There are many things we procrastinate over, and there are double that many excuses people give for procrastinating. Yes. Excuses. You can either have excuses or results. Not both. And the pain of excuses is, unfortunately, perceived as easier to deal with than the results of getting something done.
You’re reading this article and you may have two reactions… “Why would someone do something so counter-intuitive?” Or “Oh Drat, what the Jell-O did I get myself into. How did they know?” Both reactions are setting you up for procrastination. Yes. Both. Because everyone procrastinates to some extent.
Your brain has one job… keep you safe and alive. This is a basic drive, and you cannot avoid it. If you have kids, your brain has double duty. It needs to keep you and your offspring safe alive long enough for grandchildren. Parents, this is why your brain seems less useful after each subsequent kid and why you can’t seem to quiet your mind.
Your brain keeping you safe against your better judgment is where procrastination comes into our lives. Unbeknownst to many of us, when we are faced with a NEW opportunity, our brain panics. Your brain hasn’t experienced this NEW thing before, and any NEW thing has the potential to kill you (okay, you know it doesn’t – but your brain, on a basic level doesn’t). And your brain will do three simple things in succession to handle this NEW thing.
- Come up with some reason to not do the new thing. Creative people like Writers seem to be exceptionally proficient at coming up with lots of good excuses not to do it and disguise them as perfectly “logical reasons”.
- When outvoted by free-will, the brain will try to categorize the imminent threat and figure out how to proceed. This will put like things together and help choose the safest path if something similar has ever happened before. NOTE: This is where irrational fears come in. Ever had a bad experience? It is now part of the “it almost happen and it could kill you next time” brigade in your brain file.
- After choosing the safest option available, your brain adapts to the new thing. This is learning. Learning takes more effort for your brain than avoiding. Learning also expands the possibilities your ridiculous survival brain can choose from when picking the safest route.
Choice is the secret. When someone is in the habit of the habit of letting their survival brain win, they need more support to make a new choice. Put another way, the habit of procrastinating needs more tools than a daily planner to fix the problem.
Habits are hard to change and impossible to remove. Habits keep you safe. Your brain LOVES habits, and love is one of those happy things you want in your life…you can’t give up something you love. See, the brain has so many ways of keeping you right where you are. So how can you do things differently?
Habits can be replaced – by new habits. There are hundreds of sneaky habits conducting your day for you. It leaves the brain open to watch out for dangers. Skipping a habit somewhere in the day, “throwing off your schedule”, puts the brain in new territory again, and it is trying to “correct” and “get you back on track” using all of those seemingly logical excuses to get you back in line. Everyone feels a bit thrown off their game when we miss part of our daily routine. How we deal with the hiccup in our day is in direct proportion to how loud our survival brain is demanding we get back on track and the strength of our better judgment to choose what we want to do.
So it’s time to make a swap. A bad habit for a good one. Think of procrastinating as a bad habit allowing your survival brain to win the debates about what you are going to do. Your survival brain is very sneaky. It knows better what motivates and scares you faster than your better judgment can think. So making a habit that ignores your survival brain WILL NOT WORK! You must use your brain to help you.
Your brain will ALWAYS lobby for the safest route. Your brain will steer you back to this safe route at the earliest possibility, and it will maintain this safe route even if the entire planet is screaming for you to change course.
To change the habit of procrastinating, you need to train your brain to believe the path you want is the safe route. How do you convince your brain what you want to do is the safe path?
ANSWER COMING NEXT WEEK!