Guilt: The Instigator for Procrastination on New Years Resolutions

“I will be happy when...” - the 5 words that keep you stuck feeling guilty when you really want to feel happy.

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I wrote this last week and hesitated to post it until a client and dear friend reached out with a dilemma. She had gotten a message about an incredible, dreamy opportunity and she was feeling resistance around the visibility it would give her because she wasn’t confident enough in her physical appearance...yet.

After my chat with her about how she was feeling, I decided to share...


A couple years ago I posted about how my New Years resolution was to cancel my gym membership (and to stop making New Years Resolutions). A couple months ago I posted the recording of my talk from the Women in Business event in London where I shared my idea about letting go of failure to feel more successful (what I think we all really want to feel is joy rather than success).

So - one thing I have let go of in the last 12 months is…

GUILT.

It was about as difficult as getting divorced and dividing up all the assets, going to court, filing paperwork... Then sitting in a holding pattern for a few months just to make sure I didn’t change my mind only to find that I still need to change my name and call every entity who has my name somewhere and let them know “I’m Tara, and I’m divorced.” Then have to send them documentation to prove it, as if I would make something like that up and waste my time sitting through automated call routing systems for fun. Now that I think about it, guilt was sort of like being in an arranged marriage, because I certainly didn’t ask for it. It just showed up.

Most of all, it was like being married to someone who doesn’t think I can ever do anything right...

“You never do the dishes.”

“Don’t do the dishes because you load the dishwasher wrong.”

Guilt also makes us say things like...

“You pay for that gym membership and you never go.”

“You should go to the gym so you can stop wasting money.”

“You should be more productive in your business.”

“You work too much and you don’t get enough sleep. 

“You should be getting more sleep.”

“You should wake up at 5am because Gary Vee gets more done before you wake up than you do in your entire day.”

“You’re not delegating enough.”

“If you delegate too much then everything will fall apart.”

“You should meditate every morning.”

“You could meditate more if you weren’t always thinking about all of the things you are doing wrong.”

It sounds a bit like Goldilocks - nothing is ever “just right.”

If you’re feeling stuck right now, it could be fear. It could also be GUILT.

>>Guilt teaches us that we have to be perfect.

>>Perfectionism teaches us how to procrastinate.

Perfectionists get stuck when they over analyze all of the “what ifs” and “shoulds.” It’s not that they aren’t motivated. It’s that they are waiting for the stars to align before they make a move because they are tired of not being good enough.

There’s a better way to do all of this though, for my perfectionist friends who likely learned guilt at an early age (perhaps after deciding a blank wall looks like a perfect place to use your colorful markers because it’s strikingly similar to a blank piece of paper...only bigger so the possibilities are endless).

The answer: focus on how you want to FEEL first.

I used to feel guilty about the gym. Guilty for paying it and not going. Then guilty for not going and still paying for it. Then you go to cancel and they make you feel guilty for canceling when they ask you, “How are you going to reach your fitness goals if you aren’t paying for this membership?” 

Then I realized I am actually not stuck, I am going in a circle: guilt > perfectionism > procrastination > guilt (and repeat)

And if I am not stuck then I don’t have to figure out how to get started again. I only have to figure out how to take different actions.

The instigator in all of this is guilt, not perfectionism or procrastination. If you have siblings then you know what I’m talking about. It’s sort of like sitting in the back of a car on a long road trip getting super upset that someone is touching you or elbowing you and it turns into an all out fist fight. Your parents turn around and ask you to stop it and everyone says “s/he started it!” Guilt is sort of like that. It’s never guilt’s fault. But it is.

So, in order to take different actions (and to let go of guilt) we need to focus on how we want to feel. Another thing that’s not easy to do since we are basically taught happy is good and everything else is bad and something we don’t talk about.

I’ll tell you what I did to try to solve this problem.

I hired a health coach to tell me what to eat and I hired a personal trainer to tell me when to work out. My personal trainer said something to me one day, “You make this sound really hard but you make it look really easy. Are you sure you don’t know what you’re doing?” Then my health coach asked me what I was eating and I told her all the things I should/shouldn’t be eating. 

For the most part I already knew what to do.

The thing they helped me realize was I didn’t have a lack of knowledge. I wasn’t doing what I knew I needed to do because I was focusing on the wrong emotion.

I decided to replace feeling guilt about the gym with feeling ENERGIZED. From that point forward I have only done things that make me feel energized...

  • On days when I exercise at 6am, I get more done between 7:30-9:30am than I do in 8 hours when I don’t exercise.

  • When I don’t drink caffeine or alcohol, I am so much more creative and can write posts like this for days (lucky you if you’re still reading 😉)

  • When I have to wake up at 5:30am to go work out, I go to sleep earlier.

  • When I eat less sugar and carbs, I don’t crash at 3pm and need a nap.

Choosing the Feeling comes <before> the Action (not after).

Remember, you’re stuck in a roundabout not at a stoplight. All you have to do is pick an exit and it’s a whole lot easier to do that in 2nd gear than it is in 1st.