Face It – Avoid Avoidance

This post is about how avoidance is ruining your life and what you can do about it.  Many, many people in the U.S. consider themselves procrastinators. They avoid doing the fillette effrayéetasks in their lives that need to be accomplished. I suspect that others just avoid thinking about whether they procrastinate or not.  When you avoid something that needs doing, you add to your stress because avoidance isn’t effective; you carry the knowledge around like a mosquito buzzing in your brain that chants, “you didn’t….., you didn’t…. when are you going to…..what will you do about….. Like a B horror movie, IT IS WAITING FOR YOU, TODAY AND ALWAYS, WAITING….

You can stop avoiding. Here are 6 suggestions to help you Face Your Life

1. Write down the problem (a bill to be paid, a paper to be written, a call to be returned, a discussion to be undertaken) AND write down a concrete solution, such as: I will call the credit card company today; I will spend 1 hour on research for the paper this evening, As you can see, these are first steps. When these are done, you can take the next step.

2. Do it first. Not after lunch, not after you grow old, NOW.  It isn’t going away and it isn’t going to get to be more fun, so do it first and get it over with.  You will feel smug and happy for hours. It will give you enough of a high to actually accomplish other things. It will also improve your confidence that you can accomplish other things.  This makes room in your mind for the rest of your day’s activities.

3. Don’t delude yourself. It is probably not going away. If anything, it is going to get worse. Even if the problem doesn’t get worse, you will feel worse because now you have thrown away good hours by allowing this bill/paper/conversation to hijack your brain.

4. Reframe the problem.  Here is where a little (or a lot) self talk helps. Remind yourself that whatever the problem is, you can deal with it. Maybe you can solve it, maybe you can make it go away, maybe you will ask for help, but even if you cannot make it disappear, you can deal with it.

5. Experiment. If ‘you’ are not particularly good at getting this done, become someone else for awhile. This can be someone you know, like a friend who does exercise (if that is what you are going after), or an admired mentor, or a superhero.  When I supervised doctoral dissertations, I often used to send signs to students with instructions to hang the sign above the computer. The sign usually read something like “I have no feelings. I am a dissertation machine.”  Be the person who gets it done.

6. Follow these suggestions over and over. Habits are not formed by one good day; exercise programs are not habitual because you made it to the gym last Sunday; eating habits do not mean skipping one french fry; and savings’ accounts are not built up with one deposit.  Repeat.  You will find that these suggestions go from awkward and difficult to commonplace.  You can reduce the worrying by facing the tasks that belong to you. We all have responsibilities, some big and some small.  It’s okay.  Take the first step.


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