As a hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner, a fair number of clients come to see me in order to stop procrastinating. This issue can show up as putting off a big decision such as a move, a career change, a break up or avoiding routine tasks in one’s personal or professional life.
How do you work with procrastination? The approach varies based on what I find when I gather information from the client. There might be a parts conflict requiring integration, there might be unresolved trauma needing regression therapy and clearing techniques. No matter what the cause, I know I have two hoops to jump through to ensure a success.
How The Unconscious Mind Works
Before I explain what the two surefire requirements are for resolving procrastination are, let’s go over a few principles of how our unconscious minds work.
Our unconscious minds are in control of the things that happen automatically including our bodily processes, beliefs, habits and our emotional behaviors. The most primal parts of our brains that are responsible for decision making, are built to navigate the world to avoid danger, pain, discomfort, labor and effort. Basically, our reptilian brain tends to avoid anything with a negative feeling attached to it. The unconscious mind prefers to operate on the least amount of effort.
So, in general, we are built to move towards what seems safe, comfortable and most immediately pleasurable with the least amount of effort possible.
The Two Hoops
So, whatever your client is procrastinating about will need to be recognized by his or her unconscious mind as being:
- safe and appealing, e.g. desirable, beneficial, important, pleasurable, worthwhile
- possible, conceivable, and doable
Your mission is to get your client there, so their unconscious mind can have motivation and energy to move towards the goal. So if your client, Mary, wants to exercise when she wakes up, you’re going to check and see what is motivating Mary to want to exercise. More importantly (most likely) you need to check to find out what is motivating her to not exercise. Checking for any potential conflict with her goal is crucial. The following questions can help root out any conflict.
Questions To Help You Root Out Conflict
Ask questions such as…
- “What has seemed unappealing about this?”
- “What has stopped you, before now?”
- “Is there a perceived threat to this activity and/or the timing of it taking place?”
- “Are there any drawbacks to doing it or to having done it?”
Injuries, lack of sleep, poor energy or wanting more time cuddling with partners are all possible conflicts.
For Mary’s unconscious mind, protection, or the need for connection with her partner may be trumping the desire to look and feel better — especially if the goal is far off in the future. If she doesn’t know how long it will take or even if it’s possible, it will be difficult for her to be motivated. That’s why she’s been procrastinating exercising each morning.
Depending on what specifically is going on for the individual client, there are many techniques to help you get them through hoop 1 (safe and appealing). Any technique you choose, i.e. anchor setting/collapsing, parts therapy, a traumatic injury relief pattern, direct suggestion, will be to get your clients to have a good feeling about their goal.
We still have hoop 2. An all-around great tool for getting a person’s mind to think of a desired behavior as possible and doable is the NLP New Behavior Generator. I use it a lot in this phase of the session.
You want to help your client get a good idea of each step they need to take to achieve their goal. They need to know how to do it and feel good about it! The NBG is great for that. Also, I often describe the outcome to my client in detail. I’ll say, “I’m running a movie in my mind and I’m going to tell you what’s in the movie.” I’ll then go on to describe exactly what I intend to happen for them. “You’re getting up in the morning, full of excitement about working out and…” I continue and in detail, describe what they’ll be doing.
While I’m describing it, I’m looking at their reaction. Do they look excited? Is there any indication they don’t connect to what I’m saying? Basically, I’m looking to see if they’re congruently wanting the change. When I’m done, I ask if there’s any adjustments, additions or changes they want to what I described.
If there’s any sign of conflict, go back and take care of hoop 1. Get both of those hoops lined up and you can be pretty darn sure that the client will reach their goal!
Kristin Rivas is a hypnotherapist, speaker and NLP Master Practitioner practicing in the Seattle area. More About Kristin