Seth Godin came out with a book, “Poke the Box” that is all about getting started, not some day but NOW! But it seems that the pressures to delay are stronger than the pressures to act.
I had a big breakthrough several years ago.
I was sitting in my office under a dark cloud of procrastination and delay. I just couldn’t seem to take action on anything. I was unmotivated, uninspired and just drifting aimlessly.
A huge pile of uncompleted things sat on my desk, hissing like snakes. I was afraid to even go near them.
“When will this end?” I thought. “What can I do?”
Well why not try Byron Katie’s process that I had been reading about in her book, “Loving What Is? If there ever was a test for this process that she called The Work, this was it.
First step: Identify the stressful or limiting belief behind my procrastination behavior. This took awhile. I tried many and they just didn’t ring true. But after a few attempts I came up with this one:
“I’m just not able to handle everything I have to do.”
That’s exactly what I’d been telling myself, but hadn’t been aware of it. I’d been acting as if procrastination was the flu and I just had to wait until it had run its course. But no, here was a big fat limiting belief staring me in the face.
OK, next step. Is that belief true; can I absolutely know it’s true?
Well, it certainly felt true. I didn’t feel able to handle all the things I had on my plate. I felt overwhelmed and discouraged. But is it absolutely true? No, I guess not. There have been many times I’ve handled a lot more than what I was facing now.
Next question: How am I reacting and behaving when I believe that thought?
That was obvious. I was staring at the pile of stuff and the list of things on my desk not doing anything. It was as if the belief was a command that told be I couldn’t handle it and I had to act consistently with that command. Hmmm, interesting.
Next question: Who would I be and how would I behave if it was impossible to attach to that belief? If I could no longer think that belief, how would things be different?
This question put my mind on tilt for a few minutes. It was asking me to unthink the thinkable. I was thinking I wasn’t able to handle everything and I was asked to project into a future where that thought didn’t exist, couldn’t exist.
My mind started to become quiet as I grasped the ramifications of this simple, yet profound thought experiment. Well, if I couldn’t think that thought anymore, I’d stop procrastinating, I’d just take the next step that was in front of me.
Now the turnaround: Turn the belief around to its opposite. Okay, “I’m able to handle everything I have to do.”
Now is that new belief just as true or truer than the original belief? Reflecting for a just a few moments it was clear that it was truer. After all, haven’t I handled a thousand things in my life? Haven’t I accomplished big things, certainly bigger than the things on my desk right now?
I sat at my desk in kind of a stunned silence. Wow, it was as if I’d hypnotized myself with that belief. I was believing something that was nonsense but that had such a powerful impact on my behavior.
And now I was waking up from that hypnotic trance.
“What to do now?” I said to myself as a feeling of calm, joy and quiet confidence spread throughout the whole of my being.
I looked down at the pile of paper and projects and they didn’t look like hissing snakes anymore; they were just a list of things to do.
I dove in, one item at a time, and by the end of the day everything I’d been procrastinating on for several weeks was done. Complete.
And if that is all that had happened, it would have been a breakthrough, but that was the only start. For the next several months I literally could not find procrastination. It was nowhere to be found.
Instead, I had my goals, intentions, projects and list… and me getting them done! A huge period of productivity ensued. And it’s rare since they that I get caught up in procrastination for more than an hour at a time. If I do, I quickly identify the underlying thought and it evaporates with little effort or struggle.
Is this work the only way to get unstuck? My guess is that there are many ways to free ourselves from limiting, stressful, fearful beliefs that are holding us back from taking action now.
But this is now the way I poke myself whenever an unconscious belief is telling me to get started later, to think about it more, to wait until I get more agreement from others.
The More Clients Bottom Line: We don’t start things now because we are constrained by hidden, unconscious beliefs that are interested in our safety and survival. These beliefs are more concerned with us looking good, not getting rejected and maintaining the status quo than they are interested in us being successful, making a difference or changing the world.
By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert’s web site at www.actionplan.com for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.