For much of my life, I have been a self-help junkie. I was always striving to improve, to become the best "me" that I possibly could.
I was overweight, so I threw myself into the South Beach diet, with a side of Paleo. Lots of protein, no sugar, and time to cut down on those glasses of wine! I joined the fanciest gym in town and vowed to attend class every night. While I fancied Zumba classes and enjoyed yoga, I also dragged myself to "boot camp" and circuit training, although I was watching the clock the entire time.
I added running and yoga to my morning routine, which already consisted of listening to binaural beats, meditation, reading chapters from 3-4 different spiritual books, and completing some journaling exercises recommended by my life coach.
I then aimed to arrive early to my teaching job, so that I could prepare perfect, Pintrest-inspired lessons and complete my paperwork, always on time. I stayed after work in order to work on my online business, which I was trying to rebuilt after a difficult time. "Rebuilding" meant writing blog posts 3 days a week, posting at least once a day on Facebook, Linked In, Pintrest, Twitter, and Google+, writing 10 comments on articles per day, and writing 10 comments per day on each social media platform.
I always jumped into self-improvement projects with a burst of energy, and it always waned. Regardless of my intentions, I always found myself procrastinating. This time around, I eventually spent my evenings with a glass of wine in one hand and a chocolate cookie in the other! I quit the boot camp classes at the gym first, but soon I quit going to everything, including yoga and Zumba.
I slept in until I had 5 minutes to get ready for work, arrived right before my students, and ignored my business for a week.
In my mind, I was in a downward spiral, losing all the gains I had previously made. I promptly e-mailed my life coach, expecting her to suggest some baby-steps that would help me to get back on track and rediscover my willpower. Procrastination is evil, right?
So you can imagine my surprise when I read her advice: "Give yourself permission to 'slack.'"
My mind was immediately skeptical. I was sure that if I allowed this, I would never find the motivation to do what I wanted to be doing. I would slide back into my old habits and never move forward. My mind seemed to be inherently lazy, and slacking seemed like the worst possible idea.
Except that it wasn't. After removing the internal pressure, I was able to see what I really needed to proceed from there. My focus moved toward meeting my own needs, rather than doing what I "should" have been doing. I rediscovered both my passion and my creativity.
Here's how slacking helped me to move forward:
1. I was able to rest and rejuvenate.
With all the emphasis that self-help books and speakers place on motivation, we often overlook our need for rest. I had gained weight due to stress, and a lot of stress was caused by having to start from square one with my business. I needed time to relax my mind and body, and take a break before giving it another push.
When we do not allow ourselves the time to rest, our bodies and minds do all they can to make it happen. We become ill, or we begin to procrastinate. Simply plowing through does absolutely nothing to address the underlying issue. I was tired, and I would not be able to move forward until I took the time to rest.
2. I was able to examine the reasons WHY I was trying to adopt new habits.
By not forcing myself to do anything, I was able to look at my reasons for making the changes that I was making. Were they things I wanted to do, or things that I thought I should be doing?
I found that I really had no interest in watching the scale on a daily basis, but that I did feel better when I ate protein and vegetables, while avoiding excessive sugar. I detested the boot camp and circuit training classes, but I thought that I "needed" something more hard-core than Zumba and yoga.
I learned that I was not enjoying my business when it became a do-or-die endeavor. I enjoyed meditating, but I found that I didn't really want to spend as much time doing it as I was trying to do.
So much of what we try to do, we only do because we think that we "should" be doing these things. If we don't do them, we much be unmotivated or slacking. And yet, there is no universal rule that we need to do anything. If something is not benefiting us or enriching our lives, we can let it go.
3. I was able to find things that did ignite my passion.
While I was discovering what I did not want to do, I also found activities that I truly enjoyed. Why is it that we think that having fun, enjoying life, and moving forward can never go together?
I found Zumba classes available, low-cost, every day of the week (although I did not attend them all!). I found that I enjoyed engaging readers on my Facebook page, while watching my business regrow at a slower pace. I found that while I spent less time preparing my classroom, I was able to engage with my students much more. My morning routine sometimes still consisted of staying in bed until it was time to leave, but other times I enjoyed chapters from 1-2 of my books.
One of the greatest benefits of "slacking" is that you will be able to look within and ask yourself the question: "What is it that I WANT to be doing?" So often, we lose sight of this question and its answer. When we are following our passion, there is little need for willpower or forcing ourselves.
4. I was able to meet my needs spontaneously and intuitively.
Routines can be very useful in helping us to develop the tools to access our creativity and reach out potential, but eventually it is more beneficial to learn to give ourselves what we need in each moment. Through taking a break, I learned to recognize, in each moment, when I was needed to go out for a run and when I needed to give myself a yoga nidra session.
I learned to see when I had the energy to give my business a huge push forward and when I needed to curl up in bed with a book. I learned when I needed to journal and give myself a good dose of attention and when I was ready to spend an early morning working in my classroom.
The reality is that our needs and energy levels will fluctuate, and that adapting to and using these fluctuations will allow us to reach our full potential. Fighting against them is a surefire road to procrastination.
5. My energy levels were able to even out.
Throughout most of my life, my energy levels have been a roller coaster. When I began a project, I would throw myself into it, unable to sleep or think about anything else. When I started my business, I would be so involved that I would forget to eat or sleep!
And then came the crash. I would lose momentum completely, needing to take a few weeks off to rest. I thought this was the natural flow of energy for me, and I never questioned it.
And yet, when I took a break, I found that the next surge wasn't as high, and the next dip wasn't as low. Eventually, I settled into a lower, but more stable and sustainable, pace. I was comfortable doing a little bit of work and allowing a little bit of rest, everyday.
There are so many reasons that allowing yourself to "slack" can be the kindest"”and most productive"”thing that you can do for yourself. Remember that the urge to procrastinate is a message from your mind, and that hearing and heeding it can only help you move forward!