By Wendy Betterini
Have you ever found yourself procrastinating on something you
didn't want to do? It's no surprise that we want to avoid
unpleasant tasks or obligations, but procrastination can also infiltrate
other areas of our lives and stop us from doing things we really
DO want to do. Most of us procrastinate to some degree, like putting
off housecleaning or errands, or avoiding that dreaded trip to the
dentist for a twice-yearly cleaning. But for some people, the procrastination
habit can grow to monstrous proportions so they eventually find
themselves locked into a cycle of fear paralysis.
I should know; I've procrastinated myself into financial
disaster, serious health issues, and chronic depression. It took
a lot of introspection before I understood what was holding me back,
and I'd like to share some insights that may help you take control
of your life again too.
There are many causes of procrastination, and it's helpful
to explore these in more detail to understand if they apply to you:
Perfectionism: Many people who procrastinate have a fear
of not doing something "perfectly". They constantly feel
the need to wait for the perfect time and the perfect circumstances
to take action. Sadly, that never happens, so they keep holding
back, waiting endlessly.
Fear of failure: People who procrastinate because of a
fear of failure feel safer dreaming about the great things they'll
do someday, but they avoid doing them now because they might fail.
They want to wait until they feel stronger and more capable before
they take action, but they don't stop to think that strength
and capability are developed by DOING, not thinking or dreaming.
Fear of success: As strange as it may seem, procrastination
may also be caused by a fear of success. Even though a person may
think he or she WANTS to be successful, they worry about the potential
burden(s) of success, the obligations, increased responsibility,
increased attention from others, and more. It feels safer to stay
behind the scenes, dreaming of success but never daring to achieve
Fear of the unknown: The unknown consequences of taking
action can often cause a person to hold back, because as dissatisfied
with their life as they may be, at least it's familiar. These
people often have the "one wrong move" syndrome, and they
avoid taking action because they fear it might be the wrong action,
which would cause more problems for them.
Low self-worth: A person who doesn't believe they
deserve happiness and success will usually avoid taking action to
create it in their lives. They'll remain locked in unpleasant
circumstances, even though they desperately wish they could get
out of them.
Low self-confidence: Sometimes procrastination is caused
by a simple lack of confidence. A person may desire to change, and
believe they deserve a better life, but they hold back because they
doubt their ability to make lasting changes. Rather than try, they
simply accept the "fact" that they can't do anything
And more: the reasons above may or may not be the cause of your
procrastination. Only you know for sure what makes you procrastinate.
If none of the above strike a chord in you, take some time to figure
out what your fear and hesitation are based on. Write on a sheet
of paper, "I avoid taking action because . . ." and let
your thoughts flow freely. Don't censor yourself, and your subconscious
mind will likely spill the beans.
Once you understand why you're procrastinating, it's
time to develop a plan to help you break free. A successful plan
Addressing and altering your limiting beliefs: This will
take consistent effort on your part, and a willingness to challenge
your beliefs. For example, if you believe you don't deserve
a better life, you'll need to change that belief and convince
yourself that you are worthy of having the things you want.
Taking action: It's ironic that the "cure"
for procrastination is the very thing that causes the fear that
creates it! If you weren't afraid of taking action (for any
reason), you wouldn't procrastinate. In order to overcome procrastination,
you need to be willing to take action in spite of the fear. You
need to build up your courage and ignore those fear-ridden thoughts
that try to stop you.
Start small: The great thing about taking action is that
it builds your confidence bigger and stronger every time you do
it. Even tiny actions have the power to change everything. Most
notably, you suddenly realize that there is nothing to fear. Once
you push through that initial terror, you realize that you're
still okay. This gives you the courage to take another step forward,
It's important to be firm, yet gentle with yourself through
this process. It's good to push yourself a little bit, but not
to the point that you backslide and give up completely. Listen to
yourself and begin to distinguish between your inner guidance and
fearful thoughts. The more you work at it, the clearer and easier
Procrastination is a habit more than anything else, but it also
creates a destructive state of mind that can take on a life of its
own if it's not addressed.
The good news is, it is completely within YOUR control to take
charge of your behavior and stop letting fearful thoughts rule your
Wendy Betterini is a freelance writer specializing in self-improvement
and personal development concepts.