Creative “types”, it is said, love to start projects — but tend to encounter huge challenges when it comes time to complete them.
Let’s say you’ve been working on something pretty seriously for a long time. Perhaps you’ve even made it to the home stretch. Then suddenly, almost inexplicably, the effort required to “bring it home”, just feels like too much.
Your project sputters and stalls out somewhere between 70-95% completion.
Many of us find ourselves mysteriously unable to stop procrastinating. Sometimes this goes on for months, or even years. It can go on for so long that the project, once meaningful and important, is totally abandoned.
There are two strong, yet distinct possibilities. Read on to learn what they are, and what to do about them.
Procrastination is often a behavioral manifestation of subconscious fear.
In other words, we may not even be aware that we’re scared about something, but that unconfronted, lurking, unrecognized fear may be controlling our actions (or preventing us from acting.)
For example, we may be afraid that completing the project will mean that it is time to show it to the world, which makes us vulnerable to the following:
When it feels like a possibility that completing a soul-revealing creation could, in some way, be a catalyst for great, enormous change in our lives, it can feel a little… freaky. Not in a Rick James kinda way, but more in an earth-turning-to-Jell-O-beneath-the-feet kinda way.
A couple of earthquakes rolled through our city over the summer. They were strong enough to be felt by most people. They made the news, and also into everyone’s conversations over the days that followed. While perhaps slightly exhilarating when not destructive, earthquakes are an unsettling reminder of our lack of control.
When we put things off, it may be because an unnoticed part of the mind is worrying along the following lines:
What if finishing my book (or painting, or business plan, or film) sets off a chain of events that somehow spiral out of control?
What if my project ends up being wildly successful and truly life-changing?
Will I miss my current life?
We humans naturally crave a degree of predictability and stability. Sometimes even the possibility of dreams coming true is surprisingly terrifying. When worries start to rumble beneath the surface, we may unconsciously decide to cease making progress toward our full potential in hopes of keeping a firm foothold on familiar, steady ground.
This is why artists, creatives, and ambitious dreamers sometimes get stuck in a state of self-inflicted stagnancy.
Even if we’ve been visualizing all sorts of wonderful outcomes, even if we believe in our work wholeheartedly and feel strongly that moving forward is in divine alignment with our true life purpose, we cannot bring ourselves to act.
We may find ourselves paralyzed without apparent reason.
That reason, simply put, could be fear.
“Often greater risk is involved in postponement than in making a wrong decision.”
– Harry A. Hopf
Fortunately, such fears can be overcome.
We’ll cover that shortly.
For now, let’s quickly talk about the other possible cause of procrastination.
This is not necessarily bad news, although the optics can be pretty terrible.
Let’s say someone is in college, working diligently toward a degree, but finds they cannot bring themselves to study for a test in a certain subject.
Let’s say that subject is Algebra 2.
This person probably has some old math-related mental blocks, but even so, were they to commit, hire a tutor, watch YouTube tutorials related to Algebra 2 and otherwise work really hard at it, they could make a passable grade.
Instead, they spend the hours leading up to the test binging their favorite Netflix series, baking rich desserts, and giving themselves a manicure.
The bad news: the student fails the test. They have to drop the class. They lose an investment of money and time. It’s rough! They feel like a failure. Family and friends want to know what went wrong. The hypothetical student beats themselves up for being “stupid” and “lazy”.
In this writer’s experience, stupidity and laziness are almost never the real reasons for something major not working out as planned.
The good news: The person has realized something. The classes required for the degree aren’t worth their effort. The course of study they’ve selected leads to a long-term position that is not really what they want to do in life. Rather than push through, the student has figured out (albeit a little late) that they will be better served by changing course.
In the long run, this awareness will benefit them.
“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”
– Peter Drucker
If it weren’t for their inability to resist flirty nails, Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!, and homemade chocolate chip cookies, (a.k.a., if it weren’t for the onset of procrastination), they wouldn’t have had this crucial insight.
Procrastination, though it gets a bad rap, is not always the enemy.
Yes, it can lead to seemingly bad endings and gaping disappointments. While the experience of watching our best-laid plans, relationships and intentions crash down can feel disastrous, it is sometimes the only way to clear a better path for us.
Meditation helps us to know ourselves through and through.
It strengthens our core (not our abs, but rather, the core of our very being.) When we are strong at core, we know we can handle whatever comes. We can roll with the punches, recover with greater speed and resiliency, react more mindfully, and adapt with agility to life’s only constant (change).
Meditation helps us to glean a new perspective on our internal landscape; to observe our personal mental patterns with greater clarity.
We may notice ourselves procrastinating in relationships, aspirations, or projects. When we catch ourselves in such behavior, it is a good idea to pause — to really listen inwardly, to get incredibly honest with ourselves — in order to understand the root cause.
While it might seem like just more procrastinating, taking a meditative seat in a quiet zone, far from mindless busywork and self-judgment, is an excellent use of one’s time.
When procrastination is due to unrecognized fear:
Meditation is an opportunity to clear out any fears that may be jamming the gears, and get the wheels spinning again.
When fear is not the issue:
Meditation can help us to realize and accept when it is time for a totally new direction.
Lumina Loveday is a yoga teacher, meditator, wife, and mom to three humans and two rescue dogs. At the age of ten, Lumina was given her first typewriter as a gift from her grandparents. It was a big, clunky Underwood. To write her first “books”, she had to press the keys really hard, but she didn’t mind. Perhaps Lumina’s grandparents, who were avid readers back in the 20th century, had a hunch about her writerly tendencies. Lumina lives with her family in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Lumina’s new book, Breaking the Caregiver’s Curse: Rediscovering Joy in Life’s Most Challenging Season, is available on Amazon. The book is free to read for those who have Kindle Unlimited.
As an Amazon Affiliate, Lumina earns on qualifying purchases.
Ⓒ 2020 HeartSun Yoga