Why people procrastinate, avoid taking action, and put off doing what’s most important to the very end. How we overcome procrastination, laziness, and perfectionism by embracing the fear of the unknown.
Laziness doesn’t exist. Give me some “lazy” people and I will show you that they don’t want what they do and don’t do what they want. Often because they’re too afraid of failure to take action. All they need is some knowledge, direction or help. What we deal with is procrastination.
What stands behind procrastination?
Procrastination is not exactly avoiding action, it’s avoiding the unknown. To better understand it, let’s work with our comfort zone. We experience no problem with what’s within the comfort zone because here, we’re in control. Everything we aim for – our dreams, goals and our better self – waits for us on the other side. To get what we want, we need to step out and make our way through this new unknown area, often with an uncertain outcome and a chance of failure.
Our subconscious mind doesn’t like the unknown. It drew a line of where the comfort zone is for you to keep you safe from risk and danger. Every time you make a step towards your goal and cross this line, you become uncomfortable. It can feel like uncertainty, fear, doubt or a wave of self-criticism, and can sometimes allow you to be pretty hard on yourself: “You don’t know what you’re doing. Just watch, you will fail and this is going to be the worst time of your life”. And if you don’t get some sort of good feedback or encouragement at this point, you might even seem completely paralyzed, blocked or disappointed.
The fear of the unknown
Most of us instinctively associate fear with danger. And when you live in a natural environment with wild animals hiding in trees, this can be true, but in the modern world with a bunch of laws, hot water, power, insurance and an app for every need, it rarely becomes any real danger. There’s not much you can do that somebody else hasn’t accomplished before you. We worry about money we haven’t earned, mistakes we haven’t made and criticism from people who have nothing but love for and care about us. Even though our rational mind will find these threats are pretty superficial, our instinct can take over.
Our default program makes us choose what we know best and remain in our comfort zone. But it won’t let you grow. Remember how everything you know, can do now and currently have used to be unknown and maybe even frightening? Somebody showed you the way, and you’ve made it this far and everything behind you is not so scary anymore. Well, you’re a grownup, it’s time to take over, make your own way and learn to explore new territories. The good news is, you can choose your own direction, and your comfort zone will catch up.
By the way, some people really don’t have that problem. They fearlessly try new things and succeed, or fail, and get up again, and do it over and over without ever giving it much thought. But if you tend to over analyze, plan, think and talk for too long, and wait for the perfect moment (spoiler alert: it never comes), you give procrastination too much leverage.
How to beat procrastination
Beating procrastination is not about enormous efforts or hard work. It’s a choice. To move forward, you need to accept uncertainty. Allow yourself to be imperfect, make mistakes, and just act without having full control. The easier you take not knowing everything, the sooner your comfort zone expands. And if you fear, that’s OK. It means you’re on the right track.
The ability to move forward through the unknown and uncertain is key to winning procrastination. Some call it discipline, and they are right. I call it a choice. Remember to make one choice at a time, identify your fear and make a step without expectations, and watch everything else fall into place.