How to Tackle the Big Things that You Have Been Avoiding

What big task, project, chore, or conversation have you been avoiding facing?

It’s one of the biggest problems in many people’s lives — procrastination is one word for it, but I’ve found that “avoiding” is more accurate. If you have something you don’t want to tackle or face, you can keep yourself busy and distracted so you can avoid it.

Avoidance, of course, leads to a host of problems, including:

  • If you avoid self-care, then it leads to long-term health problems (including mental health stress).
  • If things start to pile up, then that can increase your stress.
  • You might start to be harsh and critical of yourself.

The last problem, by the way, is something that can be addressed with the practice of trying to always be kind to yourself. Being harsh to yourself is not useful, and you can transform your relationship with yourself by practicing kindness as consistently as you can.

But most of the problems above would be best addressed by getting good at facing and diving into what you are avoiding.

The first thing to do is to make a list. Put everything you’ve been avoiding on the list. No matter what it is.

It could be a big project. An email you haven’t replied to. Your taxes and other finances. Calling your mom. Having a difficult conversation.

Now, look at your list. How does each item make you feel? What do they trigger in you?

A big part of why we avoid things is because we don’t want to feel the fear and overwhelm these items trigger in us. But the only way you will be able to start tackling your list is if you allow yourself to feel any and all fear and overwhelm.

How to Tackle the Big Things that You Have Been Avoiding

1. Pick One Thing on the List for Today

Ideally, it’s the biggest thing that you’ve been avoiding, the most important thing. However, if that is absolutely too hard right now, and there’s no way you’ll do it, then pick the biggest thing that you will actually do.

Even a small thing, like an errand. The key is to pick something you’ll actually be able to do.

2. Tackle it as Early as Possible

Ideally, block off a chunk of time to do it. But if that is just not possible (especially with kids and a busy schedule), just do it as early in the day as you possibly can. And as difficult as it is resist the urge to delay starting.

3. Let Yourself Feel the Fear for a Moment

Pause at the beginning and feel the uncertainty, fear, overwhelm from this task. Let yourself feel it in your body, as a sensation.

With practice, we can become intimate with our fear, open to being with it, instead of needing to run from it. We can courageously allow ourselves to feel the fear, rather than avoid the feeling.

4. Dive In

After feeling, it’s time for action. Remember why you’re doing this. Is it to make your life better? To serve people? To reduce stress? To make someone happier? To survive?

Remember the bigger why, and then take the first step. Write one sentence of that email response you’ve been putting off. Put away one item from the cluttered garage you want to clear out. Take one small action, then another.

5. Your World Will Not Collapse

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, even panicky when you face a task you have been avoiding. But as you do it, notice that you’re completely fine. You’re still alive, the world hasn’t crumbled, you aren’t in mortal danger.

You’re tackling the task and you are okay. You might be still feeling the fear or overwhelm, but it’s nothing to panic about. You can feel the fear, do the action, and nothing bad happens. You’re being courageous, and you should celebrate that.

Keep at it, for at least a few minutes. Maybe 5-10 minutes. Maybe 20-30 minutes. See if you can do it for a little longer than you think you can. If you feel like stopping, let yourself do it a little longer than that.

Practice this at least once a day. If you feel like you have extra energy and courage, practice it 2-3 times a day. But once a day, at the least. With this kind of practice, you’ll get so good at facing what you’re avoiding, that your entire life will start to transform.

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