A friend once approached me to gripe about how it was difficult for him to get things done. He seemed to do all the “right” things, such as write down a list of goals, stick it to the wall, read motivational books, and others. But none of that worked for him – he still became a victim of procrastination, a common “enemy” for all of us.
I remember that conversation while I listened to Brad Yates talk about overcoming procrastination, from a recording of the 2015 Tapping World Summit. Brad is one of the most well-known Tapping experts, and he has given several guides on how to understand the cause of procrastination and how to reduce it.
He says that, when we look at it closely, procrastination is actually a form of self protection. There is a benefit to not taking action; that benefit is staying safe. We procrastinate when we estimate that a certain action can be painful or difficult to do, or have heavy consequences (even if they are good consequences). The result is that we delay until we feel more prepared at a later date.
Therefore, Brad says that it’s not good to blame yourself or feel guilty for procrastinating. The first step to taking action is to acknowledge that there is a fear getting in the way, and that fear is trying to keep you safe. It is the survival mechanism inside you taking care of yourself.
The Trap of Staying Safe
It does sound contradictive, right? If you’re trying to quit smoking, or trying to stop eating junk food, or keep avoiding calling your clients to close the deal they already inquired about (like my friend did), it’s because your brain is trying to keep you safe.
In other words: you feel safer in your current condition, regardless of how unhealthy, poor, or unhappy it is, than in the “dream” condition where you are successful. You might feel safe in the status quo due to past programming that occured in your life.
As an example, you might avoid closing a client because you are afraid it might make you busy. And being busy means you have less time for your family, which could cause friction and fighting with your wife or husband, and so on.
Brad calls this behavior as misguided self-love. The intention of the behavior is to protect you from what you feel is a dangerous outcome, but it keeps you where you are now. You desire change, but the consequences it could bring feels alarming, and you keep avoiding it.
Here is where Tapping comes in handy. You can begin to ask questions about what it is that you truly fear from taking the action you want to take? You can ask that question while Tapping and listen to what answers pop up in your mind. If there is one that stands out more than the rest, it could be the cause that is blocking your success this moment.
Brad gives an example of one of his clients who had difficulty loosing weight. As they tapped, it turns out that the client was afraid that if she lost weight, she would be attractive and cheat on her husband. It was an epiphany for her – the reason is ridiculous as there is no need to cheat on your wife or husband if you are healthier.
Find Out What Benefits Make You Procrastinate
Take a close look at what benefits you are keeping by not taking action:
- You can write down a list that consists of two colums
- The first column contains the benefits by staying safe
- The second column consists of the benefits you get if you take action and succeed
- Put a number on each benefit that describes how large the impact is
This method is not perfect. Giving a number to any benefit is arbitrary, and your brain can play tricks on you. It might give a disproportionately large number to a benefit of not taking action, while giving a small number to the benefit of doing action.
But that reveals how your brain makes you procrastinate; by focusing on the dangers instead of what can happen and how your life can change. There may also be one benefit of staying safe that you give a very large number, and it defeats multiple benefits of taking action.
The purpose of this exercise is to start revealing the causes of your procrastination. You may not find it immediately, but you will begin to notice what is holding you back. Once you find out the fear that is keeping you stuck, you can use Tapping to slowly dissolve that fear and free yourself to take the action that can change your life.
I haven’t done this exercise with my friend. Perhaps the next time I see him, I’ll ask him about it.