Few would dispute that in the endless journey towards self-improvement, the most direct (and paradoxically the hardest) route towards success is to simply get out of your own way. It takes emotional intelligence to recognise the precise ways in which you are your own greatest enemy.
At the same time, knowing that you have a problem and taking action to resolve it are two different things. While it’s true that emotional self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, practicing emotional self-regulation is also critical.
When it comes to overcoming the emotional battle of procrastination, knowing how to keep your emotions in check is especially useful. Here’s how to do just that.
P.S. Learn how to control your emotions instead of letting them control you: pick up SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying emotional competence managing self and others today!
When it comes right down to it, perception is half the battle. Tweaking your perception of challenging tasks you may otherwise avoid is actually more impactful than most people might think.
So many of us procrastinate, it seems, because we fear what it might say about ourselves and our competence if we don’t manage to do a good job on a particular task. For perfectionists, in particular, even doing a “good job” isn’t enough: it has to be “perfect.”
Both of these modes of thinking, however, are the fixed mindset in action, and it can prove to be highly detrimental towards personal growth.
According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, those who have “fixed mindsets” tend to believe that their skills and abilities are static and relatively unchangeable over time. Their priority, then, is protecting what limited ability they think they have; they would rather avoid opportunities for growth for fear of failing.
Procrastination, in the fixed mindset, makes perfect sense since it precipitates the kind of emotional avoidance that they’re used to.
Growth-minded people, on the other hand, see their skills and abilities as dynamic and changeable over time. Hence, they’re wired towards searching for opportunities to grow.
To a growth-minded person, the discomfort of working on a challenging task is simply an indication that they’re challenging themselves and growing, slowly but surely. In other words, they are often less concerned with doing things “perfectly” or with the possibility that they might fail.
Switching your mindset in this way greatly reduces the perceived threat to your self-image that you might associate with challenging tasks, thus reducing your need to default to procrastinating.
Ultimately, the fact of the matter is that future success entails current discomfort—but this doesn’t mean that the process of challenging yourself itself isn’t emotionally rewarding or satisfying at all.
While procrastinators often choose to avoid the negative emotions that can come with working on a specific tasks, they’re also foregoing the positive emotions that can come about in the course of working on that task.
The “flow state”, in particular, is one of these things. It describes the feeling of being completely in the zone when you’re working on something.
Positive psychologist Mihail Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term after interviewing hundreds of elite athletes and musicians on how they experience peak performance, says that in the “flow state”, time dissolves, and the “self” disappears into your work. The end result is a highly enjoyable and positive experience that comes about as a result of total absorption into your work.
However, before one gets into a flow state, there is a necessary stage of struggle, where one experiences the kind of frustration, stress, and other negative emotions that procrastinators routinely try to avoid. Knowing this can help you to accept that negative emotions are not just necessary, but instrumental in attaining enjoyment in your work.