is at least one thing on your “To Do” list that could have already been done – and perhaps, even should have been done – but hasn’t yet. If this is true, don’t worry. You are a long way from being alone. As Mark Twain said, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”
One of the more common character flaws discussed among my clients, and people in general, is procrastination. Logically, most people know that by putting things off – and in extreme cases, simply ignoring them – not only do they remain undone, often times they get worse. From a growing pile of mail or bills, to going to the doctor – and everything in between – it’s remarkable what some people will avoid. But perhaps the most interesting aspect is what occurs when the task at hand is eventually faced, dealt with and then reflected back on. All too often, the feelings expressed are those of surprise and even confusion. “That wasn’t so difficult after all. What was that about? Why did it take me so long to do it? It was really kind of easy.”
As counter-intuitive as it may seem at first, sometimes people feel more comfortable if they keep small, manageable road blocks in their way. If their path is totally clear, a kind of agoraphobia sets in. Because then there is no excuse but to advance and succeed, and that can be very scary. If instead there is something that one can point to and say, “I’ll get to my real goal as soon as I take care of ‘X,’ ” then there is a rationalization to legitimize their inaction.
There are plenty of people, whether they know it or not, who find themselves trapped in a state of being comfortably miserable. They don’t like their current position, but it is what they know. The discomfort is familiar and so it can be managed and seemingly controlled. Ultimately, the perception is that the pain from what is in front of them is far less intense than that of change.
We all face challenges. But imagine for a moment that there is nothing in your way, no real reason for you to avoid taking action in your life toward what you really want. At first this might sound great. You can jump to the end results: money, success, a relationship, lost weight, etc. But give it a minute and watch how resistance may creep in. A voice inside may say, “but.” We are creatures of habit, and change – though filled with the potential for great rewards – can be frightening. In addition, it takes work. After the initial appeal fades, you may eventually realize that more is required to arrive at the desired destination: increased effort, additional responsibility, patience, sacrifice, dedication and focus. Is it really worth it? Maybe I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing. And the cycle repeats.
How then do we break the cycle, get out of our own way and turn that circle into a line? How do we gain the necessary traction to get the small tasks done, move past the resistance and progress into better spaces? While this can certainly be a lengthy discussion, the short answer is simple. Just sit with your feelings. Scary as they may be, feelings won’t kill us. In fact, they can be our greatest teachers – about our lives, and about ourselves. They are indicators of what we really want, and how close or far away we are from it. If we raise our awareness, process our feelings, and then take healthy and productive action, we can build character, increase our self-esteem, and maximize our potential.
So the next time you feel resistance toward something, whether it’s as small as organizing your desk or as large as changing your relationship or career, just sit still and “listen.” What is it that you’re really afraid of?
And it can’t hurt to share your feelings with someone you trust and respect. Get feedback from a reliable source and see what comes up.
No matter how long we live, we are all on borrowed time. Make the most of it. Take action and enjoy the rewards!