Thoughts on Forgiveness and Procrastination - Notes from a therapist's desk
Updated: May 20, 2021
Do you procrastinate? Don't worry, I do too.
Many of us tend to put things off be in packing for a vacation, booking a flight, completing an assignment, or writing a blog post.
We struggle to get it all done in time (or maybe even at all) and even though we criticise ourselves for it afterward we repeat the procrastination cycle again and again.
So if what we're doing isn't working why do we keep doing it anyway? And equally importantly, how do we make a lasting change.
Throughout several blog posts, I’m going to share my best tips and strategies for overcoming procrastination with you starting with one our brain doesn't go to naturally - Self Forgiveness.
An interesting bit of research was done some years ago into our relationship with our inner critic and self-forgiveness. People were told to imagine that there was a magic potion that, if drunk, would get rid of their inner critic for good. Take a moment to think about that for yourself. Would you drink the potion?
To the researchers' surprise, most people said no ... they said they would not drink the potion. When asked why people said they thought if their inner critic went away then who would keep them accountable and on track? They saw their inner critic as a tool for self-growth.
Your brain probably was reluctant at the thought of drinking that potion too.
But although our brain thinks we need to be kicked in the behind to get our motivation on, criticism tends not to be the strategy we employ if friends or loved ones are having a time motivating themselves.
Most of us naturally take a more compassionate voice and position with friends telling them they cannot go back and change the past, but they can learn from it and move forward.
We don't put them down or tear them apart, we lift them and support them. We encourage them, not criticise them. Why is that?
We know that criticism isn't the route to growth for other people, but somehow we think we are wired differently. But of course, we are really not any different.
Think about your own experiences of support from others. Which encounters have had the most positive impact? The ones where other people were critical of you or the ones where you were supported and encouraged?
So how does our inner critic tie back into procrastination.
When we criticise ourselves and engage in negative self-talk, we tend to increase the level of stress hormones in our bodies. Since stress and anxiety are normally the reason we procrastinated in the first place, this increases the likelihood of us procrastinating again. And of course, this new procrastination leads to new criticism and so on and so on ...
So let's break the cycle.
It would be great if we could simply never procrastinated again, but realistically we will. We may eve go a few times round that procrastination cycle before we realise what is happening.
But the next time you realise you've started procrastinating, instead of jumping in with a criticism tell yourself it's okay.
Say out loud "It is not the end of the world" and set a commitment to working towards doing better next time. Focus on effort, not outcomes. After all, you're working on mastering a new skill and often changing habits that have been in place for a long time.
Changing any habit takes time (and a few tries of not getting it quite right).
And be kind to yourself about the frustration of the situation. We naturally feel frustrated when we struggle to see progress! So instead of looking for progress, look for insights. Be curious about why you are procrastinating.
Maybe the task is too big or needs to be amended? Or you might need to ask for some help. Maybe you need to lean more into yourself-care.
Be curious, kind, and forgive yourself so that procrastination becomes an opportunity to learn about yourself rather than a moment to be hard on yourself.
If you would like support with your journey to changing your relationship to your anxiety get in touch to discuss how one-to-one counselling might help.