A dreaded word, and with good reason.
When we perpetuate the habit of not following through on things that feel important to us or waste precious time and energy saying we’re going to do something but never actually doing it, procrastination is most definitely a habit that could use some upgrading.
But sometimes when it looks like you’re procrastinating, things might not be quite as black and white as they appear.
In my personal experience and over years of working with smart, self-aware, heart-centered and well-intentioned yet often self-defeatingly perfectionistic women, I find there’s often one or more of the following four things at play when it looks, on the surface, like we’re procrastinating.
So before jumping to the assumption that procrastination has taken the wheel the next time you find yourself dragging your feet on taking action on something (and then beating yourself up about it), you might pause and check in at the following four inner checkpoints:
You’re on the precipice of expanding into some new and vulnerable terrain. The part of you that wants to keep you safe from physical harm and protected from emotional risk will do anything in its power — including employing the sneaky tricks of your Inner Critic and control-loving ego — to try to keep you safe.
To check in with any fear acting as a speed bump (or brick wall) between you and the action you want to be taking, you can simply pause and investigate with curiosity:
What fear is present within me right now? Check in with where you’re directly experiencing fear as sensation in your body.
What might this fear be trying to tell me? Don’t assume fear’s message is the most obvious one. Dig beneath the surface to check out a) what this fear could be trying to protect you from and b) is this fear telling you the capital t Truth?
The key to working with fear is to always, first and foremost, acknowledge that it’s present — to name it. Because you can’t work with something you’re pretending isn’t there.
Then you can make room for the fear to be here rather than trying to shove it out the door or feigning fearlessness.
Because as long as you’re human, fear will show up when something feels risky to some part of you. But fear only becomes a problem when we try to either resist it or take what it’s telling us on face value as truth.
Get in there with curiosity and explore what this fear is really about, and your next appropriate actions will flow from there.
2. Values conflict.
When there’s “one part of you” that cares about one thing and “another part of you” that cares about something else, you might experience some internal tension.
Two or more of your values are tugging at opposite ends of an inner tug-‘o-war rope.
In the case of a recent personal example, part of me wanted to keep a private Facebook group of women I’d been running for several years open for all the joy, connection, and community it nurtured.
But another part of me was feeling called toward more “real life” (offline) presence, more spaciousness and more freedom in some new ways.
When I noticed I was dragging my feet on taking action with either more fully engaging in the group or closing its doors, I took a look at which values of mine were tugging against one another and realized it made perfect sense that I was feeling a little stuck. Once I explored what was at play behind the scenes, the decision became easeful and clear.
All parts of you are 100% valid, and all aspects of you are worthy (and in need) of nonjudgmental exploration.
So take a curious look around at which of your values or priorities might be playing a little game of tug-‘o-war, and see where you might be able to consciously shift things around a bit.
3. You’ve entered a natural integration or germination phase.
Despite what your whip-cracking Inner Critic might be telling you, we humans are simply not capable of always being in an outward phase — of constantly doing doing doing.
Life and energy move in seasons and cycles.
There are phases when major external action is called for and phases when a more inward, reflective energy is most wise and appropriate.
There are phases when fruit is ripe and ready to be picked, but there has to be an attentive seed-planting and watering phase in order to get to that ripe fruit phase.
So you can pause to check in:
Could this moment simply be signaling that a natural rest, integration, or germination phase is being called for?
4. It’s time for a fresh chapter.
Again zooming out to remember the natural cycle of all life, including your human one, sometimes a particular chapter has simply run its course and it’s time to acknowledge that this is a moment to turn the page to a fresh chapter.
This phase calls for some extra stillness, space and self-compassion, as it tends to involve some grief (losses both “big” and “small” require grief to be fully processed and integrated) or forgiveness work.
It’s hard for us humans to let go of things, even when deep in our beings we know it’s the “right” thing for our greatest good.
And it can be scary to step into uncertainty, even when we trust on the bigger picture level that some next great thing wants to enter this space.
The less you resist or judge whatever cycle you’re in — whether around procrastination or anything else in your life — the more smoothly things will get flowing again.
So be gentle with yourself as you turn inward and explore whatever’s present for you in this moment with some nice nonjudgmental curiosity, having faith that it’s all OK.
Lots of Love,
PS – I also shared these 4 check-ins around what may look like procrastination in a recent Facebook video.