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Living Scared

Living Scared

Sometimes the answers to our problems are not nearly as complex or elusive as many of us seem to believe they are. Or as difficult as some of us make them. Sometimes our problems only exist in our head. Sometimes the journey from where we are to where we’d like to be is not nearly as terrifying as we imagine it is. In fact, it’s often kind of exhilarating and liberating.

Living Scared

Prison

That’s right; some of us make life hard. Our inability to make certain decisions or do certain things keeps us trapped in a reality that we don’t enjoy. Hate, in fact. And standing at the door of our self-created prison is a gate-keeper who only exists in our mind; fear. While other people can walk in and out of our prison (reality) at will, fear has kept some of us from freedom for far too long – telling us what to do, and what not to do, for as long as we can remember. Influencing, if not controlling virtually every area of our lives. For years we’ve been fearful of getting hurt in some way, fearful of getting fat, or being unloved, unwanted, poor, humiliated, of upsetting people or being discovered for the fraud we believe we are. And we’re petrified of being alone. We’ve lived so much of our life negatively, simply doing our best to avoid the ‘bad stuff’ and to survive, that somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost, or maybe never even really found, us; the us we still want to be, the us we could be and the us we’ve dreamed about since we were five.

It’s okay, you’re still in there.

Sometimes the seemingly insurmountable gap between our current reality and our own version of amazing (prison and freedom) is much smaller than we think. Much, much smaller. A mere step away in fact. With the only challenge being that sometimes the step we need to take is a doozy; the ‘no safety net’ step. And we love safety nets – that’s a big part of the problem.

Fear is a jealous gate-keeper and he wants you staying put in your make-believe prison. That’s how he operates. He doesn’t want you to see what’s out there, what’s possible for you. He can’t keep you in there but only he knows that. He’s been holding a pair of threes while you’ve had four aces in your hand for years, but he’s bluffed you every time. Stared you down, made you believe something that wasn’t true – that what you have in your hand isn’t good enough. Well listen up…

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It is good enough. You are good enough.

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This is not feel-good, positive thinking mumbo jumbo, its reality. But you need to make it YOUR reality. Fear doesn’t want you making decisions, taking chances or exploring your potential because that’s where he loses his power. He doesn’t want you hanging out with those ‘positive thinking’ types and he certainly doesn’t want you paying too much attention to articles like this one.

Healthy and unhealthy fear

Of course there’s a time to fear. If someone is pointing a gun at you and you are fearful, then that makes you normal, not gutless. We would call that healthy fear. But that’s not what we’re talking about today. Today we’re talking about the unhealthy, destructive and often irrational fear that controls and ruins lives.

Fearful creatures

People often ask me what I believe stops so many of us from fulfilling our potential and from creating our best life. In truth, there are many things on the list of likely obstacles: procrastination, laziness, ignorance, indifference, ego and a bunch of other stuff, but without doubt, at the top of most lists, is fear.

It’s true; we humans are fearful creatures. On some level we all operate on fear from time to time, and to a point, that’s understandable. Wise even. But beyond a point, it’s stupid. Destructive even. It’s about knowing where that line in the sand should be and staying on the right side. A little fear – good. A life controlled by fear – bad. Painful.

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Far too many of our significant ‘life decisions’ come out of our fearful mindset, and as a consequence, many of us live a life of compromise, under-achievement and imprisonment. And repetition. And repetition. It’s like some of us are Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. And repetition. All of our days are just like the ones before. And sadly for some, tomorrow will be the same too. Because that’s what we do; the same – even though we desperately want different. The journey between where we are and where we want to be scares the crap out of us so we stay put. In Samesville. A.K.A. prison.

“I don’t really like my life right now, but at least there’s a level of familiarity and predictability about it. I know what’s coming each day and in a way, I’m comfortable with that. It doesn’t particularly fulfill me but it doesn’t terrify me either. So if it’s okay with you, I’ll stay here in a holding pattern for forty or fifty years and then I’ll die, just like dear old Dad did. There won’t be a whole lot of joy or fun, but at least I know what to expect each day.”

Tug War

We love certainty (a dangerous thing to love in a uncertain world), we’re addicted to safety, we seek familiarity and we want risk-free (good luck with that). Ironically certainty, safety, familiarity and risk-free… is not where we grow, learn, adapt, change or improve. Or find our best life. In fact, quite often the things that we gravitate towards are our biggest handicap.

I have spent a lifetime watching people complicate the simple, avoid the obvious and not do the very things they should or could have done, long ago. Some people have been almost creating their best life for far too long. Some people have been standing at the threshold of greatness for years, twiddling their thumbs, wasting their time and talent and hoping in vain that success might somehow find it’s way to them. An interesting, if not totally unrealistic notion.

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Some people have been in situations or circumstances that they really don’t want to be in, for years. Decades even. This is because they associate more discomfort / pain with getting out of their current reality, than staying in it. So they stay. Miserable and scared.

Some Personal Development Junkies are masters of this. Just one more workshop, one more conversation, one more mentoring session, one more self-help book and just one more day and then I’ll do it. Okay, maybe two more days. Sadly, they don’t understand that what they really need is not more time, books, workshops or more motivational fluff, what they really need is some balls. Excuse my honesty but some people are highly educated, very capable, extremely talented and gutless. I’ve met many of them. Give me someone with less talent, less opportunities, more adversity and some genuine courage, and I’ll show you how to get some real results.

I know this is not a message that’s often taught in personal development circles but I believe that’s a big mistake. I believe it should be shouted from the roof tops. We like to gravitate towards the feel-good (but mostly useless and disempowering) psycho-babble crap. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy for ten minutes but results in no long term positive change. Of course I believe there is a time for listening, for handing holding, for back rubbing, for hugging and for loving support and encouragement. The problem is, some people have had all of that for years and they’re STILL in the same place and still doing the same destructive things. Sometimes more therapy ain’t the answer. I know that’s not a popular thing to say but it’s true. There’s a time when some people need to suck it up, to stop looking for pity, to stop being a victim and start taking control of their own life. Simple.

Courage

Prison Door

So often we are taught that creating our best life is about talent, opportunities, planning, goal setting, vision, passion, discipline and a bunch of other stuff. And to an extent it is; it’s about all of those things. But there’s one non-negotiable ingredient that doesn’t get the attention it should; courage. Our ability to do what we need to do, despite the fear. If we have all of the ingredients but no courage, we’ll never get there. Wherever there is for us.

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Fear and all it’s implications in the lives of us mere mortals is something which has fascinated me for years. I have watched it ruin many friendships, careers, businesses, marriages and lives. I have seen it destroy individuals. Like most emotions, on some level, we create it. It’s very personal and individual. It’s a personal response to, or interpretation of, an event, situation or circumstance.

I’ve also watched many people stare-down and overcome their fears and enjoy a life of happiness, joy and exhilaration that only comes with true freedom. I’ve seen brave people turn their lives around after years of frustration and sadness. And I’ve seen ordinary people do incredible things because they chose to walk out of that prison cell. Once and for all.

Remember…

On the other side of fear is freedom.

Enjoy your liberty my friend.
You deserve it and you’re worth it.

More by this author

Craig Harper

Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

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 –

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  • (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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Reality check:

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.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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