Like all saboteurs (those voices in our head that resist our connection to our own greatness), “The Procrastinator” tries to protect us and keep us safe and comfortable. Those of you blessed with “The Procrastinator” know that the more important the task, the more you will hear from this invasive species. You see “The Procrastinator” looks for things you want to accomplish and then covers them with a green ooze that smells like rotting fish. The question I hear over and over again is “Why are the things I most want to accomplish so often covered in green ooze that smells like rotting fish?”
The answer just might be found in the belly of a large human eating beast tens of thousands of years ago. If we were to do an autopsy on this beast, we would find a human who became too curious about the world beyond the cave, took a risk, wandered out into the dark, and…. became supper for a hungry monster. In those days, life threatening danger lurked under every rock and behind every tree. And, when the sun went down, it’s a good thing most of our early ancestors stayed in the cave. We wouldn’t be here today if they had done tonight what could be done tomorrow.
Psychologists have studied procrastination extensively. There is research that indicates that avoiding what is really important to us (read also: “scary”) is a relatively modern coping mechanism that has evolved to help us avoid the short term stress of facing our fears. I suggest that this voice may have been lurking in our heads much earlier.
You see, back then, “The Procrastinator” was a life saver. “Wait until the morning” was a necessary and lifesaving motto to literally live by. The thing is, today many of us are living our lives in response to a voice whose life saving purpose has largely become irrelevant. There are very few occasions when we find ourselves actually staring into the mouth of death. “The Procrastinator,” however, doesn’t know this. In fact, it can’t. It’s hard-wired to be that way and lives in a part of our brain meant to protect us. “Don’t do it Now-You might die!”
An unfortunate modern-day consequence of listening to “The Procrastinator” is stress. “The Procrastinator” disconnects us from doing what we want to do. It gives that task the appearance, and more importantly the emotional feeling, of something we don’t want to do. Who would energetically do a swan dive into a pool of smelly green ooze??
A vicious cycle is produced when we don’t do what is really important to us. We stress over the not doing, delay further, stress more, and on and on. This stress is associated with feelings like anxiety, boredom, regret, sadness, emptiness, and regret. Yes, many of us do eventually “get it done,” but we often do so by stuffing these emotions deep inside. Usually, it’s another saboteur like “The Fear of Failure” that comes to our rescue at the last minute, saving the day. Relying on fear to push “The Procrastinator” aside releases all kinds of stress hormones that negatively impact our long term mental and physical health. We may indeed reach a good deal of “success” in life repeating this process, but the cost is high and the payoff in terms of any sense of personal fulfillment is low.
The volume of “The Procrastinator’s” voice for any of us depends on what we’ve been exposed to in our upbringing, and what we’ve inherited in our genes. The good news is that, through conscious choice, we can access the volume control and turn it down. When we turn down the volume, the green ooze washes away. Without that mess covering up what’s really important to us, we rush for the diving board, take a strong bounce up, spread our wings, and dive into the crystal clear water.
So, how do we make this conscious choice? Well, the irony here is we don’t need to do anything more than simply notice our breath. “The Procrastinator” usually has us running around doing anything but what we really want to do. To get to what we really want to do, we need to stop everything and do nothing but breathe. No “to do” list, no organizing the office supply draw, no email, no watching TV, no sleeping. Just breathe. Here’s the simple formula for what comes next:
- Focus on your breath
- Deepen your in -breath
- Deepen your out- breath
- Repeat 10 times
- Simply notice and experience without judgement how you feel right now
Chances are you feel less stressed, more present, calmer, and more engaged than you did a minute ago.
For those of us that need scientific proof before we change any of our habits, there’s good news that’s been around for a long time. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for relaxation. When we simply notice our emotions without judgement, we make the conscious choice to “be with” rather than “fight” ourselves. This “being with” frees us to move forward.
When we de-stress, we break the vicious cycle that “The Procrastinator” sets in motion. Emotions that were previously keeping us stuck become “(E)nergy in (motion.)” Our capacity to wrap both arms around our higher self comes alive!
Like most things worthwhile in life, practice is the key. So, practice again……………
Now, turn towards the one thing you’ve been avoiding that’s really important for you to do right now and go for it!