Overcoming procrastination: self-preservation & safety

Part 2 – Procrastination: self-preservation or sabotage?

Most techniques or overcoming procrastination will take you straight into mindset or productivity hacks.

I know.

Because I’ve tried them all.

Possibly not all of them – new ones might have come out since I gave up on them.

But, the reality for me, at least, was that they didn’t work long term. Eventually, something would be “big enough” that the mindset technique or productivity hack wasn’t enough to help me through.

The reason why this didn’t work for me is because these productivity hacks attempt to bypass and avoid the feelings and insecurities. For me, they worked as a temporary bandaid, treating the symptoms, but not the cause.

So – what has worked for me?

Acknowledging my emotions and feelings

overcoming procrastination, acknowledging emotions and feelings, forgive yourself, ho'oponopono, practice self-compassion, get curious, creative, identity, self-identity, safety, security, self-preservation, look for new choices and opportunities

Yes. Those emotions and feelings that procrastination served to avoid. The feelings that make me completely uncomfortable and send me searching for a new task to do, rather than staying with the one at hand that I’m no longer enjoying.

Can I sit, and am I willing to sit, with the uncomfortable — in order to be comfortable later?

What is the bigger & better offer that is on the table – the reward that is greater than the avoidance that I want to enjoy?

“Our brains are always looking for relative rewards. If we have a habit loop around procrastination but we haven’t found a better reward, our brain is just going to keep doing it over and over until we give it something better to do.

Dr. Judson Brewer, psychiatrist and neuroscientist.

Instead of finding something else to do – it’s giving yourself the time to sit in this particular discomfort and then look for the bigger & better offer – but the ultimate reward. Not the short term avoidance reward.

Step one of this process: simply acknowledge –

  • I feel inadequate: guilt, shame or humiliation.
  • I keep asking myself: “Will I be worthless if I can’t do this?”
  • How will I feel if I fail?
  • What will happen to my friendships and my relationships with others if I succeed? What will they require of me?
  • How will I make new friends if my existing friends don’t accept me?
  • I don’t know how to ask for help and I am so scared of getting on the phone to ask.
  • Will others think less of me if I admit that I don’t know how to do this and that I need help?
  • I’m too scared to start, because this task seems enormous. I’m scared of letting myself down.

For me, I’ve already talked about how some of this discomfort and procrastination would lead me to eating. I would eat to stop feeling this. And the solution to this emotional eating – sit in the discomfort and recognize what I was truly hungry for (which wasn’t food).

Forgive myself

Practicing forgiveness brings me a new level of awareness - through the acknowledgement of the feelings. Through forgiveness, I learn to confront, not avoid, the feelings or the actions and choices made.

This is another place where forgiveness has played a large role in my life. Allowing me to overcome procrastination.

Forgiving myself for all those feelings and emotions that I have deemed “bad” or “wrong”. Forgiving myself for putting it off and for having let myself down.

Forgiving myself for putting off till tomorrow what I ideally should have done for myself today! Forgiving my past self for handing off to my present/future self those responsibilities!

Practicing forgiveness brings me a new level of awareness – through the acknowledgement of the feelings. Through forgiveness, I learn to confront, not avoid, the feelings or the actions and choices made.

Practicing Self-Compassion

As I’ve learned with mBraining (Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka) – it all starts with the heart! When I approach myself with kindness and understanding – I give myself permission to make mistakes. I give myself permission to take it slowly – but do it.

Become the observer. There are no "good" or "bad" emotions. There are simply emotions that I build on or emotions that I allow to tear me down. How am I choosing to allow the emotions to affect me?

And I give myself permission to engage with my emotions – all my emotions. There are no “good” or “bad” emotions. There are simply emotions that I build on or emotions that I allow to tear me down. How am I choosing to allow the emotions to affect me? Do they even need to “affect” me?

What if I could simply be an observer of my fear and my anger? Inquiring – what lies below this? What is the treasure to be found in here of importance?

When I bring in my heart – and compassion – I can allow myself to exist with emotions, without judging myself for which emotions I am feeling. More self-compassion results in a higher sense of self-worth. All emotions that I am feeling are valid – they do not define my worth & value.

This opens up the possibility to simply ask myself – what is the next step forward? The one step.

The role of Curiosity & Creativity

If I were to choose to move forward on this – what might be the right step forward? From a place of self-love and compassion, I know that I am not obligated to take that step. I could choose not to.

But this opens up avenues and room to play – to brainstorm without judgement and silencing the inner critic. I can play with the ideas of:

  • what resources would I need?
  • what skills do I need to learn and what knowledge to I need to acquire?
  • who might I ask to help, guide or mentor me?
  • where could I look for more information?
  • what is the one skill that I am missing to continue with this – and how do I go about acquiring that?
  • how many steps are there between here and completion?

But, I don’t have to take any of these steps. With compassion – I can simply allow myself to being open to exploring them with curiosity.

Identity and future self

After playing with ideas, I love to go into a semi-meditative state. One where I am well-grounded and connected with my identity of self. For me, I don’t find “me” in my head. I tend to find “me” somewhere below my sternum. Some might refer to this area as being above your solar plexus.

Where do you find you? Have you bothered to explore?

And when I am in this place of connection – of true identity – then I allow myself to ask two simple (but profoundly deep) questions:

  1. Who am I really?
  2. Who do I want to become?

These questions are essential for me – because they go to the heart of my procrastination.

What am I protecting and sabotaging?

  • Am I protecting an older version of myself that no longer exists?
  • Am I sabotaging the future self that I am developing into and becoming?

Is this behaviour – what I am considering and choosing whether to do – truly a reflection of who I am?

My need for safety, security & self-preservation

Procrastination is all about self-preservation. Safety and security are basic human needs and instinct.

But are these choices I am making – to act or not act – truly protecting my safety and security? While they allow me to avoid the discomfort of facing the unknown and moving out of my comfort zone – which feels unsafe – do they provide me with true safety? What would provide me with security?

It is when I start to love myself to ask these questions – and take longer (as long as it takes) – that I open up the possibility of getting the bigger and better offer and reward!

Will I be safe and secure now? Will my future self be safe and secure?

Should I choose to avoid the discomfort of this task – choosing procrastination and avoidance – will this truly make me feel safer?

New choices and opportunities

Once I have considered my true safety and security – what it really means for me to compassionately look after myself – I can come back to all those ideas and brainstorming that I did before.

What specific actions can I take now that would demonstrate to me that I really love and value myself? How are these choices – to act or not act – providing me with the safety and security that I so desire?

And most importantly – of the options that I am considering, which will honor who I am and am becoming?

Acknowledging theses feelings and emotions – the discomfort – offers the bigger and better reward of authenticity. Blossoming into my true self. Showing myself self-compassion – where I am right now and who I dream of becoming.

Is it uncomfortable? Yes.

Do I still feel fear? Often.

But the payoffs are totally worth it!

Are you willing to sit in these uncomfortable feelings to discover your true value?

If you are so far down the procrastination line that you are not sure whether you can get out by yourself, why not ask about a coaching breakthrough session?


  1. This is a very interesting perspective. For me I very often procrastinate because I am too tired or unable to complete a task but I’m not willing to admit that – I have it written into my schedule and I need to do it now but my brain is tired, I’ve spent too long thinking or staring at screens, so I end up fiddling and daydreaming and spending a lot of time not getting any further with the task.
    I’m slowly learning to walk away, maybe take a nap or do a yoga flow and that resting can be more productive than trying to force the work when I’m tired.

  2. Great post!!I especially like the part where you talk about forgiveness and self compassion as that is something most people always forget but is actually a really important element.

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