Are you a procrastinator? Do you find all kinds of reasons to put off dealing with your health issues, getting active, losing weight? Yes, that too is procrastination. Let’s take a look at why we procrastinate and what we can do to help ourselves.
Is Procrastination A Bad Habit?
Well, actually, no – it isn’t. At least not from a scientific point of view. There actually is a science of procrastination and here’s what we know about it: Procrastination starts in the limbic system, which is known by many scientists as the monkey brain, the lizard brain, or the reptilian brain. It’s that primal part of our brain that’s in charge of fight, flight, feeding, fear, freezing up, and you guessed it – sex. That’s about the extent of the reptile brain function and it’s allowed us to react to a threat immediately and without engaging any other thinking part of the brain, thus allowing us to survive as a species for millennia. It’s a great thing!
However, we aren’t faced with the same kinds of threats our ancestors encountered and our predators are pretty well contained, so the function of this “survival instinct” has refocused and ends up keeping us in lockdown (to preserve our lives) rather than helping us reach our goals and dreams.
You Know What I’m Talking About, Right?
Author Steven Pressfield relates to this feeling of being held back as “the resistance.” It’s the voice in the back of our head telling us to be careful, go slow, compromise, back off … and it gets stronger the closer we get to a breakthrough or to the truth of what we really want. It appears lizards don’t like change very much, neither do they like risk or achievement.
So, Why Procrastinate?
Turns out that even though there aren’t the kinds of threats our ancient ancestors had to confront in order to survive, our brains still have the same fear circuit they had. Now, instead of being terrified by a saber-toothed tiger, our bodies respond to the modern terrors we face, like the fear of public speaking, fear of failure, fear of judgment, or fear of rejection. The trigger is different, but the response is the same. Our subconscious minds can’t discern between what’s real and what is imagined.
Here’s what happens. Work piles up so we look for a way to master and control our environment in order to alleviate anxiety. Procrastination is a way our brilliant brain deals with overwhelm and the fear of negative emotions. Rather than feeling the negative emotions, we find a way to make ourselves feel better by avoiding the negative emotions that are tied to our fears. So, it’s really fear that triggers procrastination.
I clean. What do you do? Play computer games? Clear your inbox? Binge-watch your favorite series?
Stop beating yourself up and understand you can actually take control of procrastination and change your life.