LifeTip: Meet Your Procrastination with Compassion

 Photo by  Sandro Katalin a on  Unsplash

I have a confession to make: I am horrible at writing blogs.

You might be a bit confused, since you are literally reading a blog post that I have, in fact, written – believe me, the irony is not lost on me. But really and truly, I’ve found that writing a blog is one of the hardest things for me to do at the moment. I don’t understand it either, because I normally love to write, and I think I can even be good at it sometimes. However, my paper/blog writing process is faulty, and I’ve been stuck in a negative feedback loop for as long as I can remember. I procrastinate. I avoid it. I start, and then I don’t finish. I meet the idea of it with dread. Then once I’ve waited too long, my anxiety sky-rockets and nothing makes sense. I’m in a hurry, and I’m not producing something I like which leads to frustration and disappointment and wanting to just give up. Rinse. Repeat. This whole process is extremely challenging, and it just makes me feel really, really crummy.

In many of my sessions, I have asked clients to pay attention to what they’re thinking, feeling, and deciding in their own challenging moments. This is illustrated by a triangle, where each point represents Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors; all of them connecting and influencing the next.

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Whether we know it or not, we’re using this triangle all the time in nearly every decision we make. When our thoughts are generally positive, the triangle/cycle tends to be positive and run smoother. When our thoughts are negative, however, the opposite is also true and can leave many people feeling stuck. To illustrate, here is what my writing process looks like:

Event: Blogs are due next week. I think, “I should write one about that TED talk I just watched!” I open a new word document, write a few things down, and then wonder what direction I’ll take with the info.

  • Thought: “I don’t know what to do with all of this, how do I make it make sense?”

  • Feeling: Overwhelmed, anxious

  • Behavior: I start to question my abilities, become flooded by my anxiety, and eventually shut down to avoid completing the task

  • Thought: “I AM SO BAD AT THIS!”

Event: Days later I think, “I should write about something more interesting, I’m probably the only one who thinks this is cool.”

  • Thought: “I’m not interesting enough to make something good"

  • Feeling: Inadequate, frustrated, sad

  • Behavior: I don’t like feeling this way, so I’m just going to do something else instead of finishing

  • Thought: “I AM SO BAD AT THIS.”

I could go on and on with this, but hopefully you get the idea. My deadline approaches and because of all my past experiences and behavior, I start to believe that I’m really bad at writing blogs which leaves me feeling stressed and incompetent. Since I don’t want to feel that way I decide to just avoid writing all together. When I avoid it, I’ve just reinforced the idea that I can’t do it and I’m bad at writing. Then I feel bad all over again, and the cycle repeats itself.

Through this exercise I recognize that maybe I’m not actually bad at writing blogs, but that I have an unrealistic expectation that it has to be perfect, and deep down I’m really just scared of failing or embarrassing myself. It has nothing to do with my actual abilities to write a blog, but in how compassionately I talk to myself. How different would this cycle look if instead of cruelly putting myself down, I compassionately thought, “I am a good writer” or “I take my time so I can take pride in my work”? The cycle takes on a totally different tone, and I’m left feeling more competent and calm, which then allows me to actually write something I can take pride in. Instead of believing that I am horrible at writing, I’ve realized that I really just want to do my best and I deserve much, much more self-compassion.

I’d like to challenge each of you to explore what you might be thinking, feeling and deciding when you’re faced with a difficult task that you might be putting off. What might your child be thinking, feeling and deciding in their challenging moments? As you think about it, remember to be kind to yourself in those moments and give yourself the compassion that you need.