September isn't messing around when it calls itself Self-Improvement Month: Already, tomorrow, we have Fight Procrastination Day.
(Not sure what I'm talking about? See last week's post for the full scoop, but in essence, we're using the month of September to bust our mental blocks—you know, those thoughts, belief systems, and inactions that stand between us and our creating the thing we want to create before the end of 2017.)
How fitting, then, for me to introduce you to the first distinction of the month:
The Procrastination/Awareness Distinction
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. You know this. I'm not telling you anything new there.
Have you ever considered the purpose of procrastination, though?
To avoid discomfort.
The discomfort of starting something new or finishing something difficult, the discomfort of being a perfectionist who might not be able to do the thing perfectly, the discomfort of working on an undertaking that elicits some level of stress.
But there's often a bit of a fight against procrastination. We do it and we self-flagellate at the same time. We know it's not serving us to procrastinate because we're not getting any closer to completing our tasks or achieving our goals...and yet, we can't seem to stop ourselves from avoiding the discomfort that we know the work, whatever it is, will entail.
So, we have a problem.
When we perceive our procrastinating on a project as problematic, we believe there's something to be fixed. We need to find a solution, some tool or trick or tip that will make us do the thing we're actively avoiding.
Or we need to just push through our resistance by forcing ourselves to take action.
Although we don't want to feel discomfort, we also don't want to feel guilty, lazy, inadequate, or undisciplined—and those are our other options if we go the route of procrastination.
What I'm proposing this week is to bring some awareness into the picture.
Instead of procrastinating blindly, thoughtlessly...
And instead of railing against your procrastination—fighting it, obsessing over it, trying to force your way through it...
Shine a light on your procrastination. Focus your awareness on the why of it. Examine it—as well as your perceptions, sensations, thoughts, and emotions about it—without judgment.
When you notice yourself picking up a novel to read instead of researching that grant that could finance your painting career for a full year, do just that: Notice it.
When you keep telling yourself you'll begin writing your website copy just as soon as you've cleared out your email inbox (but you haven't yet put down that novel in order to tend to the email, let alone the web copy): Pay attention to yourself.
This awareness will become habitual, inserting itself earlier and earlier into the chronology of events, so that you'll start to observe yourself as you're following the distractions and avoidances, not just after the fact.
Then, you can introduce some gentle inquiry to your procrastination-in-progress:
Why am I avoiding this thing?
Where is there discomfort for me in this undertaking?
Am I sure there's discomfort, or might it be just that I'm fearing possible discomfort?
And that's it. No cajoling or strong-arming necessary. This focused awareness is enough.
Now, for your challenge:
Think of that project, big or small, that you want to bring to life before 2018 is here. Now, bring into your consciousness the associated task you've been procrastinating on thus far—no matter if it's the first step or the hundredth step of your particular project—because you're avoiding whatever discomfort might come along with it. This week, your mission is to begin this task. Between now and next Tuesday, direct your effort toward accomplishing it, just this one step...and see what comes up for you. Welcome the procrastination, if it's there, but remember to shine your awareness on it, too. If you feel like sharing a bit about your experience, or you'd like to receive some direct support, come join us in the Action Oriented Facebook group and start up a new thread. We're really keen to learn from each other.