Ever wondered where procrastination comes from?
When I first learnt about our ‘six core needs’ it was like jigsaw pieces slotting into place. Aha! I finally get it. 1) I’m totally human (aka ‘normal’) and 2) So procrastination and self-sabotage aren’t just special to me. But more on self-sabotage another time… 😉
Understanding human behaviour, what makes us tick and the inner workings of our minds has become such a thrill for me over the years. Mostly because which each iteration I get to know myself more and more and can shape my life into the experience I really want it to be. So our core needs as humans is not a “new” concept. In fact it is really something psychologists of all shapes and sizes have been talking about for many many years. You may have even heard of a guy named Abraham Maslow who talks about our inherent ‘heirarchy of needs’ (and you’re going to have to forgive me from this point forward for paraphrasing everything into my own language). i.e. All humans have basic survival needs – of security (things like food, shelter, safety) all the way through to personal fulfilment (the almighty enlightenment and being able to continue to evolve and grow).
I peaked your interest with procrastination though, so I’m going to cut to the chase.
Procrastination shows up for us, quite simply, when there’s an imbalance in how we are meeting our needs. And more specifically an imbalance between two very specific needs: Certainty AND Uncertainty.
Tony Robbins works a lot with these needs in understanding how we either get the results we want in our life or we don’t. And how understanding why we do what we do can be the difference between feeling happy, and well, not. (Check out this TED talk if you want a super quick tour of all six needs).
You may think it sounds a bit strange that I’m saying we need both certainty and uncertainty. On the surface they appear quite polar opposite. Structure, safety, security, comfort versus Adventure, variety, challenge, uncertainty. Yet below the surface these two needs are super reliant on each other. If I told you that you could only ever have certainty in your life…. Reckon you’d last long? Everything would always look and feel the same, there’d be absolute comfort. Sure, maybe you’d get through a few weeks at work loving the fact you were totally in control and knew what was coming. Yet there’d reach a tipping point when things started to feel a little, well, boring.
Or vice versa, if I told you that you could only have variety, spice, excitement in your life – with no certainty – your adrenal glands may burn out pretty fast.
Every one of us can identify with some form of procrastination in our lives. We’ve done it (at least once!), we’ve felt it, we’ve experienced it. Procrastination shows up for us when we’ve got soooo much uncertainty, lots of new stuff going on, in one area or all areas of our life, and we just don’t feel like we have any control (aka certainty). Which means as a way to handle this, to balance the scales a little and claw back a sense of control, we insert Procrastination. In the moment we procrastinate we feel more in control, certain, comfortable. For example, there’s that huge big mammoth task you just have no idea about at work. So instead of doing it you decide you absolutely MUST first deal with the long chain of emails in front of you (cause you know what to say, can respond to a handful and feel super organised and in control), or you decide you MUST tidy and clear your desk first (you know what to do, it feels good, it feels comfortable). Yet once you’ve done those things that make you feel more in control, you immediately return to where you were: facing uncertainty.
If you’re anything like me, and you’re hearing this for the first time, chances are you have lots running through your head right now. A handful of Aha moments flashing before your eyes.
For now, I say let ‘em roll. Jot them all down.
Think of what’s going on for you right now in your life, or even pick an area of your life, and ask how much certainty versus uncertainty do I have? What’s the balance like? And just notice it. Step 1 of any change process has to be about awareness. The more you can notice what’s happening the more you have the leverage to change it. So have some fun getting curious about procrastination and how it shows up for you in your life (or has ever shown up for you).
We’ll be sharing more on this topic in the next Blog and give you a few techniques to start shifting the balance of the scales in a way that is sustainable, and therefore gets you past procrastination and to the results you most want in your life.
We’ll be exploring much more about our core human needs (and how knowing which one is driving your decision-making can help you get unstuck quickly!) in the next Refresh and Recharge Wellbeing Workshop on Saturday 2 September.