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Why You Procrastinate Or Lack Motivation—And What To Do About It. – Forbes

Motivation

As a therapist and executive coach, motivation is a common topic that enters my virtual office. I can assure you that even your high-performing CEO, surgeon, and attorney struggle to develop their slide decks before the eleventh hour or get on their Pelotons. Brilliant and accomplished as they are, they can’t seem to figure out why they can’t just “get it done.”

And admittedly, it’s taken me longer than I expected to write this article. But in the process I did get a great deal on a flight and learn that Gazpacho originated in the Andalusian region of the Iberian Peninsula. I digress.

Procrastination is why tasks we previously felt unmotivated to do—such as cleaning—suddenly become … [+] more attractive.

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Are motivation and procrastination really problems for you?

I used to work at a college, where students sought counseling for procrastination often. When I asked them “What’s the most distressful part of [discussed challenge]?” their answer was some version of “I shouldn’t procrastinate.” As we unpacked the alleged problem further, they realized procrastination was just part of their process. They always “got it done,” they just worked best under pressure. Trying to start or complete something weeks in advance just ended up being an exercise in self-criticism and guilt. They were better off just being honest with themselves that they’d be cramming for 2-3 days before the deadline and giving themselves permission to enjoy their freedom until it became crunch time.

Related, I have clients whose unrealistically high, perfectionistic expectations lead them to believe their need for breaks, fun, or sleep means they’re “unmotivated.”

So before you read on, it’s worth asking yourself if motivation and procrastination are really problems or if the real solution here is being kinder to yourself and having more realistic expectations.

Believe or not, procrastination is your body’s way of trying to keep you alive!

Motivation is actually pretty simple: As humans, we’re driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain. In other words, we have to either want to do something (seeking pleasure), or perceive that we need to do something (avoiding pain) to take action.

This is evolutionary: we’re drawn to sex and calorie-dense foods because both increase our likelihood of survival and procreation.

We’re uncomfortable with extreme temperatures and wild animals for the opposite reason.

And emotionally, we crave pleasure and avoid pain for similar purposes. Our emotions are actually signals that guide protective and prosocial evolutionary behavior. For example:

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