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Procrastination and fear of failure

We all know the struggle with procrastination. You are probably reading this because you want to know how to get rid of it? I will try to help you on it by first explaining what procrastination means and why we do it. Then, I will give you some tips on how to stop procrastination and start taking responsibility of your life and take action.

But first, I need to tell you a secret. I procrastinated with finishing this post. For the first time, I felt that I cannot get a post done. Isn’t it ironic that it is exactly the post about procrastination that I ended up procrastinating?

Now that we are living in December and the year is coming to an end, it might feel that everything is already done for this year. That you will give it another shot in January then. But this is where it can easily go wrong. And this is a great example of a possible excuse to procrastinate. If there’s something you would like to do now, do not wait until New Year. You won’t be a different person one month from now compared to today.

What is procrastination?

If you google procrastination, you will find something following: “Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks. It is a force that prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.” I think this is quite clear; we delay something we have decided to do.

Usually, we don’t think of the reason for procrastination that much into detailed. We do not want to go there, because doesn’t it feel uncomfortable enough getting caught ourselves from procrastinating? Do we want to dig deeper and try to find out the reason? It would make us feel even worse, right? But the truth is, if you want to get rid of something, you need to become aware of those deeper reasons, thoughts and emotions behind it. Let’s go.

Why do we procrastinate?

Why do we procrastinate? What is the thing we don’t want to face? Procrastination is strongly linked to a certain type of fear. When I think about procrastination in my life, it is a fear of failure, which is strongly related my perfectionism, the fact that I want to do everything perfectly.

I have been able to let go of my perfectionism over time, especially after discovering mindfulness. But in the context of this blog, the perfectionism still tends to show in a form of a need to create something authentic and meaningful, each time. That’s not only a bad thing. For instance once writing this, there are so many things in my head I would want to write about, and sometimes I just am not sure how to get my message clearly communicated. Not to mention, English is not my native language, which can even further increase the feeling of not being fully understood.

Why am I telling this to you here? I want to be 100% honest and couldn’t write about this topic without revealing that I am not perfect either. I want to point out that we all can feel insecure and experience different forms of fears time to time. The simple answer for “why do we procrastinate” is that we are human. The “correct” answer is that we do not want to face something due to a fear that is inside of us. The fear can be anything from the fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of not being enough etc.

Next time you get caught from procrastinating, I encourage you to stop there for a while. Stop and think, what could be the reason behind it? What do you fear?

How to stop procrastination and start taking action

So, now we know why we procrastinate. And now I have promised to tell you how to stop it. As I already revealed, I procrastinated with writing this post, but I still would like to tell you what we can do to stop procrastinating and take action, despite the fear inside.

Putting things into perspective

First of all, there is nothing wrong to be afraid. It is very understandable that a fear of failure can arise. Actually, that can in many cases be a signal that the thing is important to you and you want to succeed in that thing. And that’s good. But then we need to put things into perspective.

You can go even this far; there are 7,8 billion people on earth. You are only one of them. The thing you procrastinate is one thing out of multiple things you do during the day. The impact of this one thing in this world is ridiculously small. And this is not to offend or make your existence meaningless. This is just a technique to put things into perspective once things start to get difficult.

I use this tactic whenever I start to see I procrastinate writing an “important” email at work to someone I do not feel 100% confident or at ease with. And I can tell, it works every time. Pressing that send button suddenly feels a hundred times easier.

Also, you can elaborate this and think this via a timeline. Think 1, 2, 5 years ahead; will you – or anyone else – even remember this? Of course this depends on the thing and topic, but in general, we forget many things that are not that important after all. The importance you give to these thing is what matters. I suggest not to take things too seriously or overvalue them if not really needed. Usually, after some reflecting, you will know the real importance and will end up laughing. So go ahead, whatever it is.

Worst vs best case scenario

If putting things into perspective isn’t enough to get yourself into action, you can go through both the worst and best case scenarios. What is the ultimate worst that could happen as a result of taking action now? I would assume it won’t be anything dangerous. With the fear of failure, the worst thing would be that somebody else will see you fail, right?

Well, first of all, it is not likely that the ultimate worst case will even happen. And second of all, what if you really would fail and somebody will see it? What would happen then? I can almost guarantee you that nobody will even remember it after some time. And eventually, nobody cares. Most people are mostly interested in their own self instead of anything or anyone else’s.

And then, switch to the opposite direction and think what would be the ultimate best result you could achieve? Why wouldn’t you feel confident enough to know that you really can achieve that best possible result? You are enough and you need to start believing it. Doing your best with the resources you have at hand in that specific moment is everything you can do.

Fear vs truth

Finally, I want to discuss more about fear. Even though it is ok to feel fear, it doesn’t mean it is the truth. Fear is an emotion. My previous posts about mindfulness have covered emotions a lot. So here we are, ending up to the topic of mindfulness once again.

But how is this exactly linked to mindfulness? With the help of mindfulness and meditation, we are able to become aware of the fear, cope with the emotion and stop taking it as the truth. Once we learn to give less and less importance to the fear and see it as an emotion that comes and goes, we can let procrastination go and have the courage to take action.

Fear is always worse than the truth.

x. Mari

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