Procrastinating and Putting it Off!
You know, we all do this to some extent. Come on, how often do you find yourself going off to do a different task to the one you know you should be doing? How come putting the washing on or taking the dog out in the rain is suddenly so appealing?!!
When you perceive that you’re going to experience something uncomfortable or painful, your subconscious jumps in to rescue you by finding something it knows will give you a better feeling. It’s an instinct thing – your brain has evolved to move you away from threats and towards rewards. It’s cave man stuff! Of course, today, our threats aren’t quite the same as running away from a big man-eating lion! Fitness, paperwork, awkward conversations, chores and, of course, changing our eating and drinking habits. Doing these can all take you well out of your comfort zone. And the more you avoid the thing you know you should be doing, the greater the guilt, so the greater the stress that ends up sending you into an ever reinforcing circle of avoidance!
Are you recognising some of this?
How Your Subconscious Uses the Fear Card
When I first thought about stopping drinking it was really painful. I knew I had an issue, so every day that I thought “Ok, I’m not drinking tonight”. This went on for at least 18 months! Then that annoying voice in my head would keep on at me about how awful I was going to feel without a drink, how I needed alcohol to relax, how I’d struggle to go to sleep that night, how I deserved a reward for getting through whatever the day held. So I’d listen to the wine witch. I’d drink. Always. And the next day? I’d beat myself up about the amount I’d drunk, how crap I felt, and I’d promise myself that tonight, I wouldn’t drink……
So, what’s really behind this avoidance? Fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being different, fear of success. And these are big and real fears to us. After all, the need to belong, to be socially accepted, is incredibly strong. Especially when we think about drinking culture. When all our friends and partners are drinking, we don’t want to be seen as different. (Something my post Finding Your Sober Tribe talks about.) But hang on though, they can all stop when they want to, take a night off, drink slowly with a meal…. How about you?
Did you know that you’re born with only 2 instinctive fears? The fear of falling, and the fear of loud noises. All of your other fears are acquired and learnt over your lifetime. So knowing that you’ve learnt your various fears, you can also know that you can unlearn them. Rebuild how you see your world.
Action Cures Fear
So how do you apply this to cutting down or quitting drinking? You have to break the no action habit, because action cures fear. Even the tiniest actions can break the cycle. And to start taking action, you need to have a plan, because will power alone may not be strong enough.
Here’s a basic plan of action for you:
Start by getting clear on what you really want to gain. Long term in the future. What positive benefit do you want to get from this? Health? Self-esteem? Relationships? Write it down. Physically, with pen and paper, not on your phone or laptop. Make sure you don’t put negatives down – the brain doesn’t understand them. So if you write ‘I don’t want to drink’, all it hears is ‘drink’!
Remind yourself why you’re doing this and what will keep happening if you carry on as you are. Where will you be in 5 years time? Hmm…. Don’t skip this step. We kid ourselves that we’ll be ok whatever because it really is scary to be truthful to ourselves here….. Now go back to what you really want and how imagine how you’ll be in 5 years time. Much better isn’t it?
Choose a first step that’s the right size for you. Too big and you’ll freak out and run a mile! It’ll overwhelm you. Too small and you’ll dismiss it. Is it one or two nights without alcohol every week? A week off? Longer? You choose.
Figure out an Action Plan to get you to that first step. Micro-steps are good to get you to where you want to be. Micro-actions to get you there could include telling your best mate, shopping for alternative drinks, getting some distractions ready at your normal drinking time, planning to go somewhere, getting a reward system in place. Now write it down and commit to a time for each of your micro-steps.
Look at what you’ve written and check in with yourself how you’re going to feel once you’ve achieved your first step. How amazing are you going to feel! Take this feeling to a few weeks ahead or as far as feels comfortable to you. Wow! Ok, when is you first micro-action?
I won’t kid you that all this is easy and that a change happens overnight. I mentioned before that I procrastinated for 18 months before I took my first step! And quitting drinking does take time to come to terms with. But if you plan ahead with actions, build strategies that help you overcome your fears, know what benefits you’re going to get, then you have a way forward.
If any of this sounds like something you’d like to explore in more detail, please don’t wait another 18 months to talk to me! Drop me an email so that we can set up a chat at email@example.com.