Breaking Free from Procrastination: The Epitome of Empowerment
Are you stuck in a cycle of procrastination, knowing that something could change your life but struggling to take action? Do you feel that inner tug, urging you to start, yet lacking the energy to begin? Perhaps you've already embarked on a meaningful journey, only to lose momentum along the way.
If any of this sounds familiar, this post is for you as I'm going to share the underlying reasons behind procrastination, and practical tips and tricks to overcome it.
Understanding the Difference: Procrastination vs. Laziness
I want to clarify that while laziness and procrastination may seem similar, they are actually distinct concepts that require different approaches for resolution. In my view, laziness is born from the absence of desire. It arises when there is a lack of interest or motivation, causing a person to simply forgo putting in any effort.
Procrastination, on the other hand, involves a different dynamic. It's when deep down, you have a real desire to improve your life. You truly desire achieving something worthwhile in your lifetime. You can hear your music inside, but don't know how to package your gift to make it attractive to others. You struggle to take initial actions or you start but then you stop which kills the momentum. It's from this perspective that I'll be sharing my insights and experiences with you.
Unraveling Procrastination's Top Excuses: Time and Money
Two common excuses for procrastination are a lack of time and a lack of money. You might catch yourself saying, "I can't do this right now because I don't have the time or the money."
Let's address the issue of time first. If time were truly an obstacle, no one would have achieved amazing breakthroughs in life. For instance, Steve Jobs wouldn't have invented the iPhone.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. What makes the difference is not the amount of time you have, but rather how you choose to prioritize it.
You might argue, "But it's not fair. I work 50 hours a week plus commute time." Perhaps, but what about when you're home? Now you might say, "But you don't understand. When I come home from work, I'm too tired to focus on anything." Okay, what about your days off?
Making Time vs. Finding Excuses: Unraveling the Mindset
Let me illustrate this with a story about how we use time as an excuse. It's your day off, and you are catching up on doing laundry. Clothes are scattered everywhere, and you're totally focused on getting your tasks done when you receive a phone call from your neighbor, Emma.
Emma has accidentally cut her hand while doing some craft work, and it’s bleeding. Concerned, you drop the laundry basket and rush over to assess the situation.
Five minutes ago, you only had time for your chores, but now you're in the car, driving Emma to the emergency room. You didn't magically gain more time in a day; what changed were your priorities. The chores took a backseat because Emma’s well-being became more important. And this is the key distinction I want to make. It's not the time itself that grants us what we want, but rather how we choose to invest our time. As long as you're alive, you can make time. The deeper question is why are you allowing time to slip through your fingers?
Debunking the Money Myth: Creativity Over Capital
Now, let's address money, or the lack thereof, as a reason for not starting something we want to achieve. Yes, money can make things easier as it buys time, knowledge (through hiring someone to assist you), and items like equipment. However, activating your creativity doesn’t require lots of money.
Take J.K. Rowling, for example. When she was organizing her Harry Potter story, she had very little time and money. Can you imagine her sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by Post-it notes everywhere, trying to figure it all out? She had an idea of a story, and she also struggled with how to pay the bills. We know her name today because she found a creative way to leverage her time.
Now, I can hear you saying, "But I don't know where to start. I don't know how to do it. I'm not J.K. Rowling with a creative imagination like hers."
Well, first, I'm not suggesting you should be like her. The example here was to explain that time and money are not the real reasons why we stagnate and procrastinate.
From Procrastination to Inspiration: Finding Your Switch to Success
The truth is that you have a unique gift, buried somewhere within your creative imagination. Think of your mind as a huge library where all the ideas, plans, strategies, and know-how are readily available at your fingertips. When you tap into this part of your mind, you gain the power to accomplish anything you desire in life. It’s like gaining access to an inner-knowing. However, to get what's available to you, you must first turn on the library lights. But where's the switch? Ah!!! There lies the true secret!
The switch can only be activated when you master procrastination. It's common to hesitate and delay because we lack clarity. We procrastinate and use excuses like lack of money and lack of time because we're waiting for the switch to magically turn itself on. But the truth is, you must master procrastination to activate the switch. It’s like a dynamo, energy converted into light.
Now that you understand why it's so important to be proactive, let me take you on another imaginary journey as I peel back the layers that cause procrastination.
From "F" to Fear: Tracing the Roots of Procrastination
As I mentioned, you have been endowed with a unique gift, one that only you can see, activate, and bring into the world.
A long time ago, you carried this unique gift with you wherever you went. But then, you started school to learn new things and acquire additional skills. At school, you were introduced to the grading system, which was created to provide feedback on your performance. One day, you brought home a quiz with a big red "F" on it, and your teacher asked for your parents' signature. When your mom saw the grade, she was deeply disappointed, and it broke your heart.
Seeking Validation in Grades: The Perfectionist's Path
After that incident, rather than nurturing your unique gift, you started focusing more on doing the things that the school system and teachers expected of you. No adults put any value on your unique gift, and so you gradually let go of your essence, that special part of you that makes you unique.
Slowly but surely, you began to leave your being and gift behind, cutting yourself off from your worth. Not knowing why you felt that something was missing in your heart, you proceeded to put meaning in the only place that seemed to matter: obtaining good grades. To make sure you never disappointed anyone, you became a perfectionist and put a lot of expectations on yourself.
Surrendering to Authority: The Impact on Self-Confidence
Over time, it became the norm to rely on authority figures to determine what you should do, using their own perspectives and criteria. Their opinions carried more weight than your own inner guidance and intuition, intensifying a sense of disconnection. You might have wondered, what was the point of being good in art when school expected you to be good in math and language?
As time went on, fear of criticism and fear of being judged were added to the mix. If you were a fish being judged by how fast you could climb a tree, you were simply categorized in the group that most likely would not achieve greatness in life. This led you to feel inadequate, further activating that feeling of not being good enough, eroding your self-confidence.
On the other hand, if you were a squirrel who excelled at climbing trees, you were praised as "most likely to succeed", but that was only if your achievements aligned with the authority figures' criteria. In both cases, the expectations were external, and it felt safer to seek validation and approval from others rather than trusting your own judgment, causing a lot of self-doubt.
The Illusion of Success: Money as a Measure of Worth
When you secured your first job, money became the new measure of success. Financial independence gave you a sense of freedom, as you were no longer as concerned about receiving your parents' approval. However, the more you earned, the more successful you were perceived to be—an illusion, as the amount you received wasn't a reflection of your true worth but rather based on your employer's discretion.
Unlike an entrepreneur who cultivates money wisdom from within, your new job instilled the thrill of instant rewards—for one week’s work, you received one week’s pay. Little did you realize that this habit came at the cost of your precious time and robbed you of the inner knowing of risk and reward.
Furthermore, the pursuit of instant gratification amplified feelings of discontentment because the pursuit of “more money” was still a measure imposed from outside of you. It deprived you of the many lessons learned through delayed gratification, such as building resilience and finding satisfaction from within.
Wanting to feel better, you proceeded to fill the void by acquiring more material possessions, perceiving it as the norm. However, the need for things grew faster than your current financial means, leading you to turn to borrowing money through credit cards, loans, or mortgages. While access to credit provided temporary relief, it also reinforced your dependence on a stable income. The burden of debt intensified the fear of losing your job, further solidifying the need to keep earning to feel safe. This dynamic not only undermined your sense of self-worth but also diminished the value you placed on your own time.
Confronting Fear Courageously: The Path to Liberation
Many years have passed, and you now feel even more disconnected, though you can't quite pinpoint why. Occasionally, you catch glimpses of what your life could be, but uncertainty clouds your vision. When you seek guidance from friends, you find that they, like your teachers and employers, don't hear the music that's playing inside you. Perhaps they too are unaware of their own inner music.
But now, you're back from the emergency room, relieved that Emma's cut wasn't too serious and that she will recover quickly. While waiting at the emergency room, you witnessed the suffering of many people—some enduring acute pain and others facing life-threatening conditions with uncertainty about their future.
This experience has awakened you to the fragility and preciousness of life. Perhaps now is the time to reevaluate your priorities and make the most of the time you have. But where to start?
It all starts with your thoughts. The little story I just shared shows how the emotion of disappointment can have profound ramifications in our lives. And that was only one emotion. I didn't mention other negative triggers like jealousy, envy, greed, anger, resentment, guilt, and many others that I'm sure you've experienced. Beneath it all, these emotions share one common element: fear. Wrapped tightly behind procrastination, there is some kind of fear.
Fear is the only thing that stands between you and your dreams. Master your fear, and you will suddenly realize it no longer has any hold on your mind. You cannot remove or suppress fear; you simply need the courage to face it.
The voice of the ego is laden with fear-based thoughts
Let's explore the various fears that arise when embarking on something new.
Fear of the unknown
Fear of the unknown is a major roadblock. Who doesn't love to take the road less traveled? Imagine you're used to hiking on the same familiar, well-defined trail. But one day, your intuition leads you to a different path that seems much less inviting. This new trail is overgrown with three-foot-high weeds and tangled branches, and you have no clue where it might lead you.
The first thought that comes to mind is whether it's worth the effort to venture down this path or if it will turn out to be a dead-end. How long will it take? A day, a week, a month? What if it takes 10 years? Since you lack clarity and cannot foresee what lies ahead, you continue contemplating whether to embark on this new path, struggling to make up your mind.
And that's when procrastination disguised in indecision takes hold. You've been nudged by the universe, and deep inside, you sense that there's something for you on this new path, yet you can't decide.
So, how can you address this situation? Tell yourself, "If I accomplish this one thing today, I've achieved success." For example, your task is to clear a 3-foot path each day. Then, maintain that same pace for a period of time.
This approach allows you to build muscle, stamina, and new mental pathways. Remember that learning something new is not easy at first. Resist the temptation to criticize the outcomes. Your ego might show up, filling your mind with negative self-talk like, "This sucks" or "Am I cut out for this?"
Whenever you hear this inner dialogue, consider a broader view of life. You don't expect an apple to grow overnight, and you don't expect an infant to run. The same applies to anyone starting something new. Remind yourself that it's okay to take baby steps.
There may be days when you might consider doing more, but at first, resist the temptation. The reason for this is to avoid your mind or your ego telling you the next day: "You worked twice as hard yesterday, you deserve a break."
It takes time to establish new habits, and the last thing you want is an excuse that leads you back to old ways.
Embracing the Present Moment: Overcome Frustration and Anxiety
Don't worry about tomorrow or next month. Focus only on the present moment. Most importantly, it's not just about what you do, but also about who you are being while doing it. If you approach tasks with frustration, anger, or anxiety, it means two things: you're either not fully present in the moment, or your ego is consuming your mind. In both cases, I would invite you to stop and ask yourself why you feel that way.
Remember, your ego is closely watching your every move and waiting for opportunities to undermine you. Why? Because your ego was created by you, and it knows its job security is at stake.
Confronting the Fear: releasing the shackles that holds you back
Another fear that needs to be mastered is the fear of failure, closely followed by the fear of criticism. As I shared earlier in the story, the fear of failure is closely linked to our childhood disappointment wound. We care so much about what people think that we fear being criticized. And because of our past programming, we develop safety in letting others tell us what to do rather than risking being criticized.
One of the challenges to overcome the fear of failure and criticism is to become more assertive, confident, and regain trust in your gut instinct. We need these attributes to create and maintain healthy boundaries.
Why? Because most likely, when you embark on something new, your loved ones will project their fears onto you. It's one thing to overcome your fear, it's something else when your fears are compounded with your loved ones' fears. Remember, they can’t hear the music within you, not until you convert it into concrete form.
Another thing that might hold you back from starting something new is the fear of success. It might show in different ways, like the fear of having more responsibility on your shoulders. But remember, "no risk, no reward."
Fear of Costly Mistakes: Navigating Financial Security Concerns
Another factor that can hold you back is the fear of making costly mistakes. Deep down, this fear stems from concerns about financial security and the fear of loss. Questions may arise, such as, "Is it safe to mortgage my home to start a new business?" or "What if I end up losing everything?"
Many people pursue material possessions to gain status, and we often perceive those who possess a lot of things as financially successful. However, we often overlook the fact that material possessions don't truly fulfill our hearts, especially if they were obtained unethically. What truly lasts and matters are the inner qualities you cultivate within yourself—confidence, inner trust, resilience, self-worth, empowerment, fulfillment, and the freedom to be yourself. These qualities cannot be purchased; they require action and investment in yourself. The more you invest in your personal growth, the greater the rewards.
We tend to appreciate and assign value to things that we can see and touch. However, the reality is that all these external things could vanish in an instant. So, who do you become when they are no longer there? When you invest in yourself, no one can take that away from you, regardless of external circumstances.
Mastering Procrastination: Letting Your Inner Guide Lead the Way
Ultimately, it comes down to what truly matters to you. We all struggle with the fear of loss, but it's important to remember that with loss comes the potential for something new to emerge. Yes, it requires courage to start something new, and it demands dedication to see it through. The beauty, though, is that you don't have to start big. In fact, the idea of one giant step that changes everything is an illusion.
Every masterpiece starts with one stroke. Every home begins with a single line on a blueprint. True success lies in the small steps you take moment by moment. So, if the fear of making a costly mistake is stopping you, start small. You don't have to risk your entire home if you're not comfortable with it. It's perfectly acceptable to take calculated risks.
In conclusion, I will say, mastering procrastination is not a sprint, it’s a journey. It’s part of progressing forward. There will be time where you will need to be still and contemplate. See that as a seed establishing its root. A tree can only grow tall if it has strong root system to supports its growth. On other time, it will be important to get up and do the thing you promise yourself you will do. Don’t wait for the right time. Let your body and your intuition guide you. And when it gets challenging remember this quote: “You cannot lose what belongs to you by divine right.”