It’s understandable that with the current pandemic and the increasing pressure that everyone is under, that more and more accountant moms are dealing with avoidance on an even bigger scale than ever.  With so much else going on around you, something like decluttering the attic, making that checkup appointment,  or starting that new exercise routine can seem like a reasonable thing to put off for now.

Just like most of you working moms, I have definitely had my fair share of struggles with avoidance and putting things off.  There have been plenty of things that I’ve avoided doing for weeks, months and sometimes years.

Whether it was finally donating my grandmother’s end table that’s been collecting dust in the basement or making that doctor’s appointment that was either scary to make or just didn’t seem that important, there are so many things that I have avoided for various reasons.  If you’re anything like me, it can also seem like you just can’t add another thing to your long to-do list, so delaying often seems like the best option. 

The issue though is that if your relationship with avoidance isn’t addressed, you are actually adding layers of unwanted stress into your life without being aware of it.  The pressure you probably feel trying to balance your career with your family will only be exacerbated when you don’t deal with the issue of avoidance and learn how to overcome it.

Just know that if you consider yourself a procrastinator and believe that avoidance is just another aspect of procrastinating, think again.  Understanding the difference between the two is actually an important part of overcoming avoidance.    

To understand this better, the definition of procrastinating that I’m using is when you put off doing something, but eventually get it done.  It’s usually when you have a deadline of some kind and you tend to wait until the pressure or expectations are so great, that you take the action to complete the task.

As an accountant, you’re definitely no stranger to deadlines, but what if there is no deadline?  That’s when avoidance happens.  The definition of avoidance that I use with my clients, is when you’ve decided to do something, or know that you should, but you never actually do it.

Basically avoidance is what happens to procrastination when there’s no deadline to make you actually do the thing, which is why it can become so easy to fall into the trap of avoidance.  There’s no one and nothing holding your feet to the fire and no perceived penalty for not doing it, therefore, it becomes easy to make friends with inaction and avoidance.

By having a better understanding of avoidance, why it’s an issue for you, and how to handle it, you will be able to reduce an incredible amount of stress and overwhelm in your life.  Thankfully the ability to overcome avoidance for working moms can not only benefit you, but your family as well.    

This week I’m going to discuss what makes you avoid things and how to overcome avoidance.

What makes you avoid things

For most working moms with ever-growing to-do lists, and increasing challenges that lead to more stress and overwhelm, the ability to prioritize things that need to be done is a time and life saver.  There’s only 24 hours in a day and it can seem like there’s just too much to cram into your waking hours.

However, if you have been avoiding doing certain things, it might not even be due to a lack of time.  You might have thoughts like:

  • I don’t have enough money
  • This really isn’t a priority right now
  • When my children are older
  • When I’m not so busy
  • After this deadline is over
  • It looks confusing so I need to know more
  • I’ll get to it someday

You probably have very valid reasons for avoiding certain things, but the issue is that avoidance is easy and sneaky.  All the “I’ll get to it at some point” moments build up over time, creating their own momentum, eventually leaving you buried under the avalanche of avoided things.

To understand what makes you avoid certain things in the first place, you first have to start with your thoughts.  If you’ve been a listener of this podcast, it will be no surprise to you that your actions and inactions are created by your thoughts, whether those thoughts are conscious or not.

The interesting thing about avoidance is that it’s not the actual action you are avoiding; it’s the feeling that your brain believes you’re going to have if you take the action, that you are really avoiding.  In other words, your current brain predicts that by taking some action, you’re going to have a feeling you don’t want to have, therefore, avoidance is the best option.   

For example, you know you need to make a dermatologist appointment to have some skin spots checked out.  It sounds like a simple enough task, but then your protective, negative-biased brain predicts some possible disturbing news and the fear of that news has you avoid calling and making the appointment.

That’s why it’s so important to understand that when you are avoiding something, it’s the feeling that you don’t want to have that you are actually avoiding.  Whether it’s putting off things like doing a task, talking to someone, or making a decision, what you are really avoiding is a feeling in the future. 

Basically, your current brain is forecasting that if you try to do X, you’ll have an unpleasant feeling in the future that you will not like feeling.  This most often happens without your awareness, leaving you with only a vague sense of unease or resistance to doing X, not really understanding why, but assuming that it must be for a good reason.

The reason this is so important is because your brain is spending a lot of energy trying to avoid unpleasant feelings, believing that feelings like fear, anxiety and overwhelm equal danger and death.  Since your lower brain’s sole job is to keep you alive, the anxious or overwhelmed feeling it predicts you’ll have by doing something like decluttering the attic, means avoiding the task is, in a dramatic way, saving your life.

It might seem silly to your rational, higher brain, but that’s the point; only when you use that higher intelligence to look at the situation reasonably, can you understand what’s making avoidance happen.  Since more than 80% of the time your lower, protective brain is choosing the actions you take and the actions you avoid, it’s important to recognize that it’s basing it’s approval, or disapproval, on what it believes you will feel.  

By understanding what’s really going on when you are avoiding, you can begin to take back a lot more control over your life.  With that control comes more balance, less stress and a much greater sense of accomplishment.   

How to overcome avoidance

In order to understand how to overcome avoidance, you have to become aware of the thought/feeling connection that your current brain is offering you.  You need to know what your current brain is expecting for the future.

In simple terms, when you are avoiding, your current brain is predicting that your future brain will have a thought and that thought will cause a feeling.  Normally that’s not a big deal, except that when it comes to avoidance, your current brain predicts that your future brain won’t like that feeling, so it chooses to avoid something now, in order to not feel bad in the future.

For example, let’s say you have a goal to leave your accounting job and become a mompreneur; you’re tired of the lack of support from your employer, you’re frustrated with missing out on things in your children’s lives, and you like the idea of being your own boss.  The idea sounds exciting in theory and you have a general idea of the different steps you might take to make it happen, but then you don’t do any of it.

You may think about scheduling time to start drafting a business and marketing plan, but you don’t actually do anything.  The question you need to ask when this happens is, “What am I thinking that’s creating a feeling that my brain wants to avoid?”

Remember, your brain is avoiding a feeling, not an action, therefore you have to get clear about the feeling it’s trying to avoid in the future.  In this example, your brain is probably predicting that if you schedule time to draft that business and marketing plan, that you’re going to feel things like anxious, overwhelmed or worried.

Once you know the feeling you’re trying to avoid, ask yourself, “What is my brain thinking now and predicting that I will think in the future, that will create that feeling?”  In this example it might look like this:

  • Current thought – “If I set aside time for a business and marketing plan, I’ll have to actually have to consider doing something with it.”
  • Feeling prediction for the future – Anxious
  • Thought prediction for the future- “I have too much on my plate already and it’s probably complicated”

In this example, your current brain is trying to protect you from the anxiety it predicts you will feel in the future.  To your lower brain, anxiety is an unwanted and threatening feeling that needs to be avoided at all costs which is why you would resist doing what you want to do.

So now that you have a general idea of what’s happening when you are in avoidance, let me give you some steps to overcome it:

  • Step One – Pick a task, project or goal that you have been avoiding (big or small), and write down all your thoughts and fears about it.  Set a timer for 10 minutes and write down every thought you have about the task, project or goal.  Word of caution – don’t let yourself say, “I don’t know”; that’s just your brain’s way of indulging in confusion so that you will not expend energy.
  • Step Two – Now read those thoughts over and notice how they make you feel.  That feeling is the reason you are not taking action and avoiding.  That feeling is the key to overcoming avoidance.  Those thoughts that you probably have been unconsciously aware of, are creating that feeling and then creating fear of having more of that feeling.  That’s why you haven’t been taking action.
  • Step Three – You need to come up with a better feeling thought about the task, project or goal.  You need to decide what to think on purpose that will help you take the action, and not make you feel the predicted feeling.  You need to choose a thought that creates a better feeling like committed, determined, curious or any other feeling that will move you away from the feeling that’s leading to avoidance.

In our example, if your thought was “I have too much on my plate already and it’s probably complicated”, you could choose to practice thinking, “This is important and I’ve figured out complicated things before” or “There’s always help available when I ask for it”.  Thoughts like those would most likely create a feeling of openness or determination, as opposed to anxiousness or overwhelm.

The last important point I want to make is that the thought you choose to practice must be believable.  Too many women I work with want to jump to a better feeling thought in order to stop the habit of avoiding, but if they don’t choose a believable thought, they go back to their default avoidance habit quickly.

If you are having some trouble coming up with believable thoughts or find the feeling that is causing avoidance, schedule a free coaching discovery call; I’ll provide the link in the show notes or you can go to https://cpamoms-academy.com/p/manage-your-mind-program.  You can always learn how to overcome avoidance, allowing you to create more balance, lessen your stress and take back control of your personal and professional life, goals and dreams.

Summary  

  • As an accountant, you’re definitely no stranger to deadlines, but what if there is no deadline?  That’s when avoidance happens. 
  • The interesting thing about avoidance is that it’s not the actual action you are avoiding; it’s the feeling that your brain believes you’re going to have if you take the action, that you are really avoiding. 
  • In order to understand how to overcome avoidance, you have to become aware of the thought/feeling connection that your current brain is offering you.