This post is for people who are self-aware and honest enough to admit they procrastinate and are prepared to ask themselves:
“Why can’t I just get started?”
I know you know who you are!
Although, unfortunately, if you procrastinate you might not read this.
So, if you know someone else who procrastinates, please read this and share the ideas with them! Please be gentle…
Some Of My Weaknesses
When I was young, things came easily to me. I was encouraged to take up more or less any opportunity that came my way… I fell a lot and simply got up and tried again.
This isn’t unusual of course… most people have a similar experience. It might well sound like a strength… but I had no perception of failing and persevering. I was just having fun!
As I grew into my mid-teens, along came the era when I thought I knew everything and took less interest in learning anything new and continued having fun!
Nobody else went through that of course…
During my twenties, I joined a company that preached the concept of “get it right the first time”.
A little odd when you consider that their founder, Thomas J. Watson, some years earlier had famously stated: “You can be discouraged by failure, or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all the mistakes you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success – on the far side of failure”.
If only I’d picked up on TJW’s idea back then!
Over time my learning stalled… and my interest in doing anything new waned. It was easy to blame circumstances for my procrastination (and I did at times) whereas my experiences were really all of my own makings.
Deep down, I knew that as an adult I was responsible for my own outcomes. Although, I really had no idea what that meant. Nowadays I don’t blame anyone else for my trend back then, it was a direct result of my mindset at the time.
Procrastination became a way of life.
In hindsight, life was perhaps too easy at the time. I often simply “couldn’t be bothered”! It never occurred to me that an inherent fear was the primary cause. In my mind, I wasn’t afraid of anything!
During my late twenties, I had friends who used to get themselves into deepish philosophical discussions (or at least that’s what I thought they were after a beverage or two). I found myself involved in discussions on the fear of failure (understandable I thought) and then the fear of success (slightly less easy to fathom at the time).
The thing is that both of these fears, which were unacceptable to me at that time, seemed to imply that the sufferer wasn’t prepared to take responsibility for their actions. Those people often avoided or scuppered opportunities. That wasn’t me of course! I knew I was procrastinating somewhat, but… Nah… being afraid wasn’t me (denial was easy).
One day, in one of our discussions, someone started talking about a fear of taking the first steps. Someone else in the group called it a fear of getting started (nowadays often referred to as FOGS for short) and explained they had, in the past, been afraid to start anything. Both were clearly more self-aware and honest than I was.
The first person said he had somehow come to realise that first steps don’t necessarily lead to just one path. He explained that he’d realised there would always be more options appearing, more decisions to make and many different opportunistic paths to follow.
For some reason that I can’t explain, this (new to me) way of looking at procrastination got through.
Cutting a long story short…
… after some thinking and various discussions with others…
… I realised I really was afraid of taking the first step… in some things.
So I began to take a deeper look at myself.
Through self-examination, I realised that I was afraid of making a decision to take the first steps. I perceived I’d be cutting down my options for the future.
I perceived being committed to a decision as being committed to following a single path.
More importantly, perhaps, I also came to the conclusion that the fears of success, failure and getting started, for me at least were more to do with being fearful of taking responsibility!
I didn’t want to take responsibility for the results of carrying out my own decisions. This had led to a self-developed habit of often avoiding making decisions and relying on others around me to decide…
What Is FEAR?
So, although FOGS is an acronym for Fear Of Getting Started, the word “fear” was the stumbling block for me. I found it difficult to accept that I was “afraid” of anything.
I guess FOGS isn’t procrastination as such; but it can, if not addressed, along with any other related fears, lead to chronic procrastination.
So what is fear then?
Being afraid of something conjures up feelings of discomfort… this is perfectly normal because the brain does everything it can to protect us. The brain will do everything it can to minimise change. Caution isn’t a bad thing… so long as we control it consciously as opposed to being controlled by our subconscious mindset.
The thing about me was that by not deciding to get on with something, I didn’t need to take responsibility whatever the outcome, and so long as I didn’t start, I couldn’t fail! Can you understand that?
I hadn’t realised that the feelings of discomfort I experienced indicated a fear, and my resultant procrastination became a habit!
Feelings have a very uncanny way of convincing us that they are based on fact… when most of the time they aren’t. Often, not even a little bit of fact! Fears usually reflect flawed logic. However, there are sometimes risks to consider.
When we genuinely examine the facts of a situation, we often discover that most risks identified can be controlled in one way or another. There may be some risks that simply can’t be controlled by us. Even so, they’re worth becoming aware of so that we can prepare to handle any consequences.
The level of control we do have can be developed. Creating habits is like developing muscles. They need to be developed deliberately. This requires a deliberate focus and a deliberate change in our reactions to the experiences of discomfort.
I Often Made Excuses
Yes, they were excuses… as opposed to solid reasons. They were self-imposed barriers designed by me to avoid making a commitment:
- Lack of time was my favourite excuse said out loud. It was very rarely true.
- “I don’t know where to start” was something I often said to myself. My subconscious “monkey mind” worked overtime with this. I agreed too easily without bothering to challenge it. In those days, I didn’t know much about how my brain and mind work!
- “I’m no good at that!”… I often said this to myself about things that I hadn’t even tried. Not even a little. My monkey mind was on duty again! How on earth did I agree with that, especially when I’d managed to achieve unexpected challenges when younger.
13 Deliberate Thinking Habits
A list of guidelines for getting started:
- Genuinely address & accept your fears. Be honest and open-minded with yourself.
- When you decide to make a change, it’s often good to start small.
- Be aware enough to notice opportunities to seize.
- Examine the facts of a situation… focus on the facts, plan then take action.
- We fear what we don’t know or understand; so learn what you need to.
- Tame the “monkey mind”.
Notice when it talks with you, handle it, and don’t let it control your conscious thinking.
- Understand that life is short… procrastination is a waster. Deliberately address fears.
- To fail is a sign of learning… so manage expectations. It’s ok to fail… learn what you can from failing… realise that mostly there’s no such thing as failure, all outcomes provide feedback!
- Be aware of things outside your control, but don’t dwell on them beyond planning a contingency when necessary. Instead, focus on what you can control.
- Become passionate… be excited… that’ll develop unstoppable energy.
- Get organised. This starts with knowing what you want to achieve and why. Here’s a practical 6 Step Blueprint To Success to help you on your way.
- Be careful who you choose to share aspirations or goals with. Your monkey mind will give you a hard enough time without having to deal with negative people as well.
- Realise that whatever you want, competition validates your aspirations.
Overcoming the fear of getting started is about replacing the fear…
Replace it with the idea that when we feel uncomfortable, we are growing.
There’s no growth without discomfort.
If you want to grow as a person become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
Don’t ignore the discomfort though.
Figure out the facts of a situation, before deciding to plan and take action based on whatever it is that you want to achieve. Know why you want to do what you decide.
Know that, if you don’t feel uncomfortable then you’re not stretching enough.
Realise this… if you want something new, then by default you will need to change something… if you want to change, it will be uncomfortable.
Don’t let any feelings of discomfort stop you from consciously taking as much control as possible.
Be genuine with yourself and look forward to learning something new.
Develop habits that allow for appropriate change and learning…
Deliberately practice reacting positively, whatever happens, every day and just get started!
OK…that’s it for now, but I’d love to hear from you! Do tell me what you think in the comments. If you like what you… please share below!