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Why You Can’t Stop Procrastinating (Healing Your Life, Part 2)

If you’re here, it’s probable that you procrastinate.  In Part 1 of this mini-series, I shared what makes change so hard for us.  If you haven’t read that article yet, go ahead and start there.  

That article exposed that change itself actually isn’t hard, but we make it hard because of the story we tell ourselves.  

And while there are many stories we tell, we have one main one I call our ‘Core Story’ – it is usually limiting, and tends to be locked in at childhood.  And it can stay with us through our entire lives…

Unless we wake up and take full responsibility for rewriting it.

But you may have convinced yourself that your “small life” is okay.  That you don’t really need or even deserve more than what you have right now.

In fact, the question for you may be: Is it really worth all the work?

Take a Deeper Look: How Much Does Your Core Story Limit You?

There are two big fears that are practically encoded in our DNA, that all of us share in our core story, until we take the time to become aware and resolve them.

  1. We are instilled with a deep fear of failure – whether you’ve seen that in yourself or not, it’s probably true.

See, for much of human beings’ existence, we were deeply connected to our tribe.  Being rejected by our community in it’s worst sense, meant death.

If we were a hunter, and we weren’t terribly good at hunting, our food might be given away to the more successful hunters.  Or we might be outright rejected by our community.  Suddenly we’d have to rely entirely on ourselves to survive.

In a time when having a “sick day” might have meant getting eaten, failing and ultimately being abandoned would be terribly frightening.

If we failed at things, we may be rejected from the tribe.

So, of course we feared failing.  In fact, this fear of failure was an evolutionary advantage.  It kept us vigilant, and productive.

But now as a society with 24 hour grocery stores and online shopping, we’ve moved past fearing for our survival when we’re alone, but we haven’t lost this fear of failure.  And it’s becoming less and less of a evolutionary advantage all the time.

  1. The really hard one for people to get their heads around is another, seemingly different fear – the fear of success.  

We all like to claim that we don’t have this one, but look closer, it takes many forms:  

  • You may be concerned that making too much money will isolate you from your friends and family.  
  • You may think that being successful requires such extreme hard work and dedication that you’ll lose all your loved ones.  
  • You may even believe that if you achieve success, you won’t be able to maintain it, and you’ll plunge your whole family into chaos.

Success is scary for many of us.  And since it’s something most of us also clearly want, we end up with unconscious “value conflicts” which lead to frustration and self sabotage as we attempt to grow and succeed.

So our core story end up with a narrative that tells us how successful we’re supposed to be, and how much we deserve and can maintain.  

We instinctively don’t want to be too far ahead, or too far behind.

The fear of success points to the same primal instinct as the fear of failure – stay with your tribe!  

Your core story says things like, “I’m not enough” and “the world isn’t safe” as a way to keep you content with your tribe, safe and alive.  

It’s a very effective survival mechanism – but again, survival isn’t as difficult as it used to be.  If you’re reading this, I imagine your more focused on thriving, than merely surviving.  

So what’s our usual response to a core story that’s telling us to stay small and not let anyone see our weaknesses?  What’s the very best way to stay safe?

PROCRASTINATE!

Performing badly (and sometimes performing too well) means abandonment and that fear of loss/death again to the more primitive part of your brain.  

So our subconscious goes to work looking for reasons to avoid performing at all.

Every reason we imagine or create that prevents us from performing is one more opportunity to NOT perform badly

And we end up with a psychological version of our own identity that is inflated (just how we like it).

Face it, Have you said things like this before?

  • My job performance would be incredible if I was more organized.
  • I would have done way better on that test if I hadn’t waited until the night before to study.  
  • I could have gotten that promotion if I applied for it, but I don’t really need the extra money.

I hope it’s starting to make more sense why you use these excuses.  If not, I’ve written before about “the formula that causes us to procrastinate” here: Self Worth = Ability = Performance.  Check that out to go deeper on this point.

By procrastinating, we can keep saying “I’m actually way better than this” without the chance of anyone finding out we might not be.

So procrastination isn’t something we do when we “don’t want success bad enough” or we’re “just lazy.”  Procrastination isn’t even something we do consciously most of the time.  

Procrastination is our subconscious mind’s way of keeping us safe and alive.  And while it also might be keeping you miserable and unsuccessful, it’s actually doing one job amazingly well.

As angry as you might be, it’s worth thanking your subconscious for doing its job.  Acknowledge the hard work it’s doing to keep you alive, accept that it’s only doing what it has been evolutionarily programmed to do, and then move on.

What’s So Bad About Playing It Safe?

Look, there’s a pretty obvious solution, so I’ll get that out of the way first:

Keep procrastinating.

You stay safe, nothing really gets that much better or worse, and one day – sooner or later – you die.

You never accomplish your big goals, you’re never fully present with your loved ones, and you never bring about substantial change in the world on the issues that really matter to you.

Hell, you may never even figure out what really matters to you at all.  You’ll just drift through life and let your fears control you.

Or…

You’ll realize that this S#%! has been going on long enough, that it’s not going to get better until you invest in yourself, and that everyone you know has been waiting for you to step up and commit to rewiring this core story you’ve unconsciously created.

Here’s the deal:

Your new core story can be one that doesn’t carry your current fears and limitations.  One that takes real action on evoking massive change in your life and this world.  

It can be about how you are a badass entrepreneur who loves blowing past failure and gets stronger and stronger with every business move.

It can be about how you are the most loving parent or partner, and you always respond with kindness and compassion.

It can be about how you are creating a world where no one else ever has to experience the deep pain that you experienced as a child.

It can be about anything you decide.

And as you change your core story, your experience of yourself and the world will change dramatically.  The behaviors you want are baked into this new story that’s running your new reality.  Changing your core story is the fastest way to change YOU.

While the choice to do this work is yours, please remember – this isn’t dress rehearsal.  

You only get one shot at this.  You have to decide if and when you’re ready to change…but when you do decide to change, know that it can happen in an instant.

(It’s called Identity Shifting and you can learn more about that over here.)

My Final Point is This

This work I’m talking about is scary.  It’s the exact kind of thing you may choose to procrastinate on.

But don’t do that.

If you feel called to do this work, DO IT.  Find a trusted mentor, a therapist, read books – whatever.  Just don’t procrastinate on this.  There’s nothing more important you can do.

 

Why Is Change So Hard (Healing Your Life, Part 1)

Why Is Change So Hard?  Or, why do we think it’s so hard?  Have you ever heard someone say that real change takes a long time to lock in?  

Is that maybe something you’ve said yourself?

Here’s the thing – if you’re telling yourself, or your friends, or (god-forbid) your children this…you’re doing them a major disservice.  You’re setting everyone in your life up for failure….  

Change doesn’t take a long time to happen.

That’s a myth.  Change is actually instantaneous. We cling to this belief that change has to be hard, but it’s really  our own resistance to change that slows us down.  I can already hear you sputtering…

“But, but, but…you can only change one thing at a time!  Willpower is limited!”

That’s just not true.  In fact, the fastest kind of change happens without any willpower at all.

Our Past is The Burden That Stops Us From Changing…

Let’s be clear, there is no rule that we have to keep carrying our past.

Do you know my story?  (If not, trust me you will.  I hammer on about it all the time.)  Anyway, the short version is this: physical abuse followed by drug abuse followed by homelessness and rock bottom.

I was so angry and stuck in the “victim mindset” – I didn’t even ask to be born!  Why is this so hard?! – and because of that, I was projecting out onto the world all these negative thoughts and feelings.  

Everything looked ugly to me.

Finally, I woke up to the core concept: we’re all one and we’re only fighting ourselves. Through that realization, I got down to “wow, I’m just fighting myself…. Nobody’s punching me in the face anymore… I don’t have any of the challenges of my childhood, but I’m dragging them forward from my past with my core story.”

What Is A Core Story?

Our core story begins with something that happens to us when we’re very young. And we carry it with us, we live into that story until we change it for ourselves.  

As babies, we were completely dependent on our parents, and for most of us, we received everything we needed until a certain point in time…and then suddenly, we didn’t.  

Mom didn’t come when we cried.  The food we were given wasn’t enough to fill us up.  The universe became uncertain and unsafe.

Human beings fill in the reason for that uncertainty with meaning.  Meaning makes us feel safe. But that meaning, if set up a certain way, can affect us for the rest of our lives.

Sometimes we rationalize with an explanation like “I’m not enough.”  And once that seed has been planted, we start to see it everywhere, every time something doesn’t work out for us.

It becomes our core story.

So What happens If We Change Our Story?  

What happens if you start talking to yourself differently about what’s possible and who you want to be?  I did that for myself, and I literally dropped my whole victim identity and came into a new sense of what was possible for me and who I was.

Over just a few years I went from homeless to working as a clerk in a mailroom to VP of a corporation in Philadelphia – all with no credentials – building out a software business for them and making a very nice exit.

Now, listen…you might already be saying “that’s never going to work for me.”  But I promise I had absolutely nothing back then that you don’t have right now.

And do you want to know a secret?  It can be as simple as the questions you ask…what if there were right and wrong questions to ask yourself?

Become The Author of Your Core Story

If you have been trying to make changes in your life, but you feel like you’re going around in circles, the reason may be as simple as your core story being out of whack.

And while this remains unconscious to you – whatever you do to try to solve your problems just reinforce that story

You end up trying to change and ask yourself questions like, what’s wrong with me? why am I such a loser? when will I finally earn enough to be happy?   But all you’re really doing is beating yourself down.

You’re trying to change and grow but instead, you’ve become your own worst enemy and it doesn’t solve anything.

In fact, things can get worse.  The results might be extreme procrastination, frustration, anger, desperation, learned helplessness, and lashing out at others – even loved ones. You can push hard and burn out trying to reach success, but…

You’re Going to Wind Up With Incremental Change At Best

So what happens when you ask the right questions?  Things like…

Who do I need to become to make this change? What kind of person does what I want to do effortlessly?  

When you ask these kinds of questions, you can immediately shift your way into success.

The results are motivation, passion, happiness, clarity, and grit.  You see all these results because you’ve developed self-worth and self-love.  

Seriously, you are amazing.

There is no one else on earth with your unique perspective, and there never will be again.  You deserve so much more than incremental change – and the rest of the world deserves to share in what you have to offer! So…

Are You Ready to Bloom?

Honestly, this article might be enough for you to finally grab hold of the life you want.  Sometimes we just need the awareness of the burdens we carry – and once we see that weight for what it is, we drop it and move on.  I was able to change my core story, and maybe you can too.

But you might need to go deeper.  You might need to understand why you procrastinate change, and how you can let go of your fears long enough to allow this shift to happen in your life.

If that’s the case, then find support.  Get a mentor when you can.  And keep an eye out for the next article in this series.  It’s all about why we procrastinate.

I’ll talk with you then…

How Your Limiting Beliefs Keep You Safe… And Miserable

Imagine this scenario: You are a successful business owner or corporate employee. You’ve been working hard and putting in more hours every year but you never have much to show for it. Your income never grows, but your debt just keeps climbing.  You are exhausted and stressed and you don’t see any way you could work any harder.

When you lie awake in bed at night, you start asking yourself, “Why me?” You wonder what’s wrong with you that keeps you from getting your life together.  Why are so many peers doing better?

Here are just a few of the things I hear my clients say about themselves:

  • “I am no good.”
  • “I will never be able to change”
  • “life will never get better”
  • “my body is disgusting”
  • “nobody will ever love me”
  • “I don’t deserve to have what I really want”
  • “I’m not worthy of anything”
  • “I actually hate myself…”

Can you imagine speaking to a co-worker or child like that everyday?  And if you did, would you expect them to perform well or have stellar behavior?

When we narrate our own lives with this kind of language, is it really any surprise that we can’t ever seem to profoundly change?

Changing How You Think Will Change Your Life

Look, we all want to feel happy and fulfilled in our lives. To do that we have to understand and change how we make meaning. And we have to learn where these beliefs about ourselves come from to begin with.

If you pay close attention to what I’m about to share with you, you will learn the ability to make new meaning which will allow you to move past your limiting beliefs.  You’ll gain deep clarity with zero illusions.  This is like getting the ‘keys to the kingdom’ of creating happiness and fulfillment in your life.  But tools aren’t enough, you first have to be open to change.

How We Make Meaning

Our ancestors had less choices when it came to truth and beliefs1.  If they were walking back to their tribe through a field of tall grass and they heard  a rustle, they could assume, “That’s just wind,” and keep on walking…or they could worry “That’s a tiger!” and go home the longer but safer route.

Even if they guessed correctly some of the time, the people who thought “it’s just the wind” were going to be wrong eventually, and that was the end of their blood line.  But the people who thought there was a tiger even when there wasn’t still got home safely, even if there was never any real threat.  And while there may have been a small cost of going the longer way home, they got to live, and they passed on their genes and teachings to us.

That means we’ve actually been bred to make meaning that keeps us safe. We actually seek patterns in every situation because those patterns are what’s kept us alive for thousands of years.

The problem is when you identify patterns – especially about yourself – that aren’t true at all:  I can’t dance, dieting doesn’t work for me, I’ll always be poor…  

Just like believing there’s a tiger waiting in the grass for you, these beliefs can seem to keep you safe, even when they’re wrong.  

Wrong Beliefs Are Dangerous

Let’s be clear, even if they do keep you safe, your negative beliefs will fail miserably at helping you feel happy, confident, and fulfilled in your life.  

You see, a belief is simply taking an opinion and treating it as a truth.  Beliefs are everywhere and they are incredibly powerful – they can be motivating when they are useful, but they can be downright dangerous when they aren’t.

Let’s imagine a woman who was told in middle school that she “looks fat in that outfit.”  I can’t tell you how many clients of mine have this kind of experience.  And what happens is that the embarrassment of that moment creates a pattern to not believe we are attractive.  Staying ‘safe’ becomes believing we are unattractive.

The cost of believing we are unattractive is huge, yet it’s a way our system keeps us safe. If we stop standing out, risking things with trendy clothes, etc. – we can avoid ever being embarrassed like that again.

One… simple… comment… can have a lifetime of negative effect.

Look back at that list of common negative self talk – do you say any of those things to yourself?  Take a few moments to consider the negative things you say about yourself on any given day.

Now, can you honestly say that those are true?  Or have you just formed an opinion – maybe because of things parents or peers said to you when you were younger – and since that opinion kept you ‘safe’ in some way, your subconscious went ahead and turned it into a belief.

Learn to Challenge Your Beliefs

You have to break the cycle of turning these patterns into beliefs.  And if you already have the limiting beliefs, you’re going to want to learn how to reverse them.  The simple way out is by learning to challenge the beliefs that are holding you back.  

If your brain says, “This is really hard, I’ll never get it done.”  Then you say, “Nah, this is easy. I got this.”

If your brain says, “I’ll never have real money.”  Then you say, “I wonder how I can GROW my wealth this month.”

It’s so simple, but until we shift our identity it takes commitment.  It takes doing this same process over and over again, day in and day out, until it becomes an unconscious habit (the identity shifts).

What Happens If You Master Meaning?

Recently I worked with a client who told herself that making more money in her business would make her life harder.  So she had a money ceiling – her belief was keeping her ‘safe’ from the complexity of a bigger life by preventing her from earning more money.  And because of this, she was stuck and getting deeper in debt.  

Simply learning to question the belief that more money would equal more problems has completely changed her income and business growth.  She’s paid off all her debts and is doing better and better every month.

But what if she’d held on to that belief that money just complicated her life?  How much time and energy and money (that she didn’t have) would she have wasted on workshops and books and tools – only to sabotage her results and keep the ‘less money is better’ story alive?  

Strategies and tactics wouldn’t do anything for her until she eliminated the limiting belief. And they won’t do anything for you until you eliminate the beliefs that are fighting to keep you ‘safe,’ but are actually sabotaging your goals.

Next Steps

I hope this is all you need to begin identifying your ‘truths’ that are really just beliefs, and to then begin challenging those beliefs in the moments when they hold you back.

Some beliefs are easier to challenge than others.  Some are so deeply ingrained in us, that we might need some mental power tools to get to the root of it.

But I want you to have some fun with this.  You’re embarking on a huge shift in your life – it’s intense – but it doesn’t have to be hard.  You can enjoy it and make it a game to uncover all the old beliefs that have been holding you back for years.

Remember, this isn’t about forcing old habits onto your current identity – this is about completely shifting the way you see yourself and the world. It’s about permanent change through shifting your identity.

And once you’ve got your new identity locked in, overturning limiting beliefs won’t be a decision you need to make in the moment…it will just be a normal part of your day. Making positive meaning can become totally automatic for you.

 


  1. This example comes from author Dr. Michael Shermer. For more on his concept of “patternicity,” check out the book How We Believe.

The MOST Important Life Strategy There Is…

 

 

In today’s world, I think it’s fair to say that we’re ALL a little overwhelmed. With so many options and different commitments it’s really hard to just keep things simple.

We end up with email cluttering our inboxes, junk cluttering our houses, dishes cluttering our sinks.  Too much to read.  Too many commitments. Friends want our time, family wants our time, work wants our time.  After a while, everywhere you turn, there’s more to do!

Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?

Because I know this is true for most people, I want to share what I think might be the MOST important life strategy there is:

Simplification!

Take time to regularly simplify your life.  I promise you… EVERYTHING IS NOT IMPORTANT.

One of the best things I’ve ever done is to decide what is MOST IMPORTANT in my life, and then make a hard line and just stick to those things (as best I can).

In the interest of keeping this SIMPLE, I’ll end it after I ask one question:

What can you do right now to simplify your life?