Procrastination… It’s not you

Last week, I entered a humorous speech contest and took 2nd (out of 3).

I don’t consider myself to be a comedian or someone who is capable of delivering a funny speech. In fact, writing the speech tested every fiber of my willpower and forced me to challenge how I think about myself.

It sucked.

Just thinking about writing the speech caused me to come up with every single excuse NOT to do it.

Anytime I tried to write the speech one of the following would happen:

  • I would get scared and my throat would tighten up
  • I would tell myself that I would work on it tomorrow
  • I would check email non-stop
  • I would say I really need to do it and then go start working on something else

I even tried using accountability strategies (such as telling my mastermind partner), and that did not work.

Things got, bad… REALLY BAD.

Things got so bad, that one day I sat down to write my speech and instead of writing it, I spent 2 HOURS perfecting my passport renewal application.

Are you kidding me?

Seriously…. what was going on?

I thought about it for a while, and the answer hit me like a ton of bricks.

Resistance.

I was going through a classic case of resistance.

Moving Forward

One of my favorite authors Steven Pressfield wrote a book called the War of Art. In the book, he defines resistance as any excuse which prevents us from doing the work that actually matters.

We feel resistance when doing anything creative, entrepreneurial, or attempting to start a new business. It also happens when we start a new exercise or diet program.  Typically, anything that would benefit us in the short-term or long-term will generate some form of resistance.

A good rule of thumb is: the greater you feel the resistance, the more likely it’s something you MUST do.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Resistance

Resistance takes many forms. My hope is that after today you’ll be able to notice these symptoms and deal with them in a way that makes sense for you.

One important thing to remember:

  • Resistance is not you. It’s your lizard brain (subconscious mind) just trying to protect you and keep you safe. Back in our cave man days, if we did something stupid and got kicked out of the tribe, that usually meant death. This way of thinking is still wired in our minds.

The First Symptom of Resistance: Fear

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Have you ever seen that pretty girl (or guy) across the bar and wanted to go talk to her (or him), but you just couldn’t do it?

Did your chest tighten up and your heartbeat rise? Did you tell yourself you would do it later after you got a drink?

That same feeling happens when we try to do the work that actually matters. Fear usually just means that you are stepping out of your comfort zone.

 

The Second Symptom of Resistance: Procrastination

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I’m sure everyone reading this has dealt with procrastination at some level so I won’t go crazy here.

We all have things in life that we put off: Starting an exercise program, eating healthy or starting a new business.

Whatever it is, don’t beat yourself up for not doing it (that never works). For now, just notice yourself making excuses.

The Third Symptom of Resistance: Mindless Internet Surfing

I can’t tell you how many years of my life, I wasted on NFL.com. Reading stats, over and over again (like they were really going to change). And for what?

Nothing.

I cringe when I think about how many years of my life I wasted on mindless internet and Facebook searching.

Where would we be if we removed the 6+ hours we waste each day?

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The Fourth Symptom of Resistance: Feeling Really Tired

Have you ever tried to start exercising after some time off? Did you feel yourself getting really tired right before?

How about trying to start a reading habit? How far did that get?

Your mind will play some crazy tricks on you, when you are trying out new habits. Don’t give in to the demons.

Just push through.

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The Fifth Symptom of Resistance: Those Voices Inside Your Head

I find that I have TWO very distinct voices in my head whenever I’m working on a creative project.

One part of my head sounds just like Scarlett Johansson from the movie ‘Her’. She’s very soft and sweet and tells me to rest when I’ve had a long day.

I often listen, because…. well she sounds like Scarlett Johansson.

There is another distinct voice in my head that a lot like the Drill Sergeant (Lee Emery) from Full Metal Jacket.

Generally the words the drill sergeant says to me are a lot less nice than Scarlett, and he say’s a lot of choice 4 letters words to emphasize how much I suck.

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The Sixth Symptom of Resistance: ‘Actually Wanting to do Your Taxes’

You know the resistance has fully taken a hold of you when you would rather do your taxes than do the work that actually matters.

What did you do instead of doing the work that actually matters?

 

 

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Where do we go from here?

Most of us live in comfort and nothing happens.

Nothing.

We spend our lives dreaming and watching others live theirs. If we want to do the work that matters it’s time to step out of our comfort zones, find our edge and live just beyond it.

This is where all the magic happens.

 

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The Next STEP

We all need a kick in ass sometimes (myself included).

Take a second and think about that thing you are putting off.

  • Are your finances a mess?
  • Are you waiting until after the holidays to start exercising?
  •  What about that brilliant business idea that you think is genius?

Now think about all of that bullshit excuses you told yourself and recognize that you are in completely control.

 The only roadblocks are the ones you have created.

About Ben Austin

My friends call me the illegitimate love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Nye. I’m a bodybuilding-yogi-science loving-foodie bringing an engineering approach to lifestyle design. Join me as I analyze the systems that go into optimal mental and physical performance and explore the stories and tactics of people who set the standard for the rest of us.

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  • Andrew McDermot

    Great post Ben. Would love to see you post more frequently!

    • Thanks Andrew! I always appreciate the
      feedback.

      I’ve been working extremely hard on a new business which has
      consumed most of my free time and mental RAM. It should be rolling out within 2
      months.

      • Andrew McDermot

        No problem man. Keep me updated on the new business venture!

        • Will Do!

          I’m curious… What’s one thing that you are going to STOP
          putting off (procrastinating)?

          • Andrew McDermot

            Unfortunately, I struggle with procrastination as much as the next person, but I am continually improving everyday. So far what I found most effective is creating daily habits. When I just wake up and “free ball” the day, my mind wanders and I find myself on forums and other websites more than works. When I write out my entire day the night before and have a structured day I find I stick to it. Not only that, but I have daily rituals I do everyday no matter what. The first thing I do when I wake up is 20 minutes of yoga, then get ready for work and commute about 25 minutes. When i get to work the first thing I do is read one of Robert Greene’s 48 laws of power. Then I read for 30 minutes, usually a book pertaining to my job (copywriting). It’s very common advice but there’s a reason for it and that’s attacking your most important task of the day first. I wish I could do this by pure will, but I use a few technologies to assist me. “Self-control” for mac is great. It blocks chosen websites for whatever amount of time you pick. The app “lift” has been a great way to remind me to perform these daily habits everyday. These are just a few of my habits and rituals but you get get the point…the structure and habits force me to stay on task.

          • Dude you Rock!

            I think you might be my long lost brother and my experience has been the exact same. I’ve tried using “Lift”, but I didn’t have the flexibility I wanted.

            My biggest nemesis is checking email like addict (probably 100x per day) and NFL.com. It wasn’t until I started tracking how much time I wasted that I started trying to optimize how I spend my days.

            What I’ve found works for me is sticking to a consistent morning routine (similar to yours’) and then being militant about my 25 habits that I do every day.

            In regards to copywriting, have you read the Boron Letters? That book really helped me understand the structure of writing content that people can easily read.

            -Ben

            PS: Check your email

          • Andrew McDermot

            Email is still a killer for me. It’s so easy to just click and check your inbox. Still have not figured that one out…

            I have not read the Boron Letters! I will have to check that out. I’m a financial copywriter so most of my focus has been on direct response long letter writer. But still, all the legends like Claude Hopkins, Robert Collier, John Caples, Victor Schwab, Gene Schwart, and David Ogilvy have great principles to apply in any industry.

          • I definitely recommend the Boron Letters.

            It helped me understand how to format my writing so that people can actually read it!

  • mcgovern312

    I’ve been putting off my 1-year review…time to stop “mindless internet surfing”, get over the “fear”, and get it done today. Thanks for the morning motivation!

    • Awesome Martin!

      I’ve found that telling myself to just stop internet surfing never works (at least for me).

      What’s your plan of attack for breaking the cycle and starting a new positive habit?

      • mcgovern312

        Yesterday, commenting on this post was my “accountability” system for that one task. Task completed yesterday! :)

        • I love it!

          Keep up the hard work Martin.

  • John Krygiel

    Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right ~Ford

    • Thanks John!

      Because we are on the subject.. What habits/rituals/practices have you found useful
      for dealing with resistance?

      • John Krygiel

        One thing I’ve really been trying to habitually do is change my thought patterns. I try to change negative thoughts into positive ones and see things as they are.

        This involves living in the moment and realizing that we don’t really have any problems, at this very moment. We have situations that need to be dealt with at times, but our minds tend to label things and make them into problems–and we resist problems.

        Let’s take for example, a rainy day. For a couple getting married, rain on the wedding day would be “miserable, bad, etc.” For a farmer that hasn’t seen rain in three weeks, this would be a relief and is “great, needed, etc.”

        The rain itself is neither “good” or “bad,” but what how we choose to see the situation will determine our thoughts and feelings about it.

        So, all this is to say I try to let situations and moments unfold as they “are.” This has brought me much peace of mind and less judgement about situations that I want to resist. And this may be the subject of my next post :).

        • You are bringing up a great point.

          Looking at “problems” as situations allows you to think pro-actively. You also take away the “good” or “bad” label.

          Also, let me know what your next post will be. Your content always gets me thinking and forces me to re-evaluate the situations in my life.

          Post a link here. :)

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