What do you do when you have stuff to do that in your mind is really hard to do - like studying for an exam, writing a thesis, book, term paper or grant, preparing a presentation or a proposal, doing your taxes, sending in a resume and so on.
How often do you put it off, procrastinating because it seems too hard?
Then, once you procrastinate, what do you do? Do you judge yourself for not getting it done, beating yourself up in the hopes of getting yourself motivated? What happens then?
The wounded self often believes that self-judgment will get you to do what you have to do. But how often does this backfire? You might feel so badly from the self-judgment that now you are afraid to do the hard stuff, fearing that you will not be able to do it, that you are not adequate to the task. You might find yourself immobilized, watching TV rather than doing what you need to do, until you are really under the gun. Then the anxiety of not getting it done takes over and you finally do what you need to do, but all of this has taken a huge toll and you are exhausted. Not great for your health.
I want to encourage you to try a different approach next time you have hard stuff to do, or anytime you find yourself procrastinating. Instead of judging yourself, see if you can bring in compassion for the part of you that doesn't want to do the hard stuff. See if you can acknowledge that what you have to do is hard, and that even though you may want to do it, you may be anxious about being able to do it. Or you may not want to do but you have to do it. What happens to your willingness to do the hard stuff once you are being kind to yourself?
As you open to your compassion and an intent to learn, you might discover that you are not really worried about being able to do it, but that doing this kind of hard stuff makes you feel alone and lonely. If this is the case, acknowledge this rather than judging yourself for it. Some of my clients who have hard writing to do, such as writing a book or planning for a lecture, find that they do better if they ask someone to sit with them, or they go to a WiFi café rather than try to do it alone.
When you have a loving Adult present, acknowledging that what you have to do is hard or boring, and moving into compassion and an intent to learn, you might find numerous ways of getting the work done without the agony of procrastination. The wounded self will always want to put things off and says things like:
- "I have enough time. I'll get it done later."
- "This is too hard. I don't think I can do this."
- "I really don’t want to do this. It's so boring. Maybe it will magically go away."
- "I'm going to feel too lonely doing this. I'll just watch TV and have some ice cream and then maybe I'll feel better."
When you are operating as a loving Adult, you can address these wounded statements with compassion, as well as bring in the truth: that it is hard or boring, that it might feel lonely, but that you are capable of doing it, that it won't magically go away, that you don't want to be under the gun with all the anxiety that goes with that, and that you will likely feel really great once it is finished.
Even if you continue to procrastinate, showing up as a compassionate loving Adult will always feel better than self-judgment, and will eventually lead to loving action.