Tom was taking a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course with me and really had wonderful intentions to do the practices that were assigned week to week. However, at the time he was to sit down to do the practice, he noticed these thoughts in his mind telling him that doing this practice is a “waste of time” and he could be doing better things like watching television, eating, or flipping through a magazine.
And so it was…
When it comes to procrastination or inertia to make changes in our lives, it’s important to cultivate an awareness of what it really is. In order to do that, we need to break it down and name what is happening.
Once we can name it, we can face it, and when we can face it, we can work with it.
Here is a 3 step process to breaking through procrastination:
- Name it – Over the years, we have developed so many habits in our mind that are very strong because they’ve had a lot of practice. Through current research in the area of neuroplasticity, we now know that what we pay attention to and how we pay attention lays down the tracks to our minds. So if we practice avoiding or doubting, that’s the way our minds will habitually drift on auto-pilot. So, it’s important to come up with a name for the “tape in the mind” or automatic negative thoughts that are taking you away from your original intention. Some of my clients have made up terms like “doubting mind,” “sabotage mind,” “distraction mind,” or even “baloney mind,” to add some humor to it.The key here is that once we name it, we’ve stepped outside of the auto-pilot and now have a choice to redirect. However, to make this stick, it’s difficult to just redirect to the intended action, we first need to get a better sense of this feeling that we’re trying to avoid.
- Redirect to physical feeling – There is always some physical feeling that is associated with avoidance. We may notice it as tension in the face, maybe a constriction in the chest, a clenching of the arms or hands, or maybe tiredness in the body. We want to practice feeling into this from the inside out. Actually notice the sensations of this feeling (e.g., heaviness, lightness, tightness, tension, etc…). This doesn’t need to take long, if only a minute or so.In allowing yourself to intentionally connect to it, you are now in the driver’s seat. Now, “what was my original intention again?”
- Return to Original intention – Re-mind yourself what your original intention was and bring your body to it.
The instructions may seem simple, but this may not be easy especially when we’re not feeling well. It takes practice to redirect the pathways in your brain over time. So be easy on yourself, this may work out sometimes and not others, but the more you practice, the more likely it is to work out.
Remember, we’re trying to get rid of the difficult feelings that drive us to avoidance, we’re simply changing our relationship to them so they have less of a hold on us and allow us to name it, face it, and work with it.
Just 3 steps, give it a go.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.