THE BLOG
10/02/2014 11:53 am ET Updated Jun 28, 2015

The Root of Procrastination (And How to Change It Now )

"Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it's the easiest to rationalize. We don't tell ourselves, 'I'm never going to write my symphony.' Instead we say, 'I am going to write my symphony; I'm just going to do it tomorrow.'"
-- Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

I have sat down at my computer on multiple occasions, a fresh Word document waiting to become a living, breathing piece and before even starting, I minimize the screen. I double click on Google Chrome and peruse the news via Facebook while simultaneously refreshing my Twitter feed.

Why does this happen every time? Why can't I just begin?

In an attempt to figure out why I can't seem to give up this toxic relationship with procrastination, I invite you to observe the following Q&A session with my inner procrastinator:

Me: Why can't you sit still and write? Be honest.

Procrastinator Me: Well, it's going to take me a long time and I'm really busy. I mean, have you seen my to-do list? It's extensive.

Me: You've been refreshing your Twitter feed for the past half hour. So, that can't really be true. Let's try again. Why are you actually not starting?

Procrastinator Me: I don't know -- maybe I'm afraid? Never mind. It can't be that deep. This is a waste of time.

Me: No, no. Let's go with that for a second. Let's say it's fear. What's frightening you?

Procrastinator Me: I guess I'm afraid that I won't feel inspired when I sit down or that I'll get frustrated and I won't enjoy the process at all. I'm afraid that I'm going to write something un-relatable and people are going to come after me with pitchforks and knives in the form of nasty comments. I'm afraid to be a disappointment -- to myself and others. I'm afraid that my work will be viewed as poor quality and that expending this time and energy will be for naught and that all of my dreams will be crushed and... Oh, I see what's happening.

Me: Fear got you again.

Enlightened Me: Please, don't remind me. I'm sitting my rump in this chair and starting now.

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of judgment. Fear that we won't, or don't, have enough time. What do they all have in common? Fear. In the case of procrastination, the fear is an internal battle. Like most fears, it's a creation in the mind based either off of past experiences or potential, and often unlikely, future events.

The fear that keeps us from starting (or finishing) that screenplay, that graduate school application or even this simple article, is really the absence of presence.

The spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle offers the following, "Is fear preventing you from taking action? Acknowledge the fear, watch it, take your attention into it, be fully present with it. Doing so cuts the link between the fear and your thinking. Don't let the fear rise up into your mind. Use the power of Now. Fear cannot prevail against it."

Every time we choose to focus on an imaginary scenario instead of being exactly where we are, we stand in our own way. When we don't acknowledge our fear as being merely a series of thoughts we ourselves have created, we let it paralyze us. We choose to make the thoughts real.

It often happens so quickly, so habitually, that we don't even realize how or when the infiltration took place. All we know is that we're currently stalking our ex-boyfriend's friend's friend's wedding pictures on Facebook and wondering how on earth we got to this point.

However, there is a solution.

Steven Pressfield, bestselling novelist and author of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, states the following, "Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny."

We can stop ourselves from going down the rabbit hole by recognizing our procrastinating behaviors (i.e. anything that demonstrates avoidance) and becoming conscious of our actions. We can purposefully pause before the distracting ensues and honestly ask ourselves where our mind is -- is it currently inventing scenarios in the future or reliving experiences from the past?

Eckhart Tolle states, "I would say about 80 to 90 percent of most people's thinking is not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful. Observe your mind and you will find this to be true."

When we allow our fear to come up in the present moment, we can accept it as such and stay present. When we choose to be exactly where we are, it's easy to begin what we set out to do. This is the power of Now.

Like, right now.

Next time I feel the need to peruse my newsfeed, I'll know it's merely a distraction sent by Fear. I can arm myself with a deep breath, acknowledge my fearful thoughts and begin anyway. Procrastination no longer holds me captive. I choose Now.

For more from Eckhart Tolle, please click here

For more from Giuliana Cortese, please click here