Friday, January 18, 2013

Creating a Safety Net

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. - Thich Nhat Hanh

The first step in the The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play, is to create a safety net. The goal is to learn how to lessen your fear of failure and to bounce back from your mistakes by creating an inner self-worth that does not depend on how well you'll do at the task at hand.

The following thought experiment is from the book. The task in your life is to walk a board. Consider how you would feel about the task in each of the following situations:
Situation A: The task before you is to walk a solid board that is thirty feet long, four inches thick, and one foot wide. You have all the physical, mental, and emotional abilities necessary to perform this task.
Situation B: ...the task is just the same...only now the board is suspended between two buildings 100 feet above the pavement.
Situation C: are still on the board suspended between two buildings, 100 feet above the ground...While thinking about what to do, you suddenly feel heat behind you and can hear the crackling noise of fire. The building supporting your end of the board is on fire!
Situation D: You're back on the board again, 100 feet above the ground...But there is no fire this time, only a strong, supportive net, just three feet beneath the board.

How would you feel about the task in Situation A? What about Situation B?

When we over identify who we are, our worth as a person, with the outcome of our work, we move our task from Situation A to Situation B. When a failure or a mistake makes us feel worthless fear can make it impossible to start our project. Perfectionism raises the board 100 feet from the ground.

In Situation C we can choose between possible death (walking the board between the buildings) or certain death (waiting for the fire). Most of us would take the chance and walk the board. When we procrastinate we are setting that fire, we are moving from Situation B to Situation C. If we think that our performance reflects our inner worth, procrastination gives us a buffer...we do not have time to do our best, thus our work is not revealing our real ability.

If we are in Situation C we need to find a way to turn it into Situation D. We need a way to let ourselves know that failing does not mean the end of the world. We need a sense of inner worth that does not depend on our success, our performance, etc. We need to know and remember that we have a spirit, an inner self, that is perfect, and will always be perfect.

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