“And I’m all mixed up again. Which way should I go? So many voices in my head…” – Inhabited
Did you ever have so many voices in your head that you had no idea which one was yours? I know the drill. The more serious the decision, the more voices that show up to confuse you. Who do these voices belong to?
Running away from problems
In my mid twenties I had so many voices in my head and was so sick and tired of the way they talked to me and confused me, that I decided to try and leave them behind. Literally.
So I went to Europe. Alone. I needed to get that far away to try and shut them down. Now I understand that it’s not feasible for most people, so bear with me. You do not actually have to go anywhere to begin to figure this out.
Nonetheless, desperate moments call for desperate actions and at that time, I was desperate. So, I flew from Philadelphia to London one cold December night. Within a couple of hours of landing I was standing in Picadilly Circus all alone in a crowd of people. Cell phones were virtually non-existent. Despite my exhaustion and jet lag, I was elated.
I stood there quietly, just absorbing my surroundings, and my mind was the quietest it had ever been. I felt free. Where did those voices go?Advertising
We soak up so many versions of how our life should be
From the time we are too small to even remember, we have information coming into our brains. We are sponges soaking up everything going on around us. We have Moms and Dads, aunts and uncles, grandparents, siblings, teachers, religious leaders, coaches, television programs and even peers…all telling us how life is, how we should be behaving and what is expected of us.
We just take it all in, all the while attempting to make sense of it so we can figure out how it applies to our lives. Many of those voices, unfortunately, come from a distorted world view, at best. Sometimes those voices are just blatantly damaging.
Nonetheless, as kids, we usually believe those voices are truth. Often times, if we don’t comply with those voices we pay a price. Punishment can be a powerful motivator, especially when you are a dependent, powerless child.
It’s called survival. So we internalize a whole slew of voices and opinions and they become the “shoulds” dictating our lives.
Those “shoulds” don’t belong to us. We inherited them from someone else. So when you tell yourself you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something. Ask yourself why. Before you make that final decision, it would be helpful to figure out whose voice you are listening to…or at the very least, if it is yours.
Shift your focus to find your own voice
The place to find your one true voice will not be found in your head. It will be found in your heart. That means you have to shift your focus. Move out of your head and focus on your heart. If you did not have all those voices in your head telling you what to do or not to do or why you should or shouldn’t do something….what would you do? What do you want?!Advertising
If you are answering, “I don’t know” then you may still be engaged in the conflict between your head and your heart. Try again….in the ideal world, without a millions reasons or excuses, what would you do?
I remember trying to make a difficult employment decision. I was working as an RN for a law firm. It was a nice gig. I had been there for five years. I liked what I was doing, despite having grown bored with it. I was paid a decent salary. I got along great with my employers and co-workers. I was good at what I did. I was respected. I had flexibility. I could take extended lunch hours, if needed. They took us on a trip to Jamaica. Who could ask for more?
I was considering returning to patient care, specifically hospice care. I had interviewed with a local hospice organization out of curiosity. I was offered a position. My brain went into overdrive. The voices in my head were relentless.
“What if you hate it?” “You will never get this flexibility in another job…certainly, no one is going to take you on an all expense paid island get-away.” “What are you thinking?” “Working with dying people…really?!” “Why would you leave a good job for something you know nothing about?” And so it goes, on and on and on…
I was paralyzed, afraid of making the “wrong decision”. I paced around my house, tormenting myself. I avoided talking to anyone about it, already having enough opinions roaming aimlessly through my head.
Legal work to hospice care was a huge and terrifying leap. After almost two weeks of grappling with it, I was no closer to making a decision. I was trying to figure it all out in my head and I was getting nowhere, but frustrated. Suddenly, during my second week of pacing around my home, losing in my head, I stopped suddenly.Advertising
I stood still in a spare bedroom of my house. I unknowingly shifted my focus out of my head and asked myself, “What do you want to do?” The answer was clear, “I want to do hospice care.” The next silent question was, “So what is the problem?” Again, the answer was clear, “I’m scared.”
In understanding why I was unable to make a decision, I realized that I wanted to make the move, but fear of the unknown was stopping me. The voices stopped. I knew what to do.
Listen to your heart
Those voices in my head were all the well intended, nonetheless, fearful voices of my youth. They came from parental and societal expectations of what employment life “should” look like. They were all the practical, well-advised opinions that keep many from finding their true purpose.
I resigned from the law firm and within a month, I was doing hospice care. That life changing decision was a stepping stone to my current career as a psychotherapist. It was while doing hospice care that I realized I was better with the psychological and spiritual side of life than the physical.
My heart knew what my head did not. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Had I stayed in my head and ignored my heart, I might still be trudging through life. Though I may still be doing something worthwhile and honorable, it would be, nonetheless, unfulfilling.
Now, please understand, we need our heads to help us navigate life. Our heads have to work through the practical part of what we are doing. We need our heads and our hearts to work in conjunction with each other in order to make our decision work.Advertising
But when we are making a decision about what is best for our life, the heart needs to lead. The mind is fearful.
Once you make the jump, your are heading on a journey towards your heart’s desire
Although not necessary, it can help to consider to whom those voices in your head belong. Who were the naysayers? Who told you what life was “supposed” to look like? How have parental or societal expectations dictated the life you are living? What fear has been projected on to you?
Whenever your mind is in overdrive…fear is involved. Hesitate, and ask yourself, “what am I afraid of?”
In asking myself that question, I discovered I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of regret. I was afraid I would be a lousy hospice nurse. I was afraid of facing death, not only that of others, but more importantly, my own. I could not disconnect from my own mortality and still help others grapples with theirs.
But I also knew that in desiring it, my heart was leading me to the place that was most right for me. As long as I follow the desires of my heart, I usually, likely always, land right where I am supposed to. I stayed there two years before feeling another pull at my heart, telling me it was time to move on. Each step leads to the next…and to the next and to the next.
Take that first step and you might actually discover, you are creating the life you want.
Featured photo credit: http://getrefe.tumblr.com/ via 65.media.tumblr.com
Last Updated on October 20, 2020
How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators
You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.
We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.
The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.
Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:
1. Break Your Work into Little Steps
Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.
For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –
- (1) Research
- (2) Deciding the topic
- (3) Creating the outline
- (4) Drafting the content
- (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
- (6) Revision
- (7) etc.
Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.
2. Change Your Environment
Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.
One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.
3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines
Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.
Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.
My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.
Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines
4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops
If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.
Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.
I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.
5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action
I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You
Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.
As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.
6. Get a Buddy
Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.
I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.
7. Tell Others About Your Goals
This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.
For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.
8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome
What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.
9. Re-Clarify Your Goals
If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.
Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?
10. Stop Over-Complicating Things
Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.
Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.
11. Get a Grip and Just Do It
At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.
I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.
Bonus: Think Like a Rhino
More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action
- 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life
- 10 Best Ted Talks About Procrastination That Will Ignite Your Motivation
- Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Procrastination And Start Doing)
- What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)
Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com