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Unconscious reasons for procrastination

Short text about unconscious self-handicapping.
Cartoon brain is handicapped
© University of Groningen

So far we’ve been examining the role of thoughts on procrastination. But procrastination can also be caused by what we call ‘unconscious reasons’. One of these unconscious reasons is called self-handicapping. For some people it’s not a problem at all, for others it’s their biggest challenge.

What is self-handicapping?

Self-handicapping is an unconscious reason for procrastinating, because subconsciously you’re afraid of what will happen when you actually get down to work: You might think:

This course unit is hard, I don’t think I’m smart enough to do it. If I try really hard now and I still fail at the end of it, that’s proof that this isn’t really for me. But if I just start too late, if I fail I can say it’s because I haven’t tried hard enough, and it won’t affect my self-confidence.

So, when self-handicapping, you give yourself a handicap by doing a half-hearted job or starting late on purpose.

It might be clear that thoughts such as the one above is not only a misconception, but also it illustrates a so called fixed mindset. (you can find more about mindsets in our article on motivation later this week)

How to stop self-handicapping?

You can only stop self-handicapping if you accept that you can’t (and don’t have to) do a perfect job. You have to accept the possibility that you might fail and not see that as a threat. Your self-confidence must be independent of your exam results. This will allow you to really go for it, even if you’re not sure you’re going to pass or do perfectly. If you can accept this uncertainty, you can stop self-handicapping. But if you find it hard to stop these thoughts all on your own, then a course about fear of failure can be useful to you!

Please share after reading this article:

Do you ever ‘self-handicap’? In what kind of situations?

© University of Groningen
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