How to Overcome Avoidance & Procrastination

How to overcome avoidance & procrastination

How to overcome avoidance & procrastination

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal a simple process to overcome procrastination and avoidance.

First a quick update:

“Why powerful men cheat
Why do powerful men cheat with powerless women? Listen to the interview I give ot Radio New Zealand and Jim Mora.

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Now, let’s talk about a simple process to overcome procrastination and avoidance.

Existential Nihilism is a philosophical theory that states that life in and of itself has no real meaning, and we don’t know why we are born and therefore we choose to give and invent meanings in life. Therefore, it is further argued, that life and its events/occurrences have no meaning except the meaning to which we give them.

In other words, we are giving and creating meaning for things that happen and things that we do.

Why is this relevant?

We interpret and give meanings to things, to events and to the way people interact with us.

For example, a cashier is rude to us and we can choose to interpret it as our fault, as a very serious event, or we can choose to interpret it as ‘this person is having a bad day.’

The same applies to driving: depending on our own personal mood and circumstances in the moment, we can respond in multiple ways to someone who cuts us off on the road.

If we are feeling relaxed, calm and we have plenty of time, we might choose to ignore the person (giving it no meaning) or we might choose to think this person must be in a real hurry for something important. If on the other hand, we are already stressed, late for an appointment and tense, we might choose to take the other driver’s action personally and we might respond with anger and the desire to retaliate.

Existential nihilism claims that there is no intrinsic meaning or value in anything and that there are infinite ways to interpret the event and infinite meanings we can give the event.

This is not accurate because humans have basic needs and an hierarchy of needs, beginning with physical survival and safety, moving through the need for love and connection up to the need of self-actualization (realizing one’s potential.)

Again, how is this relevant to conquering avoidance and procrastination?

Since we interpret events and we give them meaning, the way we interpret them and the meaning to which we give them determines the action we will take and the way we will respond.

Think of a task or action which you avoid or put off (procrastinate); what meaning do you give the event?

For example, you have been asked to give a presentation for business or to make a speech for a family event.

What are your immediate thoughts and feelings: This will be fun and exciting, I want to express myself, I want to connect with these people, I will make a fool of myself or I can’t do it and people will judge me.”

There is a voice in your head (The Great Trickster) which asks the question such as “What if I make a fool of myself? What if I fail? What if they reject me?

From there, we also create pictures in our heads of the possible outcome and it then also creates a feeling/emotion; if the voice is an empowering voice of encouragement, then we create a “what if” of a welcomed outcome, which, in turn, creates emotions that move us to take action.

The powerful question “What if?” is what has led to technological progress.

For example the creators of “What’s App” asked the question: What if we could find a way for people to send text messages, photos and videos worldwide on a cell phone without being charged for them?

The imagined scenario along with the motivational emotion of possibility helped them to create the app which they eventually sold for over $17 billion.

But most of us use “What if?” to generate fear and to create and hypothesize the worst possible case scenarios:

What if I fail?

What if it doesn’t work out?

What if they don’t like me?

What if they reject me?

What if I make a fool of myself?

And then we answer that question with yet another interpretation:

What if I tell him the truth and he rejects me and then I will be all alone?

The meaning and the way we interpret events is not a new concept or philosophy. It is a fundamental teaching of Buddhism – the meaning to which we give events and the way we become attached creates our suffering.

Werner Erhard, creator of EST which later became Landmark Forum also taught the same principle:

  • There is a big difference between what actually happened in a person’s life and the meaning or interpretation they made up about it
  • People add meaning to events in their life which are not necessarily true

Building on those principles, Morty Lefkoe created a process which quickly and easily transforms the fear of action into the desire to take action. Here are his simple steps to conquer avoidance and procrastination as summarized and expanded upon by me:

1. What are you avoiding?
List the action you are avoiding (notice the ways you distract yourself)

2. What if?
What is the voice in your head? What is The Great Trickster saying? Look for the “What if” question; what does it say?

3. What is the story and meaning?
Identify and list the meaning – this is the answer to your “What if” question. For example, “Well, what if I ask her out and she says “no”? It will mean I am unattractive and no one wants me and I will forever be alone.” It is the meaning that you are giving the event/ along with an emotion for the fantasized result. Which emotion does this cause? What is the story you are creating?

4. What actually happened?
Describe the event/action without giving it meaning or judgment

5. The difference between reality and fearful fantasies
Distinguish the meaning you are giving in your mind to this event/outcome from the reality. What new meaning could you give this event/action?

In most cases, the less meaning we can give an event (i.e. the less fear and destructive meanings we can give to the event) the more willing and empowered we will become to take the action.

Finally, it is okay to give meaning to events in life; simply remember that if you are giving them meaning, you also have the power to decide what meanings you are giving them. When we are free of fear, we often focus on positive outcomes.

And if you need help to break past fear and gain emotional strength, consider a one-on-one private session with me. Watch the video here.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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