Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Other Shortcuts

I often work with people who may name certain undesirable behavior - calling it procrastination, perfectionism, overthinking, or another label.

Labeling is what I consider a shortcut, a way of thinking that stops any further investigation because it is known. In many circumstances, it can help to conjure up a host of understandings that have already been established. Such as, "That's just my inner critic speaking again. I can ignore that." Or "That's my supervisor's micromanaging (or disasterizing). I don't need to panic." When these labels are shortcuts to acceptance, constructive action, and an appropriate response, they are handy.

The temptation, however, is to label behaviors that are not well understood at all, thereby preventing a true recognition of the situation and the ability to handle it well. What is named "procrastination" may be a signpost to an unknown skill that needs to be learned first. What is named "perfectionism" could be covering a genuine desire to enact an important value or belief but feeling powerless to do so. What is named "overthinking" may be a fear of not having the ability to use one's own personal power for good rather than to oppress others.

Next time you find yourself labeling, ask "If I really look at this situation, could the undesirable behavior tell me something important?"

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