The 4 Fears of Procrastination

and how to get passed them!


What is procrastination

Raise your hand if you don’t know what procrastination is. Wow I think I may have seen a hand go up! Admittedly I think the person who raised that hand might have put off lifting it from the last question I asked…Sorry, I know I’m not funny. I’ve known it since 7th grade camp. Moving on now…

Procrastination is the act of putting off something, usually something you both know and believe you should be doing now. Deciding not to work on something now, isn’t the same as procrastination. Some highly skilled people decide not to begin working on a project until hours before the deadline because they are confident they’ll have enough time to get the job done well enough to be satisfied with it’s success.

One key aspect of procrastination is that heavy feeling of impending doom, or some form of possible consequence, that hangs overhead while you aren’t working on whatever it is you think you should be working on. So if you’re actively scrolling facebook while berating yourself for not getting to work on supper, that’s procrastination. But if you’re at the playground, your kiddos are happy, and you don’t really have anything else to do, so you choose to scroll through faceboook, that is not procrastination.

Scrolling facebook or playing games when you should be sleeping, that’s procrastination.

Even though we generally know what procrastination is, there can still be some confusion as to what it looks like and even whether what we’re doing is procrastination. Through the rest of this post I’ll talk about some of the main types of procrastination, what they look like, and how to move passed them.

Why do we procrastinate

There are several reasons why we might procrastinate. One reason is because we’re uncomfortable with the task we should be doing or we’re concerned about the outcome. These are both related to fear and can lead to self-sabotaging behaviours that often begin with procrastination.

There are different ways fear impacts our actions and most of the time we don’t even recognize it as fear. It may feel like a certainty that your efforts won’t work, indecision, anxiety, or that you’re not capable of succeeding, even if you try.

End Procrastination: Create the Life You Want

The 4 Fears of Procrastination

As briefly talked about above, there are 4 fears that we often carry with us that directly lead to procrastination. The level of fear we have can directly impact how confident we feel and how well we’re able to start and complete our goals. First, I’ll outline these fears and then I’ll provide a few tips to help you work through them.

  1. Fear of Dreaming

    The fear of dreaming often sounds like, “That’s impossible”. For instance, “It’s impossible to be a single mom, work enough to keep afloat, and go to school” – so you don’t even try, or if you do try, you don’t really put the effort in, because you already know you’ll fail.

  2. Fear of Failure

    Someone with a fear of failure may believe in their dreams, they’re empowered to start, but once they start, they stop. For instance, “I’m so excited to start selling the clothes I make! But I just don’t know how to meet all the regulations required in order to get the business licence.”

  3. Fear of Conflict

    The fear of upsetting others often shows up in one of two ways, either “I can’t do this because I’m a [women].” Or, “If I were to do this, it would hurt my [community].” Fill in the blank with whatever category or group you want. Women can be a different race, gender, ethnicity, or any group you belong to – a high school student might say, “I can’t make the team because I’m a nerd.”

    The other way it shows up is the fear that if you succeed in your attempts it will hurt the group you identify with. “If I lose weight, then my overweight friends will be upset with me.”


  4. Fear of Success

    The fear of success is an interesting one. This fear often shows up as dissatisfaction once you reach your goals. That dissatisfaction sits with you, and prevents you from fully completing what you set out to do.

    Have you found yourself unable to complete a project or goal you set for yourself? You started, you took action, but then before completion you find yourself distracted and procrastinating? That’s the fear of success.

Stop Procrastinating By Overcoming Fears

Now that you have an idea of what might cause procrastination, we can work on tips to help you overcome each fear.

Overcoming the Fear of Dreaming

Overcoming the fear of dreaming can take some effort, however I often find that once the initial shift happens, then the floodgates open and it’s a lot easier to see possibilities and opportunities in life.

  • Start by asking yourself, “How do I feel over all today?”

  • Then if you like the way that feels, ask yourself, “What can I do tomorrow to feel this way again?”

  • If you don’t like the way you feel today, then ask yourself, “How would I feel if that [stress] disappeared?”<— fill in the bracket with your own answer.

  • Follow up that question with, “What are some ways I might have more [peace] tomorrow? <—- fill in those brackets with what ever word you’d use to describe what you’d have, or how you’d feel if you didn’t have the negative emotion from the first question.

  • Once you have some ideas, decide on one action that you can take tomorrow to create the more [peaceful] day you want. <— Just fill in your own goal in that bracket.

  • Working one day at a time helps us open ourselves to the possibility of more. As the day to day planning gets easier, begin planning a week at a time, eventually getting up to a year, then 5 years, and even 10 years.

  • It’s okay to start one day at a time, that’s how everyone else started too.

Overcoming the Fear of Failure

The fear of failure can hurt so much. You can clearly see your dream before you. You’ve visualized it hundreds of times and can feel how amazing it will be. You might even feel confident that you can do it. But for some reason you’re stuck without even starting.

  • The key is to start small. Yes, that vision is beautiful, but don’t let it distract you from the here and now.

  • It can be helpful to start at your dream, and work backwards. If your dream takes place ten years in the future, then work backwards, what would you need to do at the 9 year mark in order to reach your 10 year goal. Keep working back. How about year 8, 7, 6, all the way back to in 1 year where would you like to be? Then go back farther, in 11 months, 10, 9, in 1 month what might I need to do?

  • Keep working backwards until you’re looking at the current week. What are some of the things I might do this week to reach my goal?

  • Decide on one thing to do this week to take one step forward. Then do it.

  • Prioritizing your tasks helps maintain focus as well as forward momentum.

The achievements that really matter most belong at the top.

Overcoming the Fear of Conflict

Fear of upsetting others, or the fear of conflict can be very hard to move passed until you’re able to both accept that you can only control yourself and that others cannot control you. That means you can decide to act in a way that’s different than you’ve acted before. Sometimes the hardest part is deciding how you want to act, what you want to do.

  • In order to know whether it’s ‘worth’ upsetting someone else, it’s important to know who you are and what you stand for in life.

  • Often the fear of conflict actually looks more like conflict than anything else. In order to protect your place in your group, you fight against those who believe or behave differently than you.

  • In order to move from fear and procrastination to resourcefulness and action, it’s important to know what you want vs what you don’t want.

  • For instance the fear of losing social standing can prevent you from committing to taking action. But when you understand the reasons why you want to do something and break it down to the most refined value it offers you, then you’re able to see yourself as worthy of taking action and making these changes.

Overcoming the Fear of Success

The fear of success can look like a midlife crisis. It can feel like floundering and generally being unhappy even though you’ve achieved the things you wanted to achieve. Recognizing the process that got you to your destination makes a huge difference in satisfaction and helps you take the final steps necessary to finish your goals.

  • As with the fear of conflict, it’s important to recognize what our values are. Who we are and what we stand for in life is so important, particularly to our ability to follow through with our actions.

  • When you know what your values are, you’re able to recognize how all the different steps between the beginning and where you are now provided value to you (and by extension your family, business, community etc).

  • I find it helpful to identify what core value you stand for, then take a look at all the different ways you already align with this value and some of the many ways you might move forward with courage.
  • Consider what value (integrity, gentleness, patience etc) gives you a happy, light, butterfly feeling when you think about it. This is often a good place to start.

  • When you know your success offers something to you and others, it’s easier to give ourselves permission to move forward.

I’ve included a short printable guide you can pick up for free here. It includes a few tips on taking action to end procrastination.

End Procrastination: Create the Life You Want

If something gives you butterflies every time you think about it, that’s what you want to work towards.

Conclusion

Be kind to yourself. Everyone procrastinates at some time. These fears have been in every person on the planet to some degree. It’s possible to move passed them and it’s possible to learn the skills necessary to move forward.

The fastest way to move forward is to celebrate your success. I don’t mean those big huge successes, I mean the day-to-day grind successes. Those days you feed your children even though you’re exhausted, that’s a success. The days you feed them a balanced meal even though KD would’ve been so easy, that’s a success. Acknowledge the effort you put in and actually give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished.

But be sincere. What might you say to your best friend if she called you up and said, “It’s been such. hard day, I just wanted to lay on the floor, but I made dinner. I even fed them vegetables. That I had to chop up!” Imagine your friend said that to you, how wold you respond?

That’s how you should respond to yourself.

If you’d think one of these fears might be yours, then take this short quiz to discover what procrastination personality you might have.




24 Comments

Pretty much hits the nail on the head, since I’m a specialist in this art form!😉

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Which tip do you think might help you the most to move from procrastination to action?

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Good read. I need my husband to read this one.

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If he reads it, I’d love to know what he thinks about it. Writing this post opened so many great conversations between myself, my husband and older daughters. It was really neat to see how procrastination fits into each of our lives.

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When I feel anxious about something, I procrastinate. Procrastination is all about fear for me. It doesn’t mean that I am lazy. I just need a little courage to get it done! You have some great suggestions for getting over the fear. Thanks so much!

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Procrastination is definitely NOT about lazy! Which tip do you think might help you the most to move passed your fears?

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Thanks for this! Absolutely great, as I have procrastinated many times, these tips will come in handy!

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We’ve all been there! Don’t forget to grab the free printable! It has a couple quick suggestions to help kick start action when you feel fear or procrastination kick in!

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One of my New Years resolutions is to stop procrastinating this year. I’m definitely a fear of failure procrastinator but I’ve come to the point in life where I know I can’t fail without trying. I’ve also realized that from each failure I learn something that will help me improve the next go around. Thanks for the great read.

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That sounds like a powerful resolution! What are some of the ways you might take action instead of staying rooted in fear?

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I’ve really just decided to go for it and put myself out there. The more I do the smaller my fear becomes.

Wow Jenn! That’s quite the improvement from where you said you were last year! I wonder where you might find yourself next year you continue to make these changes happen!

Great article! I’ve always struggled with fear of failure or fear of success but I have been working really hard on moving past those to anyone my goals. Thank you for the helpful tips!!

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Fear of failure and fear of success wrapped into one bundle and you keep working at it and moving forward! What’s the one thing you’ve done this year that you’d attribute your current success?

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Excellent article! I need to come back to this post often.

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Thanks for stopping by and commenting! If you haven’t already grabbed it, there’s a free printable you can print for reference at home. It outlines some quick tips to help refocus.

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Absolutely love this! It was drummed into me never to put off what you can do today for tomorrow. So although I don’t procrastinate I tend to fly by the seat of my pants instead. 🙂

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It sounds like you’ve found a system that works for you. I’m really curious, if you’d share what you do to help you take the first step when you’re doing something new?

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This is such a well written post about procrastination. In the past I always struggled with perfectionism, and that kept me from doing a lot of things I really wanted to do – I’d just keep procrastinating waiting for the perfect time, perfect opportunity, etc.

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Thank you!

If you’d be willing to share, when you look at where you are now compared to when you procrastinated, what strategy did you use that most helped you move forward?

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I love the specific, actionable advice. I think for me, procrastination most often occurs when I have so many steps that I get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. But making a list of things that I need to do helps to put it in perspective and I realize it’s not as bad as I thought.

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Isn’t it an amazing feeling when you realize things are better than you previously thought?!

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate hearing what you found useful and how you move passed procrastination in your life!

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[…] getting what you say you want. They hold you back in some way. I’ve previously talked about procrastination, and I’ll talk about other specific behaviour in future posts. Today I’ll talk about […]

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[…] our conversation about The 4 Fears of Procrastination, you might recall one of the fears was the fear of dreaming. A person living in a state of high […]

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