What if the act of procrastinating were actually protecting you from possible danger? Well, there are many motives for procrastination, but one of the most common is actually self-protection.
I'm not telling you that we are always conscious of this underlying motive when we repeatedly refresh our Facebook pages at the office. But taking the step to realize that you may be trying to protect yourself with procrastination can be empowering. By coming to terms with this motive, you may be better able to shed your procrastination habits.
Knowledge is power, in other words. So here are five ways in which procrastination can be an unconscious protection mechanism, and some tips for how to overcome these unproductive thought patterns.
1. Procrastination helps you avoid criticism.
Have you ever worked on a project for ages because you wanted to get it just right? Maybe you actually even finished it, but still never let it see the light of day.
Believe it or not, perfectionism can be a form of procrastination. Let's face it: when you allow the small details of your task to keep you from concentrating on the big picture of the project (e.g. perfectionism), you are procrastinating.
Underlying the need to get everything perfect, ask yourself if there is a fear that people will not like your work and criticize it.
Of course, criticism hurts. So what better way to avoid criticism than to focus on the details so much that the project never gets done? If there's no finished product, nobody will ever have the opportunity to criticize you.
Therefore, tweaking your project until it has no life left in it is an attempt to keep yourself safe from ever having to experience reactions (and possible criticisms) of your work. But with your conscious mind, ask yourself, "Am I safe, or am I stuck?"
2. Procrastination helps you avoid rejection.
Have you ever found yourself putting off making an important phone call that would get the ball rolling on a project? If so, a part of you could be afraid that if you take that big step, you could possibly be rejected.
Rejection obviously stinks. But the adverse effects of rejection largely depend on how we respond to it. What better way to steer clear of rejection and stay "safe" from that feeling than not contacting the person who could possibly reject you?
This way, spending hours researching old high school buddies on Facebook instead of contacting people to get your project up and running keeps you safe from rejection. But once again: is your stagnation keeping you protected, or is it inhibiting your growth?
3. Procrastination helps you avoid losing relationships.
Have you ever felt that some very successful people struggle to maintain healthy relationships? Their careers explode, and the next thing you know, they're traveling a lot, constantly working and their relationships suffer as a result.
If you've ever felt or thought this, a part of you could be procrastinating to keep your relationships from changing for the worse.
Losing relationships and/or feeling lonely is painful. So what better way to avoid the possibility of letting your successful career damage your relationships than to not allow your career to take off in the first place?
In this case, taking 10 years to write a business plan keeps you safe at home with your friends and family. Remember, however, that you can cultivate both your ambitions and your relationships. It's important to treat these distinct facets of your life as distinct, but it doesn't mean that they're inherently incompatible. So explore the nature of your procrastination, and ask yourself if you're avoiding loneliness.
4. Procrastination helps you avoid disappointment.
Have you ever put your heart and soul into something and then showed it to someone who didn't react as you had hoped? If you have, a part of you could be procrastinating to keep you safe from disappointment.
Creating is an ultimate act of vulnerability. That's why it hurts so much when you see someone look with little attention or a disinterested stare at something you've created.
What better way to avoid that feeling of disappointment than to never actually create anything that could possibly not be received or appreciated the way you want it to be?
Therefore, choosing to watch one more episode on Netflix maybe isn't such a bad idea if it protects you from feelings of disappointment, right? Well, sometimes a good TV show is just what you need. But if you are finding this is a constant maneuver, take a minute to explore what you might be trying to avoid. Mindfulness is the first step to changing your habits ...
5. Procrastination helps you avoid failure.
Have you ever thought that it just isn't the right time to start a business or to apply for that new job?
If so, a part of you could be doing other things such as studying, over-preparing, or collecting degrees to put off taking important action steps in your career because you're afraid of failure.
It hurts if something doesn't go as expected and you feel like you failed. You may start to question your skills, experience, and worth.
What better way to avoid feeling not good enough than to never find the right time to put yourself out there and reach for your goals? Waiting for the right time that never comes protects you from failing at something you really want.
Bottom line: there may come a time when feeling safe through procrastination no longer feels good to you. You decide that you don't want that type of protection anymore and instead you want to grow and get your gift out into the world. When that time comes, I invite you to consider helping the parts of you that learned to procrastinate out of fear learn another way to keep you safe from perceived dangers in the future.
If you want to learn more about how to manifest the life and business that your heart desires, check out this free training on How to Cure the Top 4 Procrastination Behaviors.