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We all avoid or postpone a more important and difficult task in order to undertake an easier, and often more trivial activity every now and then. Doing this too often, we may create a habit. We may tell ourselves that we are too busy, too tired, too uninspired, too stressed out, too uninformed, too broke, or else. Sometimes those reasons are totally valid, and more often they are simply excuses that we have created to justify the postponement of our important work.
Have you found out what is stopping you from acting straight towards your goals? Is it possible that fear is keeping you from accomplishing a very important task?
I believe that we are mostly lead to procrastinate out of fear. There may be some other reasons occasionally, such as burn-out state, etc…; It is fear that we carry form our past experience, lessons learnt from other people's experience, and so on. It is interesting how many of us may not recognize it as fear.
The most common fear is the fear of failure or inadequacy. Within it, we may fear a new situation (large scale meeting, having a job interview, buying a car, joining a new club or course, visiting a dentist, inviting on a date, etc), unknown people, unfamiliar task (calling for an appointment, electronic payment, writing a project report, adjusting a fitness machine to fit your level, connecting electricity cables,etc.), event, or losing your voice during your speech, starting a conversation or talk in a wrong way, so we rather avoid what seems to be a painful task, thinking that time will clear our fears and bring us the needed information, motivation, etc.
I have created the above photo as a reminder that our fears need to be explored. If we put them under a scope of light, our attention, our interest in understanding where it comes from and why, we are often able to determine quickly whether the fear is rational and realistic, or it just happens to be a product of our current fearful perception. When just thinking of the 'must do' task makes us feel negative, helpless and intimidated to such extent that we unintentionally see it bigger than it actually is.
Once decided, we can go on with exploring further. Step by step. Testing it. If I fear that I will be largely criticized, I will test my words (or part of my draft work) or an idea with someone whom I trust and can get the first feedback from. That should be enough information for me to motivate myself to do changes or to continue working for a while. When I see it coming, I would test my current beliefs again.
This is really a small scale test and it can be repeated so that you gather enough information that undermines your fear. This can be your way to beat it by verifying that it has no base. The more times you can verify, the more you will be able to confirm that your fear isn’t corresponding to the reality. You will begin to trust in your abilities more and more as you get to discover that you probably have most chances to do well. Once you reinforce this positive view by each little intent that confirms how nothing disastrous happens if you are not as good, and that only a positive outcome can be envisaged if you go through the task, you will have the tool to beat your fear. The reality is clear, and your personal reality can be modified.
You are most probably perfectly adequate to face your fears and go along with the project.
After testing it a few times, it will become your habit to find what you fear of, face it, explore it and move forward what you really want to.
For further fight against avoidance of your important tasks and fear that might be on your way, here are some ideas that proved to be useful around the globe:
- If you are a visual type of person, it may help you to write down a number of hours, minutes that you have got left to use in one day. Whenever you find yourself leaning towards avoidance, take a look on it, and it may help you to refocus your thoughts on your most important task.
- When you feel it coming, just pause. Search within yourself. Honestly. Are you being lazy or is there a fear hidden somewhere within you? Are you afraid of not being able to produce a good quality work and that you would be criticized for that? Do you fear that you are not good enough? What is your fear?
- Can you find any reasons for you believing that you will fail at this task? Have you lived a similar experience before when you did not reached the expectations and had to undergo negative consequence? If you are willing to change, try testing the reality of today on a small scale. Give it a try and accept that if you go ahead, you may fall, but there is a great chance that you will rise and finish the thing on time and with great success. Imagine how good it will feel then!
- If you are unable to find out what you might be afraid of, or, if fear is just not being there, just recognize that the time you are going to spend polishing your clean computer screen, or watching TV commercials (yes, many people do that!), etc. - you will never get it back. You have to be OK with it, and foresee that you will not be disappointed of yourself later on. If you are not OK with this, change your focus.
- Care about the outcome of your work. Be aware of it at any moment. If it helps, write this down as a reminder. If you are connected, if you care about it, you will get through it faster and avoid all the pain and time spent suffering for anticipation.
- Push away the thoughts of postponing the unpleasant task. You will, most probably, not be 'miraculously' better informed, prepared, or fit in the evening. The sooner you deal with it, the better you will feel sooner :)
- Use your personal power of Here and Now when going against your recently discovered irrational fear. These series of thoughts that are creation of your mind, can quickly disarm you. If you don’t give it too many turns once you’ve detected what is going on, you will be saving the energy for the actual task that is waiting for you. And there is a great chance that you will be the winner of this battle.
When fear comes detected in your mind, acknowledge it, accept it, and do the awaiting task anyway. This means that you have to be brave in your thought and actions. Making a step out of your comfort zone in small portions will give you a boost to continue each day.
For perfectionists it is important to explore why do you have the need to be perfect. Remind yourself that accomplishing the task itself should be your goal and not accomplishing it with the total perfection. If you wait longer, will you really be closer to perfection when you finish your work? Try to be less strict on yourself and still process the task. You may perfection it later on if needed.
The reality check is useful for all of us. For one it may be enough to have a word with someone, while for another, there may be more people needed to get him going with motivation and reassurance. We are all different, but presence of fears is common to all.