Is there something you know you should do but you keep moving it to tomorrow’s ‘To Do’ list?  Do you feel a pull to run away from hard or unpleasant tasks?  Do you try to avoid difficult conversations with coworkers or loved ones?  Many of us do. If you can relate, no need to fret.  You are not lazy or weak, simply human. And the great thing about being human is our capacity to do and to feel things differently.

How It Starts

We all have patterns of thinking and acting that may have served us in the past, but can sabotage future success and mess with our well-being.  The avoider tendency is simply one of those patterns.  For those of us who learned to be peacemakers or people-pleasers, becoming and avoider is an easy transition. Maybe you learned to avoid anything that could potentially cause conflict or discomfort for you or others.  Or maybe you have a habit of seeking pleasure and have little tolerance for things that don’t fit that mold. Whatever the case, an avoider tendency is more likely a learned behavior rather than an inherent one.

The Problem

What is avoided, still exists and can fester, causing underlying stress and bigger problems. Putting our heads in the sand and hoping things will get better, rarely works. We miss out on gifts, opportunities, personal and professional growth that come from mastering activities and conflict resolution.  We might not establish important personal and professional boundaries. To avoid conflict, we might say “yes” to things we don’t want. Avoidance can cause passive aggressive tendencies. Some people even turn to unhealthy habits or substances as a way of numbing a problem rather than addressing it.

The Solution

Just do it. Just address those tough tasks and issues…Just kidding!

I mean that sounds like good advice, but it’s often easier said than done.  I get it. I used to have an incredibly strong avoider tendency. In fact, early childhood trauma taught me to keep my mouth shut and shy away from anything unpleasant. Thankfully, I have since learned to overcome those tendencies and fearlessly tackle things that serve my happiness and success goals. If you are looking to make similar changes, here are a few tactics to help.

  • Set yourself up for success. Every morning I ask myself the following two questions and physically write down the answers.

1.    What are my intentions today?

2.    How do I want to experience this?

Question #1 addresses what I want to accomplish/tackle, where I want to put my energy this day. And that sometimes includes items that might otherwise drain my energy or I’d prefer to avoid.

Question #2 addresses the emotion I want feel this day as I accomplish these things. Question #2 is the most important question to ask yourself. Because you have a choice. You can choose to feel pain or choose to feel engaged, energized, productive, peaceful, curious, etc.

Once you know how you want to feel, you can establish an environment to nurture that feeling. For example, if I have a particularly daunting task to complete, I can look for ways to make it more pleasant. I might play uplifting, soothing sounds or music in the background, choose a peaceful or engaging environment. I can give myself permission to take mini-breaks every 10-15 minutes to stretch or do a two-minute breathing exercise. Here we have the opportunity to get creative and to experience things differently.

  • Question your thoughts. Thoughts drive emotions/feelings and those emotions/feelings drive activity or inactivity.  So if you are avoiding something, take a few minutes to become present and really consider your thoughts. You can even question their validity. Is there another perspective that could be considered? If so, write it down and remind yourself of it often.
  • Breathe. So much of what drives either procrastination or action is rooted in our subconscious and in our (physiological) limbic system. Feeling grounded can sooth your nerves and quiet negative thoughts. As you navigate your day, periodically stop. Focus on your breathe, or enjoy some other type of mindful exercise. This is a tough one for those of us who are used to hustle culture or feel like we already don’t have enough time in the day.  But if competitive race car drivers can make valuable pitstops, so can we.
  • Be consistent. Power comes from starting with small changes, doing them consistently, and then leveling up.  The more you address that which is being avoided, the easier it becomes. You create a new pattern of thinking and a more productive life.

Final Thoughts

I often train and coach people to reach their full potential. To master their goals and feel the joy that comes from living an authentic, engaging life. There are a number of strategies and methods that can be used to get there. But, it always starts with awareness and choice in the way we think. Avoidance is simply a pattern of thinking that we don’t have to live with. And when we release it, success, with more ease and flow, becomes possible.

Discover other patterns of thinking that might be sabotaging your success.








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