Naysayers and Procrastination

By Dr. Bill Knaus EdD


How many times have you heard people negate your ideas or down what you wanted to do?  You have a new idea about how to streamline an operation. A co-worker says your idea is too impractical. You want to write a children’s book. A cousin tells you the publishing market is too tough. Throughout your life you’ll meet many of these wet blanket specialists with a knack for downing ideas and spoiling good times.The naysayer effect is when you take the unstudied words of negators too seriously and procrastinate on actualizing your wishes and plans. This self-limiting is a major stress.

So, who are the naysayers? When you hear a naysaying, and accept it, does this give you an excuse for procrastinating?  When you naysay against yourself, will you procrastinate? Let’s see.

Naysayer Qualifications

Naysayings are contrary opinions.  They also are risky predictions.  Before Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first heavier than air flight, The New York Times predicted that the plane wouldn’t get off the ground.  Before the Beatles became famous, Decca Recordings rejected the group. An executive said the public had no interest in guitar groups. Some predicted that Apple’s iPad would flop.

Naysaying may be stirred by personal reasons. Here is a sample: (1) Self-doubters project insecurities.  (2) Jealousy can stir negations. (3) Perfection can be expressed through pessimism. (4)  A well-meaning friend may want to spare you from disappointment.  (5) Experts can gain status with quip, contrary, statements.  (6) A need for control.

If I accepted naysayer opinions early in my  life, I’d be sweeping floors for a living. Here is a later-in-life example. When I proposed writing a procrastination book, an editor told me that she doubted there was enough for a brief article.  There were no psychology books out on procrastination at that time. This was a pioneering effort. The editor had no understanding of the scope of procrastination. I did. Since then, I  wrote five procrastination books. The combined sales were around 1 million copies. The original two books triggered a revolution in self-help and research in this area.

Judging Others’ Judgments

Understanding naysayer motivations creates a useful context for what is going on. However, the test lies in what you do to pit your idea against reality.  Here are two thoughts for identifying and meeting this challenge:

1. Agree with the naysayer and you cope out on yourself. You might tell yourself you could succeed if you tried and mute your self-downing voice with this excuse. Now you have two forms of procrastination: (a) skirting evaluating the evaluation; (b) derailing yourself from pursuing what you want. Here are four change opportunities: (a) Dismantle dismissive arguments by matching them against your interests, incentives, and abilities. (b) Identify and examine the naysayer statement to see where the gaps lie. (c) Get second and third opinions from objective people.  (d) Form your own opinions to include probable pros and cons of your proposed actions.

2. In the Kung Fu Panda movie the hero’s father reminded Po the Panda that his role in life was to sell noodle soup.  This insecure Panda dreamed of learning Kung Fu. By accident, he gained the opportunity. He overcome discouragement, persisted, mastered Kung Fu, and saved his community from ruin at the hands of a vengeful Kung Fu master. He succeeded by learning, inventing, and melding this natural attributes in a way where he enabled himself to meet the challenge. This optimistic message appears in other stories where the main character keeps going when the going gets tough.  (Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces gives many examples of this process.)

Naysayers inspire procrastination. They also serve a useful purpose. You may feel challenged and work extra hard to achieve. If you don’t buckle, this is a measure of your conviction.

Take a studied approach to your major life changes and challenges. This preparation insulates against naysayer statements. You’ll boost your confidence in your judgments. You are more likely to make better predictions and decisions. However, preparation is not a finger snapping event.  

Defeating Procrastination Caused by Self-Negation

The more you tilt toward self-negation, the more you’ll shy from creating opportunities for yourself. This procrastination is rooted in self-doubts.

Awareness is a start in the direction of growing your potential. Reasonably objective self-awareness influences deciding the types of challenges you’ll meet and for connecting your abilities to the task. If an objective self-awareness is desirable, then what else do you need to be aware of?

1. The ancient Greek aphorism, Know Thyself, has many prescriptions.  Experimentation is one.   If a naysayer discourages you from going to college, rather than foreclose on the idea, test the waters. Take an interesting course. See what results. Let the outcome be your guide.

2. Do you too often struggle with yourself and delay because of uncertainty and doubts? Do you then numb your interests through painful doubts and inaction? Absorb yourself in this form of naysaying thinking and you may find yourself going round the same circle.  To break from this rut, identify and debunk your own false judgments. A defeatist “I can’t win. Why bother trying.” form of self-statement is especially pernicious, but also debatable.  Measure your own naysayer judgments against these criteria: (a) Where does the judgment lead me? (2) Would a reasonable person concur that this is my only direction? (3) What disconfirming evidence brings the judgment into question?  Honest answers can help balance perspective.

3. A self-absorbed perspective is where you draw into yourself and lose sight of the big picture because you magnify a grain of sand. Look inward in this way and you’ll know much about very little. For example, you see dangers everywhere, stay stuck worrying, and miss out on much in life.  Because you declare yourself a “worrier,” you automatically negate your ability to change.  A reasonably objective perspective is radically different. You operate self-observantly. For example, you fix your attention on what you want to accomplish. You concentrate your efforts on advancing an idea or method. This radical shift can start with a flicker of a vision of what you want to accomplish. Clarity comes from action.  Confidence is a byproduct of taking purposeful action. With confidence comes a lessening of worrying.

You have no guarantees for success in life. Failure is part of learning.  Uncertainties are inevitable.  However, listening to naysaying from others and yourself is self-limiting. There is more to the picture. Getting a broader but reasoned perspective, then acting on this perspective, puts awet blanket on the naysayer effect.  You are likely to get more out of life.

Source Psychology Today

Published by

Will Savage

Quantum Units Continuing Education provides online CEU training's to licensed professional mental health therapists, counselors, social workers and nurses. Our blog provides updates in the field of news and research related to mental health and substance abuse treatment.

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