Today I want to talk about an issue which has impacted me for most of my professional life and, in particular, since I started to work for myself – the tendency to put things off and not deal with difficult situations quickly.
I know that when I have been faced with difficult situations and didn’t deal with them either because of fear, embarrassment or because my state of mind wasn’t great, that in every case the situation got worse, and often much worse, before I eventually had to face this even more inconvenient, fearful and embarrassing situation.
Despite experiencing this learning many, many times, I still find it difficult to ‘lance the boil’ and quickly get the problem dealt with – for better or worse. It is something that I am constantly aware of in order to try and avoid repeating some of the difficult and painful situations that my procrastination created.
I know I’m not alone in this, I see it with colleagues, clients, friends and family members.
In many situations, the best outcome was that the problem stayed as it was, despite the delay, however, more often than not it became far worse. As you can imagine, the impact of this in a financial or career/business situation can be serious but even worse, in a health-related matter, it can be life-threatening.
Even in those situations in which the outcome stayed the same, I have found that the headspace consumed by the issue hanging around led to increased stress and emotional turmoil for the length of time that I refused or just failed to take action to address it.
However, 100% of the time, as soon as I confronted the issue, the stress and anxiety lifted.
The mind plays terrible tricks on us and if you give it something uncertain and a bit of free time then it will go into overdrive and cause chaos with your emotions and ultimately, in your body, making up outrageous stories and projecting fantastical consequences all because it wants to keep us ‘safe’ by holding us in a state of inaction. How ironic is that?
At the start of this year, I was diagnosed with chronic stress and I know that it had built up over the past number of years by my imagination exaggerating about situations that I was avoiding or failing to deal with properly. The longer I allowed things to fester the longer my mind and body produced the overstressed reactions until they became so chronic that my health became affected.
Thankfully, I have gradually become better at dealing with things up front and therefore taken away the fertile ground for stress to multiply and grow but the residual physical impact remains, although I’m working on it and it is improving all the time.
So as I write this as a 56-year-old, it struck me to ask myself what kind of advice might I give my younger self in relation to tackling challenging problems and difficult issues?
I think I would say that the sooner you ‘lance the boil’, the sooner the physical and mental pain goes away. That delaying action doesn’t make the situation any better and is more likely to lead to greater pain and more serious consequences.
So, with that in mind, I’m putting this question to you today, is there something that is niggling at you or that you know you need to face but you’re currently putting off?
If the answer is a ‘yes’, then I urge you to deal with it as soon as possible because the outcome that you achieve by doing so today will be the best possible result. From this point forward, the situation is only going to get worse because it will not go away and at some point, you will be forced to deal with it anyway.
So, take it from someone who has learned the hard way and whose one regret is that I didn’t ‘lance the boils’ sooner.
Don’t make the same mistakes that I made. Tackle it. Lance it. Do it now!
I hope you find today’s piece useful. It is one of the lessons that I have learnt relatively late in life and that I’m currently documenting in a book that I’m writing called ‘I Knew Nothing Until I Was 40!’.
It is a work in progress and this is the first time that I have mentioned it publicly other than to close colleagues and friends, so I’m putting it out there that it’s going to be written and published before the end of this year.
It will include many lessons, similar to the one above, which I wish I had known about in my 20’s but instead I had to learn about the hard way. I look forward to getting it done and I will keep you posted on the progress.