Tackling Procrastination: What to Do When You're Just Not Ready to Get Started
Excerpted from Amber Rae's book Choose Wonder Over Worry.
Ever think to yourself, I'm not ready yet. When I get there, I'll finally go do the thing that matters most ...
I once worked with a bikini designer who, in five years, built a thriving brand that garnered the worldwide attention of Vogue, Elle and well-known celebrities. But she did so at the expense of what she most wanted but didn't think she was ready for: illustrating children's books.
Another client -- an aspiring author -- had a knack for making articles go viral online, but when it came to packaging his big ideas into a book proposal, he ran the other way.
When this myth of "not being ready yet" grips our lives, we keep putting off what we truly want in exchange for what feels comfortable and safe and achievable.
I learned this quite intimately when I started being asked to speak and give talks. Even though I knew speaking was a call that I felt deeply drawn toward, for years I brushed off the opportunities that came my way.
No, I'm too busy.
No, I don't have time to write and memorize a talk right now.
No, I will not fly across the country to risk embarrassing myself in front of a group of people.
Every time I said, "No, I'm too busy," what I was really saying was, "No, because I'm afraid."
With each no, a wondrous whisper within me would plead, Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes. Just once. Even if just to see what happens. Please?
With my curiosity just slightly stronger than my fear, I decided I'd commit to the next request I received. That invitation came in the form of a Do Lectures talk in Costa Rica. Little did I know at the time, this commitment was about to turn my world upside down and inside out. First came the swirl of insecurities about being seen that I didn't even realize were beneath the surface. They showed up in the form of an inner monologue that sounded something like this:
What the hell did I just commit myself to? What do I have to say that's interesting? I don't have anything interesting to say. I'm going to get up there and they are going to stare at me and form opinions about me and quite possibly judge me. Oh, God. And it's going to be filmed. Then it's going to go on that website for lots of people to see. What am I going to wear? What if I look fat in the video? This is awful. What was I thinking?!
This monologue inside my mind haunted me for days and weeks. When I'd pull out my giant pieces of paper and permanent markers, and start mapping the stories I wanted to tell, my inner anxious voices would jump in to say, Are you sure you want to say that? Are you sure you want to be seen that way? What if they judge you? You know your story doesn't matter, right? Everywhere I went, the voice was there. Staring at me. Haunting me. Inviting me to write a long-winded and apologetic email to the organizer explaining why I would not be participating in the event.
When I texted a dear friend to tell her about the "worry tornado" inside my mind that was hijacking my creative process, she offered a perspective that I needed to be reminded of. She said:
Become one with the storm in your mind. Move with it. Lean into it. Listen to it. Use it as fuel.
So I did. Every time I felt the tension of worry, instead of viewing it as an enemy, I saw it as a signal that I was nearing exactly the kind of story I ached to tell: one that stretched me, challenged me and had me feel seen. This perspective led me to channel my own fears into a talk about failure, our inner anxious voices and how to follow what calls at us most.
The talk was the best I was capable of giving at the time, and when the audience cheered, I had a profound realization: The very moment when we think we're not ready is precisely the moment that we are.
When we learn to respect and move with the worry and the fear and the anxiety and the doubt, we're able to see it for what it is: a signal of what we must do.
There comes a point when no amount of planning, preparing and predicting will provide you with the impetus and the know-how to take that next step. There are times when the only way to move through your limitations, insecurities, doubts and fears is to do just that: to move. Yes, you have limits. Of course you have fears. This is true of any human, and especially those who choose to pursue something new. Those uncomfortable feelings mean one thing: You care.
Moving toward what you care about might look like that first stroke of paint, the first minute in meditation or hitting publish on the article you keep putting off. It might look like setting a boundary, finally choosing to let go of the relationship that's destroying your emotional health, or moving on to undertake a big new challenge. It might look like choosing to give less power to the fabricated story in your mind about why you cannot or should not or aren't ready -- just to see what happens.
So let me ask you this:
What is that thing for you?
And what is your right next move?
A few years ago, I sat in the front row at the United Nations to hear Oprah Winfrey speak. (I actually took her seat by accident -- but that's a different story.) She opened up to us, sharing that when she decided to start the OWN network after more than 25 years of The Oprah Winfrey Show being a No. 1 success, she never anticipated the challenges she'd run into. When she found herself flustered, stressed, off track and on the edge of breakdown -- listening to what she calls "little person mind" (what I call "toxic worry") -- she couldn't hear herself clearly. The way she moved through the fog was to get still, and ask herself one question: "What is the right next move?" She asked and acted on that question until she moved out from the darkness and into the light.
Now I turn to you once more and ask the same: What is your right next move?
Related Video: How to Overcome Chronic Procrastination