Why we lose our ability to prioritize when we are really stressed

You know when you are really stressed?

When there are so many things happening at once that you feel like you are simply spinning plates running from the next one to the next one to keep them all going? And you feel the weight of knowing that the whole thing could come crashing down the moment you pause.

Ever lose your ability to prioritize during times of extreme activity?

Yeah.  Me too. 

All of a sudden buying a bath mat becomes as important as finishing a major proposal for my company. Finding a lost earring as essential as landing an article before a deadline.

I was explaining this phenomena to Josh Trent who is currently coaching me.  [Side note: paid accountability is highly valuable during strategic times in your life.] Josh responded, "You know why that happens? It's because our brains will grab on to any distraction to not do the one essential thing we are scared of doing."


It's because our brains will grab on to any distraction to not do the one essential thing we are scared of doing.

Suddenly it made so much sense.

Much of the work that really matters to us is about putting ourselves out there. And when our identity is on the line, we desperately do not want to fail. It is easier to defer those projects than to sit down and do them.

Author, Stephen Pressfield is famous for saying, "If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), 'Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?' chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

That sentiment isn't just limited to writers and artists. It is true for architects, entrepreneurs, teachers and podcasters. Something in us is afraid we will fail at what we care about the most. It is more appealing to chase squirrels.

In business this often looks like spending all of our time responding rather than creating. It is less threatening to let others drive our day. To lose ourselves in e-mail and deadlines rather than carving out time to take a macro view and create.

When we find we are in a space where our whole life is about buying a bathmat, it's a clue. We have to pause and find the thing we are scared of.

Then, we just have to suck up the courage and do it. Even if we have to keep stepping on a cold tile floor.

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall