Procrastination: When Hope Gets You Stuck

It can be easy to watch yourself stalling and just label it procrastination. Then what do you do about it? Do you scold yourself to try to get moving? Sometimes that can spur you on, but the momentum sure doesn’t last. And it feels awful!

What feels better is to look a little closer. If you can see the hidden feelings and beliefs, you can do something with that. Simply seeing what’s really going on can shift your perspective.

So what’s hiding underneath putting something off? Sometimes the answer has to do with hope. Seems weird, no? But here’s how it goes.

Let’s take dating as an example (or I should say NOT dating). A client wants to find a partner. She’s been intending to start going out with guys again, but has put it off for three years.

Now here’s the hope part: She has a beautiful idea of what her partner could be like, and the wonderful life they could share together. She really hopes her dream can play out in real life. But if she starts dating, and it doesn’t happen, she’ll risk losing that hope. Forever. (Or that’s what it seems like, anyway.)

It feels better to at least have the dream, the hope that she could live happily ever after with her ideal man. If she doesn’t date, she won’t have to chance having her vision not come true.

So she doesn’t get started. There’s too much at stake – that sweet, precious hope. It feels HUGE – and so all-or-nothing.

So there’s the fear: I’ll lose my dream that feels so good when I imagine it. I’d rather have the certainty of feeling good about a dream, than to risk losing it by starting to date.

Sounds a little wacky when you say it out loud, but who says feelings and beliefs make sense?

I saw myself stuck by my hope last week. I’m in a new place, and decorating my living room. I kept putting it off because I had a picture in my head of how I wanted it to turn out. What if I pulled it all together and it turned out crummy? I’d rather have my hope of how fabulous it MIGHT look than to risk it by actually moving ahead.

Once I realized that’s what was going on, it freed me up to get rolling on my project. Sometimes just shining the light of logic on your fears can make them evaporate.

And sometimes it goes a little deeper. I’m not saying it’s always that simple. But if there’s something you’re putting off, just ask yourself, “Am I loving the dream picture too much to move ahead?”

Let me know what you think and leave a comment.

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  • Ije

    LOVE this post janet! it’s so true! i love how you named how losing the hope of what could be is what stops us. that’s so powerful & exactly what i needed to hear. now it makes sense what’s been holding me back on that free workbook i’ve been daydreaming about and i actually feel moved to get to work on it! SO powerful!!! thanks for sharing:-)

  • Janet Hilts

    Thanks, Ije. Isn’t it astonishing how things shift when you see this at work behind the scenes? I’m so glad it helped, and look forward to seeing that free workbook of yours.

  • LaVonne Ellis

    Bingo! You hit the nail on the head. I was procrastinating like crazy about launching my voice coaching site, the fear was terrible. But I couldn’t figure out what I was so afraid of. Now I know. Thank you!

  • Janet Hilts

    Glad it rang true for you LaVonne. Maybe you’ll catch it early if it shows up again. I love when that happens!

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