Why do we avoid doing the things we NEED to do, that are GOOD for us or that we really WANT to do? It’s a question that comes up often when clients I’m coaching find themselves experiencing blocks to taking the action they know they need to.
There’s a bit of a myth about Other People and how they’re so much more motivated, disciplined and effective than we are; we probably all have a friend who seems to be able to Get Things Done in a way we can only be in awe of.
When I wrote my last blog I gave you three ways to make the best use of your time so that you can create space for doing more of the things you love.
But what if you do all that and you STILL can’t get going?
You’ve fixed your priorities and know what the Most Important Things are and now you’ve scheduled the time for them, and then ….
you find yourself doing something completely different!
So what’s going on?
We’re talking Avoidance and Procrastination here. When those two losers show up we have to create some dynamic new habits to replace them and dig deep to find out what avoidance and procrastination get for us that’s better than doing something we need to get done or something that we really, really want to do for ourselves.
And how do we replace habits? Well, we have to work at it and even use a bit of subterfuge to creep up and surprise ourselves!
So here are my top tips on how to kick Avoidance and Procrastination out of the door:
Stay focused on one thing at a time.
I keep on about this but I know from bitter experience how much distraction can get in the way of doing what I want and need to do. Decide what it is you’re doing and just do that ONE thing, while eliminating other distractions as much as you can. Keep a beady eye on yourself too so that you can bring your attention back to what it is you’re doing if you go wandering off.
Get in a state.
It’s not what you think! When we’re in the right state of mind we can find things really flow. Try taking a deep breath and remember what it feels like to do whatever it is you want to do; recall the sounds and smells associated with the activity, even see yourself doing it. Remember how great that was? Keep that emotional state in your memory so that you can revisit it as needed.
Give yourself permission
A bit of self-compassion goes a long way here too! You are ALLOWED to look after yourself and meet your needs – it’s not indulgence, it’s not selfish – so treat yourself kindly. What would you say to your best mate if she wasn’t looking after herself and putting off doing things she really wanted to do?
Build new habits over time.
Making new habits means you need to understand the lure of the old, bad habits you’re trying to replace. If you end up watching TV in the evening when you really wanted to take a yoga class or spend a few hours drawing/writing/learning the guitar, then what does watching TV get for you? Is it cosy on the couch with the cat and a glass of wine (sounds pretty tempting actually)? Often it feels like a reward at the end of a long, busy day.
But what about the rewards offered by those other things? Be clear what the benefits are for you of the new habit or activity and why you want to do it (see my point about state above).
And you can still give yourself an hour of TV later on with the cat (and the wine), especially now you never really need to miss a favourite programme with all the technology we have to record/download or catch up with shows.
To help you commit to the new habit you could try telling at least three people who you trust to support you: let them know exactly what it is you want to do so that you have to be accountable to them for making the change you want. And remember that if you mess up don’t give up (and don’t give yourself a hard time about it), just pick up the next day and carry on.
And lastly there’s mindset ….
Why mindset may be the missing motivator.
Our brain and our subconscious are powerful things and they influence us in ways we’re often not aware of; there’s endless background chatter that frequently feeds us negative information about ourselves and the world around us.
And if we let that negative chatter get to us then we’re sabotaging ourselves big time and all our good intentions will fall by the wayside.
Is your self-talk telling you that you’re not talented enough, that things don’t work out for you like they do for others, that you’re unlucky, that you can’t learn new things, that it’s all bound to go wrong, that you don’t have the skills that you need?
If any of these ring a bell then you need to change your mindset and start recognising that things aren’t fixed the way you believe they are. Your mind is an amazing tool that can learn and grow new connections, so just because you can’t play the guitar now doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to. You’re not fixed and, no matter what your age, you can change and develop – in fact, I think midlife is a great time to discover new talents and reinvent yourself!
Get some helpful advice on this whole subject in my post about getting unstuck. And find out more about how to develop a ‘growth mindset’ from the woman who coined the phrase based on her research in to what motivates people.
What things are you avoiding at the moment? Let me know in the comments below.