Your Childhood Experiences Made You An Adult Procrastinator.

As someone who procrastinates, can you relate to this statement:


“I perform well under pressure.”?

If this phrase rings true for you, if you work great under pressure, it’s likely that procrastination is a learned behavoir — part of your childhood programming.

Before we dive in further, I want to make a point to say that we don’t always need to know WHY we do something in order to shift the behavior, but our curious minds, and our egos like to make sense of things. So, let’s make sense of procrastination as it relates to our child programming, so that we can reprogram or recondition ourselves into more empowered, proactive living, instead of the current reactive living state that procrastination has us trapped in.

If you currently struggle with procrastination, I encourage you to consider your childhood experiences...

As a kid, do you have any memories of hurrying up to clean your room or do the dishes or finish your homework, because your parent or caregiver or teacher was really angry with or disappointed in you?

Do you have any memories of knowing or sensing that something bad will happen, like I’m going to get in deep trouble, if I don’t get this done NOW?

Many adults that struggle with procrastination do so because of this childhood programming. It was the fear of someone’s disappointment or anger directed at you, that created that sense of urgency: it became the motivator for you to Get Things Done.

Fear of negative emotions got you moving.

This also meant that UNLESS you sensed that impending doom — of experiencing someone’s negative emotions, or of being punished or getting in trouble, you really weren’t motivated to clean your room, or do your homework, or change the cat’s litter box.

No immediate threat, no immediate action required.

Now I want you to take a moment and notice how that unconscious rule, programmed into your subconscious when you were a kid, is playing out in your current adult reality.

Where in your personal or work life do you unconsciously live by the rule of “no immediate threat, no immediate action required”?

Obviously the threat can look a little different as an adult, but the root trigger is the same.


You lack motivation unless there is a perceived threat of having to deal with negative emotions.

You don’t want to be that guy on the team that can’t get his shit together causing the project to be late.

You don’t want to piss off your boss with a rushed proposal, or your wife because you still haven’t fixed the leaky tap.

And so, at the thought of another’s anger or disappointment directed at you, you spring into action, miraculously completing in 2 hours what you’ve been procrastinating on all week. All because you are afraid of dealing with negative emotions.

On the surface those negative emotions that you’re afraid of are your team members judgment towards you, or your partners hurt, or your boss’s frustration. But on a deeper, truer level, it’s really about your own emotional experience.

Let me explain what I mean by this by asking you some questions.

When someone is angry or disappointed in you — how do you feel in your body?

What emotion are you avoiding experiencing by jumping to action at the first sign of someone being angry/disappointed?

This emotion that you are avoiding — perhaps it’s shame or sadness, what is trying to tell you?

What happens when you feel these negative emotions?

As you reflect on these questions, you might begin to notice that you don’t necessarily know how to be okay with those feelings when they come up. And so naturally, you’ve programmed yourself to avoid dealing with them, by springing into last minute action.

I recognize that we’ve gone kinda meta, from “I’m great under pressure” to “I don’t know how to hold myself through shame”, but the reality is that if you describe yourself as a procrastinator who thrives under pressure, you’ve programmed yourself into believing that you don’t need to, and perhaps dont even know how to, take action without this particular trigger existing.

You procrastinate until you experience the motivation of fear.

Can you notice that when that trigger is not present, as in, if there’s no fear of having to deal with uncomfortable feelings, you have a really tough time getting things done?

Without the threat of uncomfortable feelings on the horizon, without the chance of disappointment or anger or shame — there is no need to take action. And so, you end up wasting your day on unimportant things.

But this isn’t how you want to live, is it?

In the extremes of comfort and reactivity, being controlled by fear and external motivators?

Because you know, deep down, this is not how we grow. This is not how to be sustainably productive or live with less stress. This is certainly not how we live in joyful alignment So as someone who struggles with procrastination, and with this new understanding of why you work great under pressure, what can you do to shift out of this pattern?

There are two things that you can do.

  1. Be Good At Feeling

The first is you need to get to a place of acceptance of those uncomfortable feelings — so that you aren’t controlled by the fear of experiencing them. The part of you that procrastinates UNTIL t