The Unseen Side of Procrastination and The Law of Distraction

Updated: October 10, 2012

Brett Jarman

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This post is by Brett Jarman.

When a small child is in pain, emotional or physical, we can often relieve it with a simple distraction: a song, a piece of food, a book, or a bright shiny object. The effect can be dramatic and the pain is forgotten or diminished to the point that it's hardly felt.

As adults we do the same thing to avoid or relieve pain. We distract ourselves with something more appealing than what we have going on at that time. A webpage or six, social media, a piece of food, a drink, or a bigger bright shiny object than we might use with a child.

The pain of doing a tax return, making sales calls, developing a product, or even writing a blog entry can all be relieved with such things. It's the Law of Distraction. Procrastination if you prefer.

We Still Get By

For the most part, such procrastination slows things down but doesn't bring us to a halt. Tax returns get done, albeit at the last minute; sales calls are made, though just enough to get by; the product gets developed, eventually; and the blog entry gets published, finally. The procrastination slows us down but we still get by.

For entrepreneurs and the self-employed there is often a deeper level of pain with a more subtle level of proscrastination that does more than just slow us down; it keeps us stuck.

Ironically this pain is caused by the very success we might be pursuing, whether it be financial, creative, physical, relational or otherwise. On one hand we might say we want these things we are pursuing but on the other hand there might be an associated pain - the discomfort of change, fear of the unknown, and uncertainty.

Usually this pain or fear will be below the surface, often overshadowed by the excitement of the goal we are pursuing. But the ego doesn't miss a trick. It's primary goal is safety and protection. So, it uses the same old tactics, distractions, to relieve the pain of change and uncertainty.

We find ourselves drawn to a training course that we "must do" to help us reach our goal. A business opportunity comes up that's even better than the one we are working on now so we drop the current project and move on to the next one. The latest cutting edge marketing program appears. It promises to be much better than what we were doing so we stop and go back to square one with the latest and greatest.

Sound familiar? These are the bright shiny objects of the self-employed and entrepreneurs. The distractions that help ease or avoid the pain we don't even know we are feeling.

My coach and mentor, Derek Rydall, calls them 'tricks of the ego that keep us where we are while giving the illusion we are moving forward'.

We pay a heavy price for this relief in time, money and lost opportunities. In return we get superficial and short term satisfaction at the expense of a deeper sense of fulfillment and purpose.

So What's the fix?

Become present to the fear and discomfort that comes with taking risks.
  • Are you unconsciously holding your breath for no reason?
  • Do you find yourself more restless and agitated than you normally might be?
  • Spending more time staring into the fridge than you normally would?
  • Constantly checking your email or twitter feed hoping for a bright shiny object to magically appear and distract you from the task at hand?
These are all signs of discomfort wanting to be felt. You can of course ignore them and go for the distractions, the bright shiny objects. Alternatively, you can feel the uncomfortable feelings and thus make progress to heal them at the same time.

The goal isn't to make the feelings of discomfort go away, its simply to make them known so you are fully aware of what's going on and what's driving you.

From this place you can recognize the bright shiny objects for what they are. If they truly support you, you can take them as a conscious choice.

But, if they're just a distraction, a form of pain relief, you can pass them by knowing that your awareness of the pain is relief enough. That's how you master the law of distraction.

What could you start doing to keep yourself from getting distracted and to procrastinate less often?

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