I’m sure you’ve heard of this self-preservation mechanism before. The way we react when we encounter some kind of “danger”.
You probably know it as the “Fight or Flight” response.
When confronted with some sort of imminent threat, we calculate the degree of danger. And either run for cover or face it down and do battle.
Well guess what?
You can forget that.
Because that understanding is wrong…
We don’t calculate anything. And we don’t decide anything.
These “programmed” reactions are all automatic.
Let me explain how it really works.
The first thing you have to understand is that there is a third “F” that factors into the mix. Former FBI agent and nonverbal communication specialist Joe Navarro calls it the “Freeze” response. It’s the tendency to stop dead in our tracks. To try to make ourselves invisible to any looming threat.
Think “deer in the headlights”.
The second thing you need to know is the order in which these reactions take place. It isn’t fight or flight. Rather the actual order in which we experience them is:
It’s what I call our “natural chain of reaction.”
Actually when you think about it, reacting in this order makes perfect sense. Why? Because as you move further down the chain, the more “danger” you’d actually expose yourself to.
A third thing you need to understand, is that these reactions happen in all kinds of situations – even today – often without your even realizing it.
Let me show you what I mean…
Reaction 1: Freeze!
Back in the days of our cave-dwelling ancestors, when something would present a threat, they’d take cover and actually hide. (Hopefully you don’t dive under your desk and curl up in the fetal position when a big project comes due.)
Your brain understands that this “freeze” response is the most effective way to ensure your survival. It’s your automatic first line of defense.
The goal of “freezing” is to avoid any engagement at all if possible. If you can avoid the threat all together, your odds of survival are the highest.
Today you “freeze” by ignoring whatever the important task at hand is. It’s when you start making excuses for not taking action. (I’ll bet you have an encyclopedia of excuses for when the going gets tough.)
Reaction 2: Flight!
If and when the “freeze” option is no longer viable – when your excuses are no longer holding water – you automatically shift to “flight” mode.
Now your focus shifts from ignoring the threat… to avoiding the threat.
This is where you start doing things to make yourself feel productive. Things that, naturally, have no impact on what you should be doing.
This is where you start checking your email, updating your Facebook status, get caught up reading some article online, do more research…
Everyone has their own favorite ways to keep busy without doing anything. But you can’t avoid the inevitable any longer than you can ignore it.
Eventually you have to do something…
Reaction 3: Fight!
And boy, by now are you ready to do something. I’m sure you know the feeling.
You’re staring down a deadline. There’s absolutely no escape. Your adrenaline gets pumped up. You get fiercely focused. All of your resources are automatically called to bear in the battle you are about to engage in. You start working at what’s almost a superhuman pace.
(Usually cranking out something half as good as it could have been.)
That’s the fight response. That surge of adrenaline you get when you can’t run and hide any longer.
All these responses have evolved to fit in with the world we live in today. But they haven’t actually changed. We’re still wired to freeze, flee and only then, fight.
So What Can You Do?
So if everyone is a procrastinator, how is it some people seem seem to get so much done?
You see, the fact that you’re born with this self-preservation tendency doesn’t mean you have to always be a victim of it…
The difference between top performers and the average procrastinator is that top performers recognize their freeze and flee reactions. And have strategic responses to deal with them.
So here’s what I want you do to today. Get a sense of your own freeze and flee reactions. Sit down and write all the excuses you make and unproductive things you do to avoid dealing with the important stuff.
Feel free to share them in the comments below…