When I met with my coach recently, I wasn’t sure which I needed more – a motivating pep talk or a metaphorical kick in the pants.
A bit of background:
I had been through a rather challenging season. Several unexpected twists and events had caused me to take a step back, regroup, and reevaluate my priorities. If I didn’t reach a particular milestone or wasn’t as productive as I’d like, I gave myself some grace.
And I’m glad for that.
At some point, however, I realized this was no longer serving me. As I state on my About page, my favorite days – the days when I feel at my best – are those with a healthy blend of productivity and peacefulness. I had reached a point where I essentially felt neither of those things!
So I started paying attention to when I put off a task or procrastinated on a project. And I began asking a few questions:
Why am I putting this off?
What do I most need in this moment?
How will I feel seeing this appear yet again on my to-do list?
Just pausing to briefly reflect in this manner – rather than throwing up my hands in apparent overwhelm – did wonders. And the answers I happened upon were quite telling, too.
For example, I realized I was regularly putting things off due to reasons we often put things off: fear, uncertainty, a sense of ‘But I shouldn’t have to do this!’
With that awareness, I could more honestly address what I most needed in the moment. Sometimes it was grace, sometimes it was self-compassion, sometimes it was a firm self-talking-to.
Often times it was a quick walk around the block to clear my head and come back ready to start fresh.
And my answer to the third question, about seeing it on my to-do list another day or week? In most cases I knew I’d feel even more deflated and demotivated! That was frequently enough to kickstart me into motion – whether that meant doing, delegating, or removing it from my list altogether.
In the end, I don’t think my title question was truly an either/or – but rather an and. I needed to give myself grace – and rest, and compassion, and room to breathe – for a period. And when that eventually felt more like making excuses and was taking its own kind of toll, I needed to shift into action and decisiveness and confident, motivating self-talk.
It’s rarely black or white. I’m learning to live in the gray.
How about you? Do you notice a difference between giving yourself grace and making excuses? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!