procrastination is not benign (and the unexpected question that helped me take action)

3rd December 2018

Do you tend to procrastinate?

After weeks of feeling a bit stuck and wondering if I can even string a sentence together, I am actually writing, slowly but steadily.

This book on self-doubt is eeking out of me and I am finding the more I write, the less consumed with self-doubt I feel. I’ve been waking in the early hours and meditating in the darkness of my office, before writing for an hour as the central heating clangs and thuds into life.

I’ve decided not to worry too much if its any good, to just write and trust I will figure it out.

This is a deceptively simple decision though isn’t it?

The idea of deciding not to worry, has followed almost a year of procrastination.

I began writing last Autumn, investing in support from my beloved (and endlessly patient) book coach and sketching out the rough structure.

But then we moved house and in the Spring I began researching the patterns of self-doubt, which became a nine-month project, that resulted in the Self-doubt Archetypes Quiz and my new programme, Compass. And halfway through the year, I decided I really needed to update my (perfectly functional) website…

Yep. When I procrastinate, I PROcrastinate. There is nothing amateur about my delaying tactics!

Now that I am here, writing my draft sample chapters, I am also facing all the reasons why I put this off.

The worry that no agent will want to work with me, no company will want to publish this book, that this will be disappointing to you, or I will be disappointed by how it’s received; maybe you’ll find out I’m not as capable as I think you think I am. What if I end up regretting the whole enterprise?

When I imagine these possibilities, I feel a gnawing sadness.

My procrastination is a way of protecting myself from the discomfort of these fears being realised (just like yours).

And really, it’s such a sophisticated tactic! By avoiding writing this book, I have had a hugely productive year. I thoroughly enjoyed the research required to create Compass and it has been a wild joy to see the way the Archetypes quiz has been received and shared. But in some ways, this has added to the fear – because what if the book isn’t as good?

Notice how self-doubt leaves us feeling like we can’t bloody win?!

And this is the entire purpose of self-doubt: to keep us safe. When it comes to procrastination, safety often presents as a tendency to delay until the last minute and attribute any failure to a lack of effort rather than ability. Or we will over-prepare and attribute any success to luck.

But there is no path I could take and not have my heart broken.

My dear, wise friend Patty offered me this phrase from poet David Whyte: what if there is no path you could take, and not have your heart broken?

This question has stayed with me for weeks.

Because if heartbreak is inevitable, I want to make space for it, to invite it in. I want to trust that there is a place in the world for my words and risk the possibility that there isn’t. And my fears are beginning to ebb away.

Right now I am more curious about who I will become inside this process of writing a book, where I feel both deeply supported and utterly alone. I will never have this opportunity again, there will never be another first book. Perhaps one day I will look back and wonder why I didn’t enjoy it more? Perhaps my older wiser self may experience some heartbreak at that.

Becasue the cumulative effect of procrastination is missed medical visits, unread books, late tax assessment fees, bills that sit unpaid, phone calls that are never returned.

But eventually, time will run out.

And on our last day, our heartbreak will include all the tiny and epic dreams we still have inside us.



Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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