So why do we procrastinate? It’s usually a fear of making mistakes, a fear upsetting others, it’s effectively an emotional freeze or flight response in the older part of the brain. The limbic or emotional brain is far more hardwired in our neurology that the more modern brain, the cortex, and its sole goal is to get you to your death bed safely. If it feels unsafe it will trigger a fight, flight or freeze response as it thinks making a decision is as threatening as a sabre tooth tiger.
So procrastination is a miscalculation of risk by the older part of the brain. Every behaviour or response we have is appropriate in some contexts. Sometimes its good to procrastinate or even better put a decision on hold for now but not if its getting in the way of you committing to someone or something to move your life forward. This blog by Tim Urban goes into more detail.
I’ve been working with a client recently who finds it difficult to commit and if there was an olympic procrastination team, she’d be the captain! She prefers to leave everything until the last minute and loves to live in the present, enjoying the moment. Yogis spend years learning how to live in the moment so it’s not that procrastination in this form is a bad thing, its just that its not a good strategy all the time. So, as we explored this issue, her unconscious mind was telling her that the past has become a place of regrets- so she won’t go there. In her mind, in the future are a whole load of catastrophes waiting to happen, so she won’t go there either. So her unconscious mind decides that the only safe place to focus her attention is in the present moment.
My client wanted to plan a house move, have a change of career and commit to a longterm relationship. This requires decisions to be made and actions to follow. Her strategy wasn’t working for her anymore and her longterm partner was about to leave her.
So, we had a conversation with the procrastinator part of her mind and found out that it wanted her to have a happy, fun life. It had a positive intention but did not realise that its strategy was outdated and not working anymore. We engaged the ‘ get stuff done’ part and these two smaller parts of herself can now begin to work together to get on and do what needs to be done and find time to relax and enjoy the moment afterwards. The upshot of this was that my client walked away feeling so much calmer, each part of her had a role to play now in her life, the battle was over. The new partnership that formed started to help her make better, more balanced decisions.
Interestingly, as these parts began to build a partnership, the future became a whole series of possibilities for her rather than threats and the past became good learning and the regrets faded away.
If you want to find a way to overcome your mind struggles get in touch.