Ask HaviNote: it is almost impossible to get on the Ask Havi list. This person got in by a. being one of my clients or students, b. flattering the hell out of my duck, and c. making life easy on me by being clear about what the question was and what details I could use.

Here’s the question:

Okay, so I’m procrastinating on this thing and I have no idea at all why on earth I would be procrastinating on it, except that I am.

I loved your post on why it’s normal to avoid stuff that’s really meaningful and that was helpful, but this seems different. I mean, I get that this project is meaningful for me and I’m still not doing anything with it.

What do I do? Do I need to find out why I’m not working on this? Help!

Seriously. Not knowing can be really, really frustrating.

Wow. So you’re feeling pretty frustrated because you just want to get moving on this and you’re not sure what you need to know or not know in order to make something shift. That’s no fun.

And yeah, the hardest part of not doing the thing is so often that point where you just cannot figure out why you would be avoiding it to begin with. So let’s talk about this.

There is always a good reason for why you’re not doing the thing.

Always. But it’s totally okay if you don’t know what it is.

Best way to start destuckifying is to just remind yourself:

“Even though I’m not working on this thing — and am feeling guilty and upset about it — I am allowed to feel what I’m feeling. I am sure there is a perfectly good reason for why I’m getting stuck on this.”

You don’t necessarily always need to find out what that reason is.

So you don’t know the reason. Or: you don’t know the reason yet.

Either way, not the end of the world. You can still make your way out of the stuckified cycle even if you never end up figuring out the cause.

So you can keep talking:

“Even though I don’t know why I’m not doing the thing, I’m willing to keep learning about my stucknesses.

And even though I may never discover the real reason behind this, at least I’m working on it. At least I’m spending time trying to find out what I need instead of just treating myself like some whip-wielding slave-driver jerk .”

If you do want to find out, the worst way to do it is by asking WHY.

Not that this is your situation, of course. But it’s very tempting to make “why” the first question we ask.

If we make it about “But whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy is it like this?” and “How cooooooommmmmmme it isn’t the way I want it to be?”, everything gets more stuck.

Because then we head straight into resistance mode and that’s never fun.

You want to keep reassuring yourself that yes, there is a good reason even if you don’t know what it is yet, and then you can start exploring by asking smart questions.

Smart questions that work better than “why” and “why-why-why-why-WHY?” and “how come”:

  • What happens (or what might happen) when I start working on this thing? When I am close to finishing this thing? When I am done with this thing?
  • If we assume for a minute that it’s natural and normal for me to be avoiding this thing, what might be some of the reasons for that? If someone else were arguing my case, what would he say?
  • Is there anyone in my life who will not be pleased while I am doing the thing or when I am done with the thing? Who loses from this thing?
  • When I imagine having this thing or being done with this thing or having this thing behind me, what are my regrets? Or: does this situation/experience remind me of anything?

Three examples

Hidden reason right after the finish line.

One of my clients couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t working on the project she needed to finish in order to graduate.

She wanted to graduate. In fact, she needed to in order to stay in the country. And in the meantime her avoidance patterns were driving her crazy.

Guess what we found out? Something really, really horrible was going to occur the same week that she was scheduled to graduate — something that she’s really dreading.

And this horrible bit is directly in opposition to all the reasons she wants to finish her studies. Of course she’s avoiding it.

To the point that she completely blanked out the thing she was dreading, and made her avoidance about the graduation instead.

Hidden reason in the past.

Another client wanted to get back to working on the book she’s been busily avoiding for the past few years.

Turned out that something seriously awful and unpleasant happened while she was writing her first book. There was a part of her that had become convinced that both the writing and the finishing had to be tied up with pain and loss and regret.

Makes sense.

Hidden reason in the thing itself.

One of my students has a huge photography project that she’s not working on.

Because a couple of the photos are tied to a relationship or a past experience that’s uncomfortable and hurt-ey.

Of course she was avoiding it.

There’s a weird magical thing that happens when you let the reason have legitimacy.

Whatever the reason is. Even if you don’t know what it is.

Letting that reason have the right to exist is hugely important.

Because in all of three cases that I mentioned, something incredible happened.

As far as I had been concerned, finding out more about what was going on had just been preamble. I was all ready with my super-genius techniques to start doing some pattern-shifting and stuck-zapping. You know, the real work.

But you know what? Once we figured out the source, they didn’t need my help anymore. The avoidance started to clear as soon as the stuck became visible and obvious.

Once they knew what the stuck was, it didn’t work anymore. It couldn’t scare them or keep them frozen in place.

Soft of like your neighbor’s child doing his stealth ninja thing. The first time he jumps out of the tree at you is completely traumatic. Once you know it’s a 5-year-old in a mask, it kind of takes the edge off.

Maybe you’ll find out what the reason is. Maybe you won’t.

Either way, if you’re spending time working on this whole “having a conscious relationship with yourself” thing, good stuff will happen.

Every time you give yourself permission to not do the thing, something shifts. Every time you practice active not-doing for its own sake, more stuck gets dissolved.

Before you know it, you’re learning Useful Things about yourself and how you interact with the world around you. And you find yourself feeling a bit more patient.

And all of a sudden, you don’t really care why you’re not doing the thing. You’re just ready to do it.

Or you aren’t. But at least you’re not feeling guilty about not being ready, which is the fastest way to getting ready. So either way, you win.

Hope that helps!

Good luck with this.

As always, Selma and I are wishing you (and everyone else who reads this) support and comfort and lots of everything you need … all the time, but especially when you need it most. Keep us posted.