How to unhook from thoughts
The 1-2-3-4 tool
What kind of thoughts & feelings usually hook you, especially in procrastination? Well, almost anything:
Why can’t I do this better?
What if I fail?
What will happen if I don’t make the right decision?
Why am I lazy?
How do you do unhook?
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Well, I am glad you asked.
Notice & name it (silently. You don’t wanna seem “crazy”, right?). Every time you get hooked by a thought or feeling just notice that and name it (silently).
“I am noticing the thought that I am lazy.”
“Here is anxiety.”
“I am noticing worry.”
“But Irina, how can this help me?”
More than you know. Most of the time we are unaware of what happens in our minds because it’s painful and because, well - we are hooked. The result is we think that “we should all relax and think positively.”
However, naming and noticing (silently) allows your mind to acknowledge the thought/ feeling and kinda isolate it.
This should probably stand written on my tombstone - I cannot stress enough how important that is.
Notice and (silently) acknowledge the thought/ feeling/ sensation and then take a breath.
This will allow you to make room for the thought/ emotion/ sensation. Just let it float a bit with your breath.
Refocus on what you were doing.
Suppose you are in the process of writing a piece on procrastination (haha) And while you are doing this, you notice your mind going:
‘Ah, I have no idea what I am doing.”
‘Ah, I wish I shouldn’t have to do this.”
“Ah, If only I would finish this faster.”
“Ah, I am feeling anxiety inside.”
Once you notice this and (silently) name these thoughts & feelings, take a breath and just refocus on what you were doing.
Tip: you will have to do this over and over again.
Most clients with whom I work this skill will tell me - “But Irina, this is like cheating and distracting myself from this thought!!”
Yes, I know it looks like this - but it isn’t.
Listen, our minds won’t stop talking to us.
They will tell us all kinds of stuff - some useful, some neutral, some crap. It’s all about the context, experience, rules & stories in your mind.
Once you apply step 1 - Notice and name (silently) you acknowledge them. Once you do that - you cannot say that you distract from them. They are just there. You are noticing them, with curiosity, and openness.
It’s like you are suddenly realizing what your mind does.
What it says.
Like a fish realizing it lives in water.
Engage with what matters to you.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to kindly move your attention to what is important to you. I talked about values in various substacks because it is the “prize” we are looking for.
Knowing what matters and engaging with it - by whichever means you can - hear, smell, touch, sight, hearing - is a skill of contact with the present moment.
Let’s say you are talking to a colleague about a project. You notice and name your thoughts - Here is frustration, here is the thought that I don’t understand what they are saying.
Refocus on what you are doing - just listen and hear what they are saying.
Then engage with why is that important to you - I want to do this project, learning is important to me. Maybe a paycheck is important to me.
The gig is that you cannot escape the thoughts & feelings.
But when they hook you in and disconnect you from what you are doing and what matters to you, then unhooking and re-engaging is what will keep you doing what matters to you.
Practice practice practice.