Avoidance is changing your behaviour, so you don’t have to do something, feel something, or think something.
If you are avoiding writing, you might find that you’re not only avoiding opening your computer, you’re also avoiding reading and listening to your favourite writing podcasts too.
For me, I noticed for the last two weeks I have been avoiding working on a new podcast, and avoiding everything that goes along with it. I changed my behaviour, and instead of listenings to podcasts when I drive, I would listen to the radio. I would avoid even opening the podcast app. Because my podcasts are about coaching, I also avoided anything to do with coaching. I cancelled a coaching call I had this week. I did not engage in any of my coaching slack groups, and I did not do any of the teachings I like to do from my own coaches.
Hearing that, it’s easy to think that what was making me change my behaviour was the fact that I had a podcast I wanted to write.
But that wasn’t what was going on. When I coached myself, I could see that the reason why I wasn’t writing the podcast was because of everything I was thinking about it. I had all these hidden thoughts and beliefs that had painful emotions attached to them.
This hardest part to realize when you’re in avoidance, that avoidance means you are avoiding your own mind, not the thing itself.
Unless you know how to coach yourself, or you have a coach to help you see these thoughts, it’s really difficult to get out of the pattern of avoidance. I’ve been doing thought work for several years now and I still spent a solid two weeks in avoidance.
In my case, it’s not the podcast I’m avoiding, it’s the thought I have that “I’m not going to succeed anyway.” That is the thought I am avoiding.
The reason why I am avoiding that thought, is because I believe it’s true. I do not see it as an optional thought.
This is what thought work is about, it’s about recognizing your thoughts as optional and sometimes choosing new ones that serve you.
I think this pattern of avoidance happens to writers a lot. You’ll know if this is you because it will likely go beyond just avoiding writing. You’ll also be avoiding tasks related to writing.
Maybe you’re avoiding reading books, logging onto Goodreads, listening to your favourite writing podcasts, talking to your writing group, or even writing something unrelated like a blog for work.
Like my podcast example,
What’s really happening here is that you’re avoiding a thought you have about writing. Maybe a thought like “I’m not going to get published anyway.”
This is where we take it kind of deep.
Having that thought is not a problem. It’s only a problem when you believe that it’s true.
If that thought passed through Stephen King’s mind, he wouldn’t take it seriously. But we take it seriously. We believe it. We believe that it’s true and feel awful. And we don’t want to feel awful so we will avoid everything that might trigger that thought.
We waste weeks, or months, or give up on dreams to avoid having a sentence come through our mind because we think it's true.
But all thoughts are optional. Just as much as it’s true that you may not get published, it’s also true that you could get published. Which thought serves you better?
This is where having a coach is so valuable. Because when you’re dealing with thoughts that you believe, you don’t see them as thoughts. You see them as truths in the world.
The problem with believing these thoughts as true, is that you usually end up proving them right. Because the outcome of a thought like “I’m not going to get published anyway” is you avoiding writing, and therefore you don’t get published.
So your brain feels vindicated. And the brain likes being right. So the spiral thickens. Again, it’s really deep, which is why it's hard to get out of avoidance.
But, now that you’ve read this, you can be on the lookout for the actions you are using to avoid.
You can notice when you avoid reading. You can notice when you avoid listening to a writing podcast.
Remind yourself that what you are really avoiding is a thought you’re having. Not the thing itself.
If you are avoiding writing, ask yourself why. Write down all the reasons that come up. Even the painful ones that you don’t want to admit to. Those are the ones that are holding you back. Those are the ones you believe. Once you spot them, notice the effect they are having on your life. Then play with the idea that there might be an equally possible alternative.
If you need help discovering these hidden thoughts, I encourage you to check out our coaching options. It can be challenging to find the thoughts that you believe so deeply, but being able to pull out even just one thought and see it as optional can be like a Jenga tower. You can crumble that belief and stop avoiding the life you really want to have.