Ask the Coach — Week 12

This is the column where, each week, I’ll be answering one website visitor’s question in hopes of supporting all visitors through shared (and likely, relevant) challenges, triumphs, and struggles.

Dear Kerri,

Why, no matter how hard I try, can’t I overcome procrastination? It applies to exercise, diet, hobbies, etc. Drives me nuts.

Grappling in Germany

Dear Grappling,

Ah, procrastination — the age-old obstacle we all face from time to time. Many see it as a nemesis conspiring against you to prevent success at anything and everything you want in your life. But what if it isn’t a nemesis at all, and instead a messenger?

Procrastination can be the voice of our ego — that part of us that wants to keep us right where we are because it perceives any change as scary or bad, even if, logically, the change is for the better. Anything that is unfamiliar to that vulnerable part of us is seen as Danger. This is when procrastination is really a form of protection, initiated by our subconscious. In this case, very small steps toward your desired outcome is necessary, as well as listening to and honoring the resistance that is coming up. The small steps help to gently guide your ego along in a way that makes him feel held and safe, alleviating the fear of abandonment as you move forward.

For example, when thinking about your diet, focus on your very next food choice and working on making a healthier selection, even if that selection is one aspect of the meal and not the whole meal.  Or with your hobbies, give some thought to the activity you’d like to be more involved in and see how you can gently move forward — perhaps the hobby is photography. Just step outside and take a few shots. Yes, the steps might need to be that small.

Also, be careful of the “all or nothing” thinking. The “I will exercise every day for at least an hour,” thinking is too daunting for our subconscious. It doesn’t understand where it fits in the equation. Instead, “I’m going to exercise today for at least 15 minutes.” By planning a smaller goal, you have a far greater chance of success.

A similar role procrastination can play is keeping you “in pursuit”. You’ve heard the expression, “It’s all about the chase.” There’s something exciting about being in pursuit of a goal, and often times, people wrap their identity around who they are while chasing a dream. I read a study once that talked about a group of people who had been trying to lose weight most of their lives. When they finally got to their ideal weight, 75% of them gained a significant amount back within six months. What the study found is that they didn’t know how to live as the thin person they’ve always dreamed to be. They felt unfamiliar to themselves and unconsciously needed to go back to the heavier version to feel safe.

So when you think about the hobbies, diet, and exercise goals that you want to pursue, it’s important to remember to bring your subconscious along for the ride. Listen to that resistance. What is it trying to tell you? As ridiculous as it may seem, there is a reason it doesn’t want you to succeed, and it just wants to be heard. Whether you journal and dialogue with that part of you, or commit to being super present as you take the small steps, keeping your vulnerable partner by your side will most certainly move you toward success.

Good luck!

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