A look at the things we pointlessly yet desperately avoid
I was busy avoiding writing this weekend and remain amazed at how many mundane and absurd things I was able to convince myself I needed to do as a priority instead; that’s a priority instead of working on the one piece of building my presence in the business world that I can do right now. Yep, it makes no sense at all.
We are in many ways programmed to avoid and to procrastinate, some do it more than others, and others are prone to it but have learnt to stop it in its tracks, whatever your situation or view, ultimately procrastination and avoidance are a form of self-protection.
I’m going to dive in deep early and fast, and state that the one guaranteed thing in life that we all avoid more than anything is Death. From the day you are born, it is the one and only thing you’re are totally guaranteed to do, and the one thing you’re guaranteed to do extremely effectively; no training required.
If I sound like I’m being blase, believe me I’m not. I thought I’d experienced loss and grief and then in 2022 I experienced it in a far more intimate, unexpected and repeated way in a short time frame. It threw the entire year off kilter for me, quite frankly it threw my entire world and life view off. So I’m being very sincere when I raise this point, because if I hadn’t spent my whole life avoiding the reality that I and the people around me will die, then it might have been a little less of a struggle. Still painful, challenging, and deeply hurtful, but less of a struggle.
The things we resist play on our minds, even if subconsciously, more than the things we embrace. We desperately avoid death or even ageing in Western societies spending vast amounts of money on trying to look like we ever progressed over the age of the 30 and the terrible implications that getting older is deemed to possess. However, if instead of avoidance we embraced the reality of ageing and death could we live better, freer, happier?
Lightening it up a few notches, what about avoidance task avoidance, conversation avoidance, or change avoidance? What if we replaced avoidance in all areas with a deep breath and one small action at a time, working toward embracing that which we avoid?
In my case, writing content and sharing it out into the world, I avoid it because I’m afraid I haven’t got it quite right, not quite clear on the direction. I tell myself it needs to be spot on or I’ll get shunned, rejected or some online troll will hurl abuse at me because I’ve got a different view to them. And then what if I just write and publish? Someone might feel inspired, someone else might feel validated, someone might feel less alone, people will get to know me, what I can do, what I believe and heck, perhaps someone will want to work with me or simply want to connect in shared minds!
It is only through action we progress and grow. That doesn’t have to mean grind and hustle, it doesn’t have to be highly dynamic. If what you need is to learn to slow down to recover from burnout, then the action could simply be to learn to sit still in peace for 10 minutes a day. There is much we can learn from the natural cycles of the world in terms of how we can better move through change, but that’s a post for another day. It is only through our choices and subsequent commitment to action that we can create what we want in our lives and inspire others.
I’m currently doing an anti-procrastination self-guided course because as I said, 2022 kicked me in the guts, mouth and backside all at the same time, pretty sure it may have stomped on my head too. At the start of 2022 I had clear plans and a deep commitment to them. Then January and February happened. As my perception around the point of life shifted radically the rug was well and truly ripped out from under that vision and commitment.
An outcome of that rug removal was that I fell into a deep reflection, which has connected me much more closely with who I want to be and how I want to live, which is positive. However, the fluid nature of my reflections developed into procrastination as I started to believe I needed 100% clarity on the entirety of my life, career and purpose before I could take a next step. Not quite so positive or helpful and hence the course.
For those who may be interested, the program is called Virtue Map and you can check it out here. Is it any good? Well so far so good but I’m 20 days in and there are 80 more to go, so I’ll have to come back to you on that. What I can say, is that it is bite-size and easy to fit into each day and I have already increased my awareness of my procrastination and that is half the battle. It has also supported me with initial tools to help stop the cycle of procrastination – which is how I managed to already have one small post written this morning!
I invite you now to take time to think about the things you are avoiding or procrastinating over and to ask yourself what if you took one small action to reach that which you are putting off? You could start by building a list of your ‘to dos’ and arranging them into four areas:
- Do It Now – anything that will take less than five minutes just do it and celebrate accomplishment!
- Do It Later – important tasks that need a little extra time. Then decide if they are important and urgent, or important but no rush. If needs be re-negotiate deadlines with yourself and others.
- Delegate It – is it really you that must or has to do this? Have you taken on more than you can chew right now? Seeking support elsewhere can be uplifting to all parties, you can empower someone else and/or build connection by being open and honest that you simply don’t have the capacity to do it, or the skill to do it as well as them.
- Dump It – do you really need to do the thing at all? Generally we’re all a lot better at saying yes, or telling ourselves we should do something than taking time to discern what’s really needed. Be real, if it’s not adding value get rid – write it down, cross it out, say goodbye to it and burn it if you want to really feel the weight come off your shoulders!
Now that you’ve got your to do’s organised you can develop a simple plan of what to do and when. You might prefer to do it based on timeframe, such as work through one task a day/week over a set time period, or you might decide to build habits about daily small actions for each. Whatever you decide, start small. I wanted to build a meditation habit for example, my agreement to myself is to meditate for a minimum of 2 minutes a day – that I hold myself to. More often than not I do 10-30 minutes a day, as sitting down on the mat is the hardest part but whatever the day I can hold myself to 2 minutes and therefore maintain the sense of achievement, not the sense of judgement that comes by setting a goal that is all to easily missed.
Coming back to that more grave topic of avoidance (yep pun was intended), in avoiding death we deny part of our ability to live fully in recognition of our true desires. In stopping to think about what we hope to leave behind when we depart, we set a direction for how to live (and from a practical point of view in acknowledging death and preparing for ours, we take a huge weight off the shoulders of our nearest and dearest at a time when they will be enduring sadness, grief and loss).
It was in becoming more conscious of the reality of death and its inevitable reality I have been able to get to the core of what is truly important to me. Not what society has subconsciously drip fed to me over the years, not what those around me focus on in their lives, not what the media in all its forms puts out to us every day, but what is deeply true to me. Through knowing this and knowing how I hope to be remembered I have a clearer roadmap for all decisions that I take in life from here on in and that my friends makes life simpler!
There are amazing resources to help you explore the concept of death as a guide for life, if this is something you feel open to explore, two beautiful friends of mine offer services in this area – Laurene Head runs Elevate Coaching a heart based support for conscious living and dying, and Denise Wilke has The Demise For the Wise bringing a practical and light-hearted approach to our final goodbye.