As life goes on, we face many challenges. Some of these challenges may be caused by our own doing, while others come from unforeseen circumstances. Oftentimes when we know that something is going to be a problem for us, we tend to procrastinate or avoid these challenges altogether. It’s never good to avoid something that you must face, instead, it’s better that you are equipped to handle it accordingly –
Identify Your Resistance
It’s an odd situation, isn’t it? You’ve been wanting to do something all week/month/year long but you never do. You even planned how to get it done & maybe even lost track of time figuring out how to go about it, instead of actually just getting started. And yet, when you actually start, all of a sudden you experience the desire to do something else less important (fold your laundry, check your e-mail, or clip your fingernails). Or you suddenly realize there is one more phone call you need to make, or one of your kids appears & totally distracts you (can’t ignore the kids, right?!). Or maybe you find yourself gazing out the window and realize that the weather is too pretty to be stuck inside doing something that you can put off once more. In short, procrastination, avoidance, and denial take over & derail you.
Why is it that we so often find ourselves wanting to get something done, but then end up not doing it AT ALL? Resistance has been described as when you want to do something, but you just can’t seem to do it as an innately human defense mechanism that is uniquely designed to protect us from doing anything dangerous. In other words, our resistance is like an internal bodyguard that rises up to keep us from any risky situation.
Having an internal bodyguard is mostly a good thing! On one hand, it keeps us from engaging in potentially harmful activities (like putting our hand down the garbage disposal while it’s running, or petting a snake). On the other hand, our inner-bodyguard can’t tell the difference between physical danger and emotional danger so it gets activated whether we are standing at the edge of a cliff or sitting down to get some work done. Both raise anxiety. In response, our inner bodyguard leaps into action to stop us from engaging in this activity in the form of procrastination, avoidance, and/or denial. This bodyguard will do whatever it takes to stop us from jumping off that cliff, or engaging in an activity that needs to get done (even if it isn’t urgent).
Fear Drives Resistance
Wherever there’s resistance, there’s fear underneath it, so it might be helpful to ask yourself: When I sit down to do work, what fears emerge? It may be fear of success, fear of failure, fear of incompletion, or even fear of your work not being good enough. There’s no need to analyze or judge these fears; just to identify them. Knowing what you’re afraid of will help you to design strategies to maneuver around them.
I’m going to explore the different types of resistance that are common. If you keep in mind that your mind can’t quite tell the difference between real and perceived danger and that your inner bodyguard genuinely wants protect you, then you will realize that the trick to sneaking around your resistance is to keep your inner bodyguard in a nice, comfortable, and relaxed state. Imagine your resistance as a big bodyguard that’s always ready to protect you. I enjoy the idea that my resistance is really my very own built-in bodyguard at work! First of all, it brings me a sense of compassion and understanding towards the procrastination, avoidance, and denial I experience when I sit down to do some work. Each time I feel an irresistible urge to check Facebook, or repaint my fingernails, I can recognize that resistance as my bodyguard at work. Secondly, it frees me from the debilitating idea that if I could just fix one of my many personal flaws, then I would be free of any resistance. There’s no sense in believing that if only I were more disciplined, more motivated, and more focused, getting stuff done would be quick, easy, and enjoyable. That’s just not how it works. And finally, it’s helpful to me to understand that my resistance is ALWAYS going to be with me because it’s part of my human packaging.
- Consider what it would be like to understand your procrastination, avoidance, and denial as protective impulses.
- If you can’t seem to start the tasks you need to, gently ask yourself: “What am I afraid of?”
- Identify all the ways your resistance manifests this week without judgment, shame, or self-recrimination.
I hope this week brings you the willingness to identify your resistance as it occurs, a spirit of openness toward new ways of understanding your procrastination and avoidance behaviors, and a sense of compassion toward yourself in the process.