When I am presented with a high stakes opportunity, instead of doing the work required to fully seize the opportunity I often feel a strong desire to procrastinate, avoid or resist doing the work.
(me this week)
This week I asked myself, how can I practice with this?
Here's what helped me:
AWARENESS: "Oh, I'm avoiding something important right now... this is procrastination".
OBSERVING: My body feels contracted... tension... numbness... my jaw is tight... I'm holding my breath..."
I'm not doing the work on this important thing, why?
What does my safety instinct not like about this situation?
Does this opportunity require me to take a risk or expose myself to potential failure, disappointment or rejection?
Does doing this work require me to hurtle myself into the unknown towards unknowable, uncontrollable outcomes?
Usually the answer is yes. This opportunity requires some level of risk and vulnerability.
BRINGING IN UNDERSTANDING:
This kind of vulnerability is uncomfortable to feel. Our bodies are wired for survival. Emotional risk can feel like a threat to our safety. No wonder big opportunities that require us to be vulnerable feel scary.
My body is like "hey, Let's not do the work that will lead to feeling uncomfortable and unsafe, let's watch YouTube or scroll or catch up on old emails instead because I know those things are safe". No wonder I procrastinate. My body is trying to avoid situations that require a high level of discomfort. This is a coping mechanism I've developed over time to protect myself.
BRINGING IN CONTEXT:
We all have different histories and different levels of capacity at different times. What feels safe for me may feel unsafe for someone with a different lived experience. We are experiencing a global pandemic, a housing crisis, unsafe working conditions, climate disaster, systemic inequity, social injustice. Depending on the conditions we are dealing with, the struggle to survive may mean we do not have the resources or energy to put towards creative vulnerability right now. This needs to be acknowledged. this is important.
BRINGING IN COMPASSION FOR MYSELF:
Procrastinating when the stakes are high is a deeply human experience. We all do it. Maybe it's not about whether I "should" or "shouldn't" do it or whether it's "good" or "bad"but more about how I relate to myself when I notice I am doing it...
"Thank you for supporting me body, do you need to take a break and rest?"
"Thank you protective instinct for trying to keep me safe from discomfort. I know your intentions are supportive. I also know I am capable of handling this challenge".
"Oof. Of course I'm feeling resistance. Of course I'm tired. Of course I'm afraid of rejection. Of course. It's the end of a long year. It makes sense that I don't feel like putting in the effort it takes to step outside my comfort zone".
"It's so understandable to feel this way!
"Usually things that matter to us or things that we feel called to do--- especially for artists, leaders and creative people--- require a certain amount of discomfort and emotional risk".
"Does this opportunity matter to you?"
"Would putting in effort and taking this risk be aligned with your values and aspirations?"
What level of capacity do you have to support yourself through this? Can that be enough?
What else do you need to feel supported?
What would it feel like to do your best here?
SHIFTING MY ENVIRONMENT OR PHYSIOLOGICAL STATE:
Listening to music
Shaking it out
Connecting with my breath
A hot bath
A cold shower
Or any other somatic tools.
Sometimes I need to journal more about what's underneath the fear.
Sometimes I need to phone a friend who get's it.
Sometimes I need to work with a coach or therapist to help me shift and find perspective.
HOWEVER I CHOOSE TO RESPOND AND WORK WITH IT, I AM HUMAN AND PROCRASTINATION MAKES SENSE.