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Q 

There are a lot of things I want to do in life but I never get around to them. What do you suggest?  ­– Pam the Procrastinator

A

Sometimes procrastination comes from problems managing priorities and time. One of the main issues for procrastinators is anxiety about failing.

Most of us were raised with the idea: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” This is a nutty idea because the equation does not work. For instance, infinity = infinity, 8 = 8, doing = doing…not “doing well.”

Some things are important to do extremely well, such as dentistry or brain surgery. But generally, on a day-to-day basis, this is not true.

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing. Do well and you get a different result than if you do poorly. But if it’s worth doing then it’s worth doing, even poorly. If you stop doing because it might not be perfect, then you’ll do little in life. From practicing “doing” you will get better and do better. Practice doing! You will naturally improve with practice.

A few friends of mine were going out bowling. Light-hearted and playful was the planned atmosphere. I called a friend to see if he would like to join us and he told me that he wasn’t a good bowler. I told him that his score didn’t matter, we were just going to grab a beer, talk, laugh and push the big black ball down the lane. His response was that he hadn’t bowled in years. I reiterated that it did not matter if he had ever bowled before, we were just going out for a fun time. He restated that he was not skillful at the game and did not enjoy it much.

You can see what was happening. He was basically saying, “If I don’t do well at it, I can’t enjoy it.”

How sad.

If we are only going to do those things that we are skillful or proficient at, we will limit ourselves to only a handful of activities in a lifetime. Unfortunately, that is what many people do.

If only the best birds in a forest sang, the forest would be a rather quiet place.

How many new activities do you try a year?

An ex-client of mine told me this story shortly after she developed a sense of enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake. She was at home sculpting clay. A friend of hers came over, noticed the sculpture and when asked what she thought, said, “You know, your choice of texture isn’t very good.” “I know” my client said. “I don’t mean to be critical but your proportioning isn’t close to reality.” “I know” my client acknowledged. “And, you know your balance and symmetry is way off.” “I know,” she said. “Then why do you sculpt if you know that you don’t have a talent for sculpting?” “Because I enjoy it,” my client said confidently.

It is possible to be atrocious at some activity and enjoy it thoroughly. Unfortunately, most people have a difficult time deriving any satisfaction from an activity at which they do not perform well. This limits them to the relatively few areas where they are competent.

A person may want to do new things, but becomes anxious, fearing difficulty or failure. They end up sabotaging themselves with procrastination.

One way to avoid achievement traps is to do nothing. But that is very self-limiting and non-productive. The other way is to something outstandingly well. However, it is a rare individual who can enter any arena of activity and perform well right from the start.

How do you minimize achievement anxiety? By focusing on enjoyment and on having fun, on simply “doing” instead of “doing well.”

Challenge the notion that to feel good you must behave optimally. Do not exaggerate negatives or obsess about potentially failing. Follow these suggestions and you will be much calmer, happier, procrastinate less and have more fun as a risk-taker.