In this episode, Barbara and Wendy discuss:
- Causes and effects of procrastination
- Why it’s not your fault when you are procrastinating
- How laughing therapy works and the power in knowing silliness counteracts dread
- You can’t just will yourself out of or through something
- You temporarily lose your ability to access how smart you are when procrastinating
- The human system defaults to think something is dangerous
“Every time you have put something off, it means your bottom two brains have decided there is something dangerous about it.” — Wendy Hart
- 019 Wendy Hart-Procrastination is Not Your Fault – How to Overcome It
Barbara Hales: Welcome to our episode today for Marketing Tips with Doctors. We have a great guest today, Wendy Hart. Her specialty is procrastination. Not that she does, but talking about how we all procrastinate and what to do about it. Now, I know this speaks for you all, and it definitely speaks for me. I think doctors are more susceptible to procrastination, because they’re always putting off their personal life for their occupational career interests.
Wendy Hart is an international speaker and performance coach, and the creator of the procrastination cure, a complete system that compels you to follow through, and if you have a business, make more money. Her promise for her clients is to increase your follow-through by three times or more in three months or less without ever relying on willpower. Wendy has over 25 years experience in human behavior, sales and psychology, and using neuroscience and sneaky brain hacks, has developed a unique system that has people and procrastination fast and for good, as well as dissolved are unconscious blocks to success.
In other words, she helps you end self-sabotage. I like that, sneaky brain hacks. Wendy has coached thousands of clients on six continents, and has helped them to reduce anxiety and overwhelm, increase their sales and performance, and increase their business activity by as much as 300% to 1,000% in as little as 90 days. Wendy has trained at the prestigious Coaches Training Institute. She is a practitioner of thought pattern management and internal family systems model of psychotherapy, as well as many other models. A member of the International Coaches Federation and the International Association of Coaches. Wendy is also a former board member of the National Speakers Association, the Northern California chapter. So wow, this is so impressive, Wendy. How did this happen for you? How did you come to work on procrastination?
Wendy Hart: Thanks for asking. Well, it was a long and arduous trail. It was born out of necessity. I was raised in a family that was so dysfunctional, with a couple of brilliant but mentally ill parents, that we belonged on the Jerry Springer show. It was too colorful and violent, sadly, for words, and so I was the most stuck individual you ever met. I had anxiety and panic and dread and procrastination and resistance. However, I was fortunate enough to be born with natural talents as a speaker and a teacher and curiosity. And I remember being a little girl, thinking if I ever live and get of this house, which wasn’t likely, that I was going to learn what would allow people to thrive and be happy. So I went on a quest that lasted decades, and I studied all those things that you mentioned, looking under every rock I could trying to fix my own situation, because I was so stuck and had so much panic.
And over time what I discovered was that most of the things that people put out into the world, particularly productivity experts were backwards. And the things that are purported to work actually cause things to be worse for most people, and folks walk around with secret shame. But thankfully I was able to discover the bits of things that did work from a whole variety of personal development models and therapy and studying neuroscience and psych and hypnosis and everything else. And I had a talent for cherry-picking. I put the bits that did work to help me into a new amalgam, a new recipe. And that’s how the procrastination cure system was born. And it’s worked with a variety of populations. So, this really maps over. Once I was able to stop having panic attacks and leave my house, I used it, I was a singer, and I used it to train 300 singers to get over stage fright. But we didn’t actually, it wasn’t an easy population to work with, because we were all stone-cold broke.
I thought, well, where else could this science work? And I started working with golfers, even though I don’t golf. I actually had a guy break a 35-year record in the PGA. He got the lowest score in relation to par of any course pros since 1969, with five phone calls with the same science. And we used it with executives with call reluctance, and all kinds of places where people put things off. And then I got a contract to work with several thousand home-based business owners, and procrastination was the pain that they named the most. Because when you don’t, when you’re an entrepreneur or solo-preneur, and you don’t have a clock to punch or any accountability to anybody, it can be very easy to put things off. And so that’s where this has been serving people for the last dozen years or so. Maybe a little longer than that.
I’m very blessed to now have served thousands of clients on six continents, and people are shocked to realize that what they were doing before, things like willpower and force and effort, actually caused most of us to shoot ourselves in the foot, and have a lot of personal shame and regret and feelings of, why can’t I do more? Other people must be doing more than me. No, most people are actually not making great gains with that. And there are other easier ways to make progress and have your life be more effortless.
Barbara Hales: Well, you want really to be commended, coming from the background that you have sharing with us. And by the way, thank you for sharing that. It could so easily have gone the other way, which was disastrous. So really, kudos to you.
Wendy Hart: Thank you.
Barbara Hales: Wendy, talk to us about what causes procrastination, and how and why does it happen?
Wendy Hart: Sure. Well, this is fun today to get to talk to doctors, because doctors will get this immediately. And when you talk to laypeople and you say, “Picture what your brain looks like,” most people picture one big brain. But doctors know we have a triune brain. And it’s actually the way that those three brains are communicating with each other that gets us into trouble and leads to the discovery that humans are actually designed to put things off, because we’re 21st-century humans run around with caveman-era brain and body circuitry, but we don’t give any credence to that.
So, most people think that their neocortex is running the show. Oh, we’re advanced and I’m smart, and I got straight As in school, and so my neocortex is running the show. But that’s not true, because it’s your brainstem and your limbic system that are the filters that every single bit of information that you perceive must go through those two brains first and get checked by your amygdala as safe or unsafe. And most of us aren’t aware of that, or we don’t consider that. So actually, everything that you see, hear, touch, smell, taste, perceive around you is filtered through those bottom two brains first.
Well, and as we know, what are the language of those bottom two brains, your brain stem? It’s the four Fs. We all know that. Food, fight, flight and fool it around, right? It translates everything into-
Barbara Hales: I didn’t know that that last step.
Wendy Hart: Oh you didn’t? Well, we’re trying to be family-friendly here in saying that, but yeah, the four Fs on the bottom, and then your middle brain, your limbic system, translates everything into either pain or pleasure. I’ve got to run. Oh, yummy. I’ve got to get it right now. Or pain. Run away and hide from that. So those are the two languages and the four languages of the bottom two brains.
And when the bottom two brains decide that something is dangerous, which is basically everything in the unknown column, because unknown things could kill the caveman, right? So your whole brain and nervous system are set up to default to resisting things, or default to thinking, well, that’s dangerous. And that of course goes to survival of the species, right? So, we’re lucky that we have a beautiful design system, but people don’t get this operating manual in school. This is stuff we all should have learned in our eighth grade science class, and we didn’t. And so we think that we can willpower our way through things. We can just decide and make decisions and use force and use force of will.
But the truth is that cortical inhibition happens, right? So when those bottom two brains think something is dangerous for no logical reason, by the way, because we’re not touching your top brain. When those bottom two brains decide something is dangerous and they kick your amygdala in, in large and small ways, of course there’s a chemical cascade that goes through your body, and then it speaks. Those chemicals speak to the organs in your bodies. That’s how you get a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach, or you get a tension headache, or you feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world in your shoulders. It’s all just chemistry, and then you don’t want to do things. So basically, even though it doesn’t make rational sense to your top brain, every time you’re putting something off, it means that the bottom two brains have decided there’s something dangerous about it. And what we know about that is it’s different for each person based on how you were raised, who you were raised by. I mean, 70% of our attachment theory, or our attachment tendencies, are determined from birth.
Like what was the chemistry of your mother, and what was it like? And then you come into the world with a particular sensitivity. And then let’s say you were an infant and she was carrying you in her arms, and she walked past, I don’t know, a big pile of laundry, or she heard a loud noise and she jumped in the air. Chances are high your nervous system got attuned to the same things. And so, a big pile of laundry that she was dreading is not a dangerous thing, yet you could be attuned to having these sort of cockamamie things light you up or have your nervous system feel more nervous about. So thankfully there are ways around this, but when we go through life, and let’s say you wake up in the morning and you’re super clear, and you have a list of the things that you want to do in the day, and you’re happy and calm and you have the brain chemistry to be able to do them. That’s great.
And then if you get to the end of your day and you wonder, why didn’t I get any of those things on my list done? I got all these other things done, but I didn’t get any of those things. Why? Well, it’s because your amygdala was firing all day in tiny ways and you were having little chemical cascades. And every time that happens blood leaves your top brain. So that’s the cortical inhibition piece. We temporarily lose the ability to access how smart we are. So, in the morning when you were clear and you had your priorities straight, you knew what to do. But after those little chemical cascades all day long, and the blood leaving your top brain, and you feel kind of fuzzy or disoriented, or what did I want to do today? That’s a function of this continuing cortical inhibition, and then we don’t get stuff done.
And then we tend to add another layer on of judgment, which is a different chemistry set that sort of cements in these neural pathways that go into losing patterns. So it becomes habituated, and you do it day after day after day. And we look at other people and think, well, how can they get stuff done and I can’t? Well, they just have their triggers in different contexts than you can see. So, there is a small slice of people that their brain is a little bit different, and they’re able to use willpower as a way to get stuff done. But for my money, it’s not actually the most useful way anyway. Are there other ways to get things done that are much, much, much more fruitful and don’t cost you so much?
Barbara Hales: Well, it’s certainly great to know that when you are procrastinating it’s not your fault.
Wendy Hart: Yes, it isn’t. It’s not your fault. It really isn’t. When I tell people that, audiences, they tend to just, first they don’t believe me. But when they get it, when they get the whole message, there’s such a relief and a release, because people have been walking around carrying that. Most people have been walking around carrying that. And they don’t know it’s just the default design of the human operating system to be wary of unknown things and your chemistry. It’s not your fault, but chemistry is happening to prevent you. Or things that based in the environment where you were raised, you think certain things feel dangerous.
I learned this, as I said, out of a necessity, because I had an overwhelmingly severe number of things that felt dangerous, things that felt safe to other people, like leaving the house when it was dark at night. I couldn’t do that for years, and I’d have the covers over my head. It was just like, it was dramatic. And by rights, looking at any actuarial table, I should be dead or addicted to substances, or with somebody that beats me. And none of that, thank goodness, is true, because I did learn this operating system and how to navigate it, so that I don’t have, I know what to do when I get overwhelmed, or I know what to do to prevent that state.
Really the system that I have developed over time is a preemptive one. It’s how to maintain your state and get into action, and prevent those things from happening. And then when the chemical cascades do happen, you don’t have to beat yourself up, and they will pass. Those states will pass like bad weather.
Barbara Hales: Well, that’s really awesome that not only did you figure out how to help yourself, but that it is your mission to help others. So Wendy, you say that your approach is opposite others in the productivity field, like Tony Robbins. How is that?
Wendy Hart: Well, Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, all those folks, there’s a whole thing in the personal development and productivity spaces, particularly in the last 20 years, mind over matter, fake it till you make it, push, push, push. And there is a correlation that is made between drive and discipline and character. So again, this speaks to that secret shame, because most people feel as though, well… I tell the truth about it, right? If you think about it, well, if I were a good person and I had good character, I ought to have unlimited access to willpower every day, every day. And what we know is that’s just categorically not true. Social scientists have done tons of tests on this and it’s like almost quantifiable. It’s as though you wake up every day with a metaphoric bucket-full of willpower energy, and that size of that bucket is going to vary from day-to-day based on your self care. How much sleep have you had, how much self-care have you done for yourself? Stress levels. So, it changes day-to-day.
But there’s a finite amount of this energy, because again, this is a top-brain energy. So, willpower energy is like that knitted brow, determined, I’m going to do it all, force of will kind of thing. And it’s just not the juiciest part of anybody’s energy, and it runs out. So, this again goes to our example of you wake up in the morning, and you’re super clear. That’s when you have the most possible willpower energy for the day. But let’s say that you’ve had critical patients all day long. You’ve had life and death decisions that you’ve had to make. You were in the trenches. All that stuff is draining your willpower energy massively. When you get to later in the day and you have a little space, perhaps, and you might want to do something for yourself, that that energy isn’t there anymore.
And the reason this is all missing… I think that most of these productivity gurus, they’re very well-intentioned, but they’re just not well-informed about this, because there’s a presupposition that you ought to have an unlimited amount, but it’s a top-brain thing. And the bottom two brains are hijacking you all the time, and they’re having blood leave your top-brain. So, it gets messy. Here’s a better example, Barbara, because some people might be going, we’re doctors, and does she know what she’s talking about? So, if you think about it this way, if you’ve ever been in some social situation, and you were feeling great and on top of your game and really confident, and then somebody surprised you, some jerk, some huge guy, or this is very relevant for women in particular, but they come up to you and they are in your space and they surprise you with a really rude or cutting or disrespectful remark.
And in that moment, at least for most of the people I’ve spoken with, but definitely all the women, what happens is we’re kind of shocked. We’re stunned. We stand there with our jaw hanging open, and we don’t know what to say. And then you get yourself out of there and you go home and go to bed, and a couple hours later you’re eyes pop open and now you know exactly what you should have said to that jerk, and now you’re mad that you couldn’t think of it at the moment. That’s cortical inhibition. That’s when the blood leaves the top brain because danger was perceived. It’s instantaneous. It’s fast. There’s no time to think is this a good idea or not? It’s just automatic. And you knew what to say hours later, because your body perceived that you were in a safe environment again, and then the blood went back to your top brain.
So in those moments when you don’t have access well to critical top-brain thinking, trying to use willpower as your way to get stuff done is just an exercise in futility, and it continues and compounds this belief then, then we make it mean something. We make it mean, oh, well, I’m just a loser, or I must not want this enough. Or we compare ourselves negatively to others, and it just moves us in a direction that is the opposite of going toward our goals. Does that make sense?
Barbara Hales: Well, yes it does. But I’ll tell you, sometimes it actually works in our favor that we don’t say what’s on our mind at the time.
Wendy Hart: Well, that’s true, that’s true. That could get us into trouble in a different way. Absolutely.
Barbara Hales: So what can people do instead in terms of procrastination and avoiding?
Wendy Hart: Yes. Well, there are a couple of… I mean, it’s obviously beyond the scope I have, and I have a whole system with a couple hundred tools, and it’s very easily absorbable in six audios, where people listen to a group of people that were completely stuck, and you hear them transform. And then it speaks to your unconscious mind. So, it’s the easiest way that I know to assimilate it.
But right here for our purposes, a great tip to know is that what’s been discovered is that the physiology of silliness, what’s produced when you feel kind of silly and jovial and that way, the chemistry that’s created in your body countermands the chemistry of dread. So they cancel each other out. Just like in chemistry class when you mixed an acid and an alkali and they neutralized each other. That makes sense, right?
Barbara Hales: I was just going to say, so laughing, the therapy works well.
Wendy Hart: Laughing therapy works very well. And the fastest tool that I can give people is to go to Staples, or if you’re in Europe go to staples.eu, and buy easy buttons, which are about seven bucks, and put them all over your office, all over the house, anywhere that you can get away with it. It’s much better than the apps on the phone that do it, by the way. It’s just nice to have this button, because this is the very best anchor that we’ve ever found. And an anchor is anything that creates a stimulus that creates a predictable response. So, this is a beautiful anchor, because it’s kinesthetic, visual, and auditory. It’s a big red button with the word easy on it. You have to hit it with your hand, and then you hear the little man’s voice say that was easy.
And so it’s silly and it lights up all the different parts of your brain, because it’s visual, kinesthetic, and auditory. And every time you do something, even the tiniest thing for yourself, you intend to do something, like I’m going to move my papers off my desk. And then you hit the easy button, and you hear the thing that was easy, it’s doing two things. It’s reminding you that you just took an action that it might feel like it’s too small to count, but it matters. You’re building new neural pathways in your brain.
So, you hit this button and it’s silly. You can’t help it. It’s silly. And if you do it over time, you’ll feel lighter and lighter and lighter as you hit the button. You’re kind of intending to do a small thing. You do it. You give yourself credit, and then you hit this button. And if you have them in easy spots all around you, so you don’t have to walk to another room to hit it, it’ll become a happy habit. And this is one of the fastest, most powerful, simple, cheap tools one can do to begin to change their physiology, begin to change their internal response to both the chemistry that’s being made and the meaning that they’re making about it. It takes you, puts you on a new trajectory. It’s a good one.
Barbara Hales: What a great suggestion. I’m going to run out and get those buttons today.
Wendy Hart: Good, good. You’ll be glad you did. Well, this has been a most enlightening episode, and a very important one, because as health professionals we’re always thinking about our patients first and procrastinating when it comes to our personal life, and all of the obligations that that entails. You can’t go wrong, and getting information more then what you heard today by Wendy heart would be very helpful for everyone. What you can do to reach her is to go to her website at procrastination-cure.com/the-cure. Or you could go to yourbestmentalgolf.com. I know that lots of people have the hips, or they have doubts about trying to hit over those lakes and waterholes. So believe me, when I played golf I could have used you before.
Barbara Hales: It’s easy. People have no idea. It’s so nice when you can learn how to get in a good state. You can throw those swing thoughts, most of them, out the window. There’s a much easier natural way to get into flow states more predictably or get out of, even more importantly on the golf course, get out of negative states when you’ve hit a couple bad shots, and the chemistry’s going down, because now your amygdala is firing off. It’s just incredible to learn how to not do that anymore, and then that maps over into every other area of life for more confidence and more ease, and more success. Again, we’ve been speaking with Wendy Hart, and you can reach her at yourbestmentalgolf.com, or procrastination-cure.com/the-cure. Thank you so much for being with us today, Wendy.
Wendy Hart: It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me, Barbara. What a great time.
Barbara Hales: And I’ve been your host on this episode, Dr. Barbara Hales. Until next time.
Connect with Wendy Hart:
Facebook: Procrastination Cure
Book: The Procrastination Cure
LinkedIn: Wendy Hart
Connect with Barbara Hales:
Show website: www.MarketingTipsForDoctors.com